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The Techniques

  • Calm always wins the day. Defensive and angry are signs of a person in a weak position. If you are easily excited or angered, take a breath and pause before speaking so that you sound calmer.

  • Support your messages with anecdotes, statistics and soundbites.

  • Use "off-message" questions to bridge back to your message. Use phrases such as "That's a good question. Before I address it, I'd like to go back my earlier point..." Politicians do this all the time.

  • Don't hop around in an interview just because the interviewer is jumpy. If they interrupt you or barrage you with rapid-fire questions, remain calm; finish your sentences; wait until the interviewer takes a breath and then pick one question to answer.

  • Don't fall for the "when did you stop beating your wife" or the "isn't it true that"(put you on the defensive) line of questioning. Don't start with "no" or act flustered. Merely correct the record and bridge to one of your main messages.

  • If an interviewer mis-states something or has a fact wrong, don't be polite and keep quiet - speak up.

  • For TV, realize your interview will be substantially edited to fit into a short time frame. And print reporters will be looking for concise quotes that explain the story. Keep your answers to between 10 and 20 seconds. Reminder: network tv soundbites are 8 seconds; learn to be concise.

  • Don't think that because print reporters have more space they may use longer quotes. Remember, they are taking notes as you speak. Speak slowly, use short sentences, and repeat yourself. It will help ensure the reporter gets your point and gets it written down correctly.

  • Give it to them in writing. Make a one-page summary sheet of your main points and leave it with print reporters, along with a phone number where they can reach you with follow-up questions. The more the reporter has/sees your message, the less likely she/he is to misquote you.

  • Use flag words to get the audience's attention:

    • "If I could only say one thing about this it would be..."

    • "Finally . . ."

    • "The most important thing to remember . . ."

    Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Back to Successful Interviewing.

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