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Imagine the frustration of delivering your messages successfully in a media interview only to find out that the audience did not really hear them.
One possibility is that your messages need refining, but often the cause is the public being distracted by something the spokesperson has done or said which causes them to stop listening.
No-one expects spokespeople to produce the perfect performance every time they carry out an interview.
But these distractions are frustratingly often caused by really small errors, which can be easily solved once people are aware of them and have improved their confidence through media training.
Here we outline five easy to avoid distractions we regularly see both during the interviews we carry out on our media training courses and on television news.
Poor eye contact
Maintaining eye contact with a reporter throughout an interview is crucial and illustrates trust and credibility.
Poor eye contact and wandering eyes can make spokespeople appear evasive, uncomfortable and ill prepared. It can also be very distracting for viewers who begin to spend more time thinking about what you are looking at than what you are saying.
Knowing where to look can be particularly tricky during down-the-line interviews as you cannot see who you are talking to. The key here is to pretend you are talking to your best friend as you look into the lens, and maintain eye contact.
Some interviewees look directly in the lens and others just above it. Both options work, but it is vital focus is maintained until the end.
What you wear
If you are appearing on television, what you decide to wear can play a crucial role in whether you are able to maintain the audience’s attention.
Narrow stripes, checks and small patterns can cause a strobe effect and look to the viewer as if you are moving – something which can prove hugely distracting.
Other distractions include dangly earrings and hair which has to be regularly flicked from the eyes. Men should stay clear of shiny suits and those with little hair should use powder on their heads.
You can find more advice on what to wear in one of our earlier media training blogs.
These are words people use to pad out their responses in media interviews and buy a little time while they gather their thoughts. The most common example is ‘erm’ or ‘um’, which sounds natural and no one will really notice if they are used occasionally.
But increasingly spokespeople use other space fillers, such as ‘like’, ‘so’, ‘you know’ and ‘basically’, among others to gain that thinking time.
These words clearly contribute nothing meaningful to answers, but the real danger is that excessive use can distract and even irritate audiences, causing them to stop listening to your messages.
In broadcast interviews you are looking to create a natural sounding conversation.
And that means using language that everyone can understand.
But all too often we hear spokespeople fall back on pointlessly complex language, jargon and acronyms which may well mean something to people in their office, organisation and sector but alienate everybody else.
If the audience is struggling to understand the points you are trying to make they will become distracted and lose interest, meaning the opportunity an interview presents has been lost.
The key is to think about how you would tell the story to a friend or relative and use that language.
However strong your message may be, delivering it in a dull, flat, monotone way will ensure the audience will become distracted and unlikely to really hear what you have to say.
You need to inject passion, enthusiasm and energy into your voice to engage viewers and listeners and maintain their interest.
Different interview scenarios require different tones. An interview during a crisis requires a warm, authoritative tone, while a message designed to excite requires a lighter tone.
Emphasise the key words in your message by taking a slight pause.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
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