Sunday, October 30, 2011

5 Super Tips for Giving a Successful Media Interview

Let's start by acknowledging that most people do not look forward to a remote media interview. Staring into the lens of a camera can be disconcerting and very intimidating. Here are some tips to make the experience if not enjoyable, at least successful!
  1. Be brief. Know the amount of time you've been given. Being long-winded only succeeds in losing your audience and always dilutes the message. Wrapping too many words around your points is distracting, less powerful and the opposite of concise. Although President Obama has many strengths as a speaker, brevity isn't one of them! 
  2. Be Yourself:  An audience wants to feel connected to you, so be transparent and real.  Relax and try to warm up. Be helpful to reporters and they will be likely to call you again for your perspective on other issues.
  3. Be Prepared: Know your key messages and practice sticking to them. The media lives for sound bites, so make sure yours are easily digestible and memorable.
  4. Tell Stories: If you know the interview topic ahead of time, jot down four stories you can tell that relate to you and the topic. Ronald Reagan was a master storyteller, and you can be too!
  5. Anticipate and Identify Difficult Questions: You must answer questions without sounding defensive or nervous. It helps to write out your answers ahead of time. Practice turning negatives into positives. What is difficult for some people may not be for others. Sarah Palin in an interview with Katie Couric couldn't name a single newspaper that she regularly read, and the result was a huge negative hit to her vice presidential candidacy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Does Language Matter When Non-Verbal Communication Is Louder?

Much is written about non-verbal communication in the abstract, but the Republican Presidential Debates are a showcase for the visual power of facial expression and gestures (body language) that accompany words.

According to newspaper reports, there has been bad blood between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney for years. But the extent of the animosity became apparent and was on full display during an exchange between the two men on Oct. 18 at the Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas.

I suspect that Rick Perry’s accusation that Romney hired an illegal worker to do yard work was designed to throw Romney off his carefully choreographed debate game. Surprisingly, what started out as a technique to put Romney on the defensive also succeeded in getting Rick Perry visibly upset. The combined negative body language was instructive and often painful to watch.

In the YouTube video “Perry and Romney Get Personal at Debate,” the non-verbal communication between the two cancels out whatever words are being spoken. Their interchange rapidly deteriorated into a face-off when both men turned inward and glared directly at each other. (Try testing the impact of their non-verbal communication by viewing the video with the sound off!)

As the rhetoric escalated, Romney – obviously very frustrated at not being able to speak –reached over to Perry and put his left hand on Perry’s shoulder. Did Romney make the gesture in an attempt to control, shut down or dominate the situation? Whatever his reason, the touching was inappropriate and an inexcusable violation of Perry’s personal space. As I watched, I wondered if the entire episode would end in a slugging match with one of them being decked.

So what was gained from a confrontation in which both men demonstrated a style of communication which was decidedly not presidential? Although Rick Perry came off as a bit of an impatient bully, he gambled and won on this one. Admittedly not strong on debating skills, Perry pushed Mitt Romney out of his comfort zone; and in doing so, he showed his own strength as someone who stood his ground and would not be silenced. In contrast, Romney sputtered, raised his voice and darted his eyes wildly as he searched frantically to secure help from the moderator, Anderson Cooper.

Observing how our presidential candidates communicate non-verbally is important for voters. Romney is a practiced and skilled debater who has methodically disciplined himself to respond to petty issues and occasional confrontations with clear answers and a cool demeanor. These learned skills have made him a generally effective communicator.

But it is less controlled and generally unscripted forums like the Las Vegas debate that allow voters to observe those aspiring to win the party nomination. Language matters, but watching non-verbal communication is extremely important in vetting candidates.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

4 Super Tips to Connect with an Audience

1. Avoid Using Jargon or Industry Lingo

Whether you are speaking or writing, don't use acronyms. If you do, you are likely to lose half your audience momentarily as their brains depart in search of the meaning. Some acronyms like LOL and ASAP are so familiar that we all know them, but others are newer or more industry-specific, so the mention of POTUS or CMOS is immediately clear and understandable to some but not to others.

Steve Jobs steered clear of jargon and was a master at using everyday language and speaking in a conversational style. He knew his audience wanted two things from him: to be clear and simple in rhetoric and product!

2. Use Eye Contact and Facial Expression to Establish Rapport

One of the reasons Gov. Chris Christie has been successful in his legal and political career is that his eye contact reinforces his rhetoric. Watch when he speaks and note that his eye contact, facial expression and rhetoric are in sync so there is absolutely no confusion about his intent or message. Generally we respond favorably to direct, unfiltered straight talk.

In contrast was Rick Perry’s debate performance in Hanover, New Hampshire, last week. He looked weak and uncomfortable during most of the debate. How do we know? His eyes, often called the "windows of the soul," conveyed his tentativeness and insecurity. His entire physical presence seemed to convey feelings that he would have preferred to be anywhere other than at the debate table at Dartmouth College.

3. Work and Rework Your Core Message

"You must simplify. You must make the complex simple, then you must make it work." ~ I.M. Pei, Master Architect

"This is a very complicated world, it's a very noisy world. And we're not going to get the chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us." ~ Steve Jobs to Apple employees, 1997

In Made to Stick, the Heath brothers lead with Principle 1: Simplicity as essential to stripping an idea to its core (i.e., the Golden Rule found in all world religions).

You must strip your message to the core and then speak to it.

4. Meet and Connect with Your Audience before Your Presentation.

This is not always possible, but I've found it's a great way to reduce your nervousness and get connected with who's in the audience and perhaps hear what they're looking for. Having met some audience members in advance, your comfort level will rise and you will see that the room is no longer filled with strangers. You can begin with friendly, familiar faces in the audience. By circulating before you speak, you have set the stage for a more satisfying experience for you and the audience.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

5 Super Tips to Minimize Presentation Jitters

1. Cut Down on Coffee, other Caffeinated Drinks and Chocolate
You already have a natural high; you don't need an additional adrenaline rush. Too much caffeine can contribute to a jumbled thought process, and caffeine is known to dry the vocal cords. Additionally, caffeine has a lasting effect. One cup at 8:00 a.m. will continue to deliver a jolt for at least three hours – and maybe more!

2. See Your Presentation Space
Whenever possible, look at the room in which you will be presenting. Check out the projection and audio systems, where you will stand to present, and where the audience will be sitting. Take a minute to absorb the setting. Imagine yourself delivering the speech, and your comfort level will carry over to your presentation. The old "I've been here before feeling" will sustain you.

3. Simplify: Divide Your Presentation into Sections
Memorization will take you only so far, so also practice visualization to add to your comfort factor. If you divide your presentation into a minimum of three sections, you should be able to SEE the beginning (Introduction), middle (Body) and end (Close).

When Chief Justice John Roberts was an advocate before the court, he was known for dividing up his argument into about eight sections and then practiced reciting them in random order to account for the justices' questions. According to his friend Richard Lazarus, a law professor at Georgetown University, John Roberts "always looks relaxed and spontaneous, but it's all based on an extraordinary amount of work and preparation."

4. Know Your Audience!
You have undoubtedly been asked to speak because you are an authority on your subject. It is a good bet that no one in the audience knows as much about the subject as you do, so begin your preparation by asking yourself what they want to hear: their knowledge, needs and interests. If you go in knowing you have the right material, it will go a long way toward eliminating your anxieties about delivering the speech.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice
You can't deliver a good presentation without practice. Creating a presentation is a first step, but the really hard part is the stand-up delivery. You must practice standing on your feet and speaking your words out loud. In this mode you can hear your words; calculate actual delivery time; focus on pitch, tone and pauses; and adjust, as necessary, for a smooth, fearless delivery.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Who Is Your M.I.C?

The answer to that question is not always easy, and the pursuit of it can be extremely costly. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal from Sept. 30, when BlackBerry, also known as Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM), came out with the Playbook last April, the company had not reached agreement on its consumer market and didn’t even have a marketing message. Needless to say, RIM’s tablet has not sold well.

BlackBerry, once coveted by every young Investment Banker, used to have 48% of the U.S. smartphone market; today it has only 11.6%. RIM is dealing with poor earnings, a declining stock price and apparently continued internal confusion on a clear customer marketing plan.

Herman Cain, once considered an oddity in the Republican presidential race, is now third in the latest Fox News poll. Why the surge in name recognition and confidence by the American voters? The answer lies in Herman Cain’s background: American businessman, politician, and chairman of Godfather’s Pizza. This is a man who knows a bit about marketing. The consistent marketing of his 9-9-9 plan, his blueprint for reforming the tax code, is resonating with Republicans and Independents. New thinking and controversial yes – but easy to understand, and voters like it.

Herman Cain understands that the race is not between two governors but about what the customers/voters want to hear. Add to that Chris Wallace, who after interviewing Herman Cain said he found Herm a delightful interviewee and extremely likeable! Herman knows his market (media pundits) and his customers (the US electorate), and he is marketing successfully to both.

Identifying your M.I.C, or your Most Important Customer, is essential for success whether you're speaking or writing. Start by learning to listen and really hearing what your customer is saying and wants. Effective marketing is a process that begins with listening. Successful communication is always a two-way street.