By now, I think it’s fairly safe to assume that most people reading this have seen the now famous Professor Robert Kelly BBC interview. From the moment the first child innocently bounces in, to the mother frantically trying to close the door; it’s a video that keeps on giving.
The reality is that this could happen to anyone, and as we all know, nothing induces nerves and anxiety for media relations experts quite like a live TV interview. With so many variables to factor in that could throw your executive off stride, it’s a nail biting ordeal.
With that in mind, here are some useful tips to help your executive remain calm and composed during their interview; whatever the world may throw at them:
1. By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail
All it takes is a quick Google search to know that Professor Kelly’s interview is far from an isolated incident. That’s not to say that you can’t prepare and anticipate for everything. After all, this is live TV and things can drastically change within seconds.
By making your executives aware of additional scenarios, it can mean the difference between them holding their own, or floundering for an answer. Films aren’t produced on one take and plays aren’t performed without rehearsal. Practice run throughs are absolutely critical.
Talking through the questions is one thing, but discussing, or even acting through some less expected scenarios, is beneficial to both parties. You can see how your executive will react and be able to provide further pointers to them, and they will feel much more confident in navigating a stressful situation.
2. Confidence is key – people are watching!
Or at least, the illusion of confidence is key. We all might have laughed at the chaos unfolding behind Professor Kelly, but a glance at his face shows complete discomfort. Whatever might be happening around you, things such as body language, smiles and eye contact give the best chance for the interview staying on track.
This just emphasizes the importance of preparation. Conducting and filming practice interviews can help you analyze your executive’s demeanor in response to different situations. Reviewing these mock interviews with your executive is also a great way to highlight positive and negative traits to ensure they get their message across as effectively as possible…even in a challenging environment.
3. When everything seems lost – keep on going
Faced with this situation, there are many who would simply have struggled to cope. One thing that Professor Kelly has rightly been commended for, was his ability to carry on with and complete his interview despite everything that was going on around him. He maintained composure and did not get caught up in the craziness, which was noted by the anchor, who empathized with him and continued the interview professionally.
Once again, it all boils down to preparation. As important as it is to know the subject you’re talking about inside and out, it is of equal importance to know who is asking the questions. Giving your executives details about their interviewer, from interview style to personality; you can equip them to deal with anything the interviewer (or interview!) throws at them.
4. When there are so many variables – control everything you can
In this day and age, interviews can take place anywhere. The key is to select a location where you can control as much as possible.
Before the interview, do a walk through of the location. There is more to it than lighting and sound quality. The room itself could be full of distractions to detract from your executive’s message. Be sure to check on everything — from paintings on walls to ornaments on tables to the hum of office equipment. You want your executive to be the focus.
5. Things could have gone much worse
Honestly, they could have. Professor Kelly might well be kicking himself at how the interview went, but when you look at the reactions afterwards, it really doesn’t seem so bad. The interview marched on and did not end abruptly. He was still able to get his point across and his reaction has endeared him to millions across the globe.
Focus on the positives! It’s natural to be hard on yourself and for all the good will in the world, some things simply go wrong. Focusing on the positives makes preparation for the next interview much easier as you have identified what you are good at and where you can improve.
Before Professor Kelly sat down to give his thoughts on South Korea, I’m sure he would have loved his opinions to have reached millions across the globe. What I’m also sure of, is that he would most certainly have preferred his political analysis, rather than his admittedly adorable children to be the topic of discussion amongst friends, families and colleagues.
He didn’t embarrass himself, far from it. In comparison to other live TV mishaps, this incident has actually won him many admirers, but it does highlight how thorough preparation and paying attention to the smallest of details can make a world of difference. If the door to the room he was conducting the interview in was locked, or at least blocked, would anyone other than those interested in South Korean politics be talking about this?
We don’t have a crystal ball at rbb Communications; however, with services ranging from intensive media coaching to media tours and press and blogger relations, we can provide you and your executives with the best chance of navigating the often-unpredictable world of media.
If you would like to know more about how rbb can help you, please contact: Lisa Ross, President and Partner at rbb Communications.