How I media trained myself for BBC Breakfast
17th May, 2014
After spending the best part of 15 years preparing academics, CEOs, admirals and chief constables to appear on TV, yesterday I found myself preparing... myself.
While in Manchester on Thursday — prepping an internal crisis comms training course for the senior team at Citypress PR — a call came through from BBC Breakfast. They wanted a media trainer on the sofa to talk about a subject of huge weight: why are we all starting our sentences with “so“ so much?
OK, so the hashtag #firstworldproblems could have been coined for this, but there won’t be many media trainers who get the chance to put their money where their mouth is on national TV.
So, 5.20am alarm aside, it was fun. I was, reportedly, calm, engaging, professional, and smiley, and I used a visualisation phrase — mental larder — that briefly trended on Twitter.
What did it tell me about what I tell other people? That it’s good advice:
* preparation is crucial — mapping out what you want to say and making sure those words work
* a bit of subtle technique to control the interview direction can go a long way
* confidence — which is also crucial — comes from preparation and rehearsal
* and journalists are often even less well briefed than you are...
The biggest learning point for me, though, was that I can’t stop training.
In the green room, the first interviewee on the show, an estate agent, needed to talk through the language she was going to use. We agreed conveyancing was not a good word for a general audience. A barrister wanted to know how to deal with multiple questions, an injured serviceman — a very impressive bloke but one who was, quite reasonably, nervous about appearing on national TV — needed to hear that he was going to get nothing but cuddles from Sally and Charlie, and Yohan Blake, the phenomenal Jamaican sprinter, had a chat about what he was facing on the streets of Manchester the next day (see http://greatcitygames.org).
And I found that it’s lovely hearing the line you give someone just before they go into the studio being the first thing that comes out of their mouth once the camera points at them. Even if you’re so busy coaching other people you forget what you’re going to say yourself. Nearly.