Thursday, September 18, 2008

How long have I got?

There's a word that media interviewers say to interviewees that makes them talk at great length. The word is "briefly", as in, "So, tell us briefly, in the few seconds we have left, what your new business is about". Alas, on most occasions, the hapless interviewee will begin their well-rehearsed response with a history of how they developed their business, only to be cut off with the words "I'm sorry that's all we have time for". The interviewee leaves the studio annoyed and frustrated that they failed to deliver their message, and furious with the presenter for cutting them off.

Well here's the thing; the news bulletin waits for no-one. It will be broadcast on the hour, regardless of what else is going on. That's why you need to be able to condense (or expand) your answers to fill the time available. Over the years, I have developed a sense of timing that allows me to speak for 30, 45 or 60 seconds, to within a second or two. It has been invaluable to me in media interviews.

Before you go on air, it will pay to practice delivering your message in a limited time. Here's an exercise that I've used with media spokespeople. Take half a dozen sheets of paper, and write a different number of seconds on each. Turn them face down and shuffle them. Take one at random, turn it over, and try to deliver your message in exactly that time. Get someone else to time you - maybe a fellow spokesperson, so you can exchange roles.

When you learn to speak to a precise time, your media interviews will be much more effective. Not only that, you will be surprised how much information you can deliver in a few seconds.

No comments: