Monday, February 20, 2012

It ain't over 'til it's over

Picture the scene. You are called to a TV studio to do a pre-recorded interview. You plan carefully, have a good core message, and perform well, since the reporter doesn't ask any of the "difficult" questions that you feared. The interview finishes, and the interviewer leans over, shakes your hand, and thanks you for your time. You thank them in return, and say how glad you were that they avoided that particularly awkward topic. 

So far so good? Hang on. The interviewer puts a hand to their earpiece and the other hand towards you, gesturing you to sit down again. "I'm sorry" they say "There was a problem with the recording. Do you mind if we do it again?" 

Of course you don't mind, thinking it will be even easier second time around. You smile and wait for the first question, which, to your acute embarrassment, is on the topic you wanted to avoid. 

There was no problem with the first recording. You made the error of assuming that everything was over. It wasn't. Next time, wait until you are well clear of cameras and microphones before you relax.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What was I saying?

It can be a bit traumatic to appear on radio or TV, especially if you are new to it. One of the main concerns of new interviewees, and many experienced ones too, is that they will forget their message. The pressure of a live interview under bright lights can be intense, and it's not possible to refer to notes, even in radio interviews (most radio studios have webcams, and radio journalists really don't like guests with crib sheets)
So here are some tips to help you stay on-message, even in the most pressurised media interrogations:

  • Write it yourself, in your language
  • Simplify it, and simplify it again
  • Use three points or fewer
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse - out loud
  • Write it down, and keep it in your pocket.
  • Read it on the way to the studio and in the green room
  • Use real examples
  • Keep it up-to-date
  • Keep the language very simple - no jargon
  • The shorter it is, the more you will remember
It's not what you do on air, it's what you do beforehand that will guarantee success.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Advice for speakers - Something in Common

Your job, as a speaker, is to find common ground with your audience, and then gently lead them to pastures new. As we all know, the best way to do that is by telling stories. There's a temptation, is these days of sound bites and instant news, to try to tell a story as quickly as possible, so as not to bore the audience. However, that doesn't always work. It's the detail in stories that people find engaging. It's the evocation of sights, sounds and even smells that they can imagine, that make their connection with you very strong. 

Although your audience won't have had the same experiences as you (or there would be no point telling the story), they will be able to identify with elements of it. For example, you might start by describing your feelings before an important pitch meeting, and how you suddenly felt like you were back at school, standing outside the exam room waiting for the doors to open. Although your audience may never have pitched for a million-pound contract, they've all sat an exam, and will be able to remember exactly how they felt.

Some speakers introduce these common elements by saying "you know how you feel when.....", but I don't think that's necessary. If you tell the story exactly as it happened to you, describing your feelings and emotions at the time, they will identify with you. You will learn the phrases and analogies that work well, and also discover what will touch different audiences.

Aim to include three or four common experiences in every speech, and you will take your audience on a journey with you.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Who's in charge here?

In the old days, a speaker could arrive on stage, click into their first slide and deliver a 40-minute keynote to a hushed audience, interrupted only by the occasional ripple of laughter, before taking a couple of simple questions before heading backstage to await the happy forms. That was then. Alas, some speakers are still living in that era, unaware that things have changed. 

Audiences these days are more demanding of speakers. I don't believe it's because attention spans have dropped, even though there is much more short-form information around. I believe it's because speakers are now in a battle for attention with other sources of information. Most audience members will check their mobile phones at some point. Many will be using web-connected iPads or other tablets to communicate with people outside. For some, your speech may be background noise.

That doesn't mean that your audience isn't paying attention to your wisdom. It does mean that you have to be more interesting than whatever is happening on their iPhones. If you deliver a piece of information, you need to be aware that it can be checked in seconds, and you may be challenged. If you tell a story, make it so engaging that people have to give it their full attention. If you use slides, make the information so obvious that people can absorb it in a few seconds.

Some speakers bemoan the fact that control has passed from them to their audience. They're missing the point. The audience was always in charge, and the speaker is there to serve. These days, the level of service has to be even higher.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Tips for mobile Facebook

Where do you check Facebook? If you have it on your smartphone, the answer is probably "just about anywhere I have a few seconds to spare". That could be waiting for a train, while grabbing a sandwich, at the gym, in a bar waiting for friends, or even (well, maybe this is not you) in the toilet cubicle. OK, even if you don't check Facebook on the go, a lot of people (or potential customers as we sometimes call them) do. That means you have to take peoples' habits into account when you design your Facebook pages. 

Here are some tips for your Facebook content that fits both the small screen and the short attention time:

  • Get to the point quickly
  • Stick to one simple message
  • If there's a call to action, keep it high on the page
  • Keep any graphics small
  • Avoid animations - stick to text and icons
  • Encourage likes
  • Make it easy to share
  • Make it fun
  • Don't make people go through several screens
  • Thank people for clicking/liking
Of course, the above advice doesn't only apply to Facebook. It applies to your website, and any other type of your content that people may access on a phone too.