Media training basics include how to behave on-air so that your audience trusts you.
Whether you are a US presidential candidate, a new prime minister or a business leader launching a product or vision, we think this requires three key things:
- Warmth – because it is a good idea if the audience likes you.
- Authority – because it is an even better idea that it sounds as if you know what you are talking about.
- Animation – because the studio and the microphone will ‘shrink’ you. Most people have to be themselves plus 10% to come across well on-air.
But if you don’t have these great attributes how do you acquire on–air presence?
Media Training Basics: animation
Animation is perhaps the easiest attribute to acquire. The people who are naturally good on television are those that are larger than life and often rather hard work at dinner. This is not always true but people who seem quite normal on TV are often really big characters. An occasional interviewee doesn’t need to cultivate a whole new persona but just use a little more energy when speaking. Hand movement and head movement can be good so long as they not so noticeable that they are distracting.
Media Training Basics: authority
Authority is more intangible. We know it when we see it but trying to cultivate it can be challenging. There are, though, some basics.
- Don’t speak too fast. This is probably the most common way that people undermine their own authority.
- On television make sure you are looking in the right place. This can be straight at the camera or at the interviewer depending on the set-up. But hold a steady gaze and don’t let your eyes flick up, down or sideways if you can help it.
- Don’t use highfalutin language. We mention this every other week so do not need to labour the point here, but jargon and professional language does not make you sound clever; it makes you sound arrogant and out of touch. Be colloquial.
- Consider a personal anecdote. People trust the opinions of those that have relevant personal experience. These need to be planned, rehearsed and above all short but they can really work.
Here are some other tips about being more authoritative in general. And here are some tips written especially for women in an article in Forbes, although most apply to men as well.
Media Training Basics: warmth
Warmth is perhaps the most elusive. Some people have it by the bucket-load even if they are not the most polished interviewee. It is worth a lot. If you don’t have it naturally on-air you can try the following things.
- Try smiling more, particularly at the beginning or end of an interview. Even on radio, you can hear a smile.
- Try to be less formal. Often people lack warmth because they think they are required to be very, very serious and correct.
- A trick I have often used is to ask the interviewee to pretend they really like the interviewer. Of course, in reality, they probably hate the presenter and the process but if they can pretend or act ‘attraction’ or ‘affection’ it will come across. Clearly, this could be taken too far and it will be acting. When coaching people we find that once they hit the right tone – and then watch it back on video playback – they can usually find it again. With coaching, it will become their default on-air tone at which point it is ‘job done’.
Getting the tone right is half the battle and will compensate for other missteps in an interview. In the end ‘people buy people’ as the saying goes: so developing a good on-air presence is something worth working on.