I know this sounds like a catchy headline offering impossible advice. But I swear it’s true – you can become a better media spokesperson in just three seconds.
Here’s how: When a reporter asks you a question, don’t answer. Remain quiet for a few seconds. Use that time to think about your response. Then – and only then – answer the question.
There are two caveats to that rule: Don’t remain quiet during live or particularly contentious interviews. But since most media interviews are neither live nor contentious, you’ll be able to pause for a few seconds before answering each question.
Remaining quiet isn’t easy. You’d be surprised to see how many people forget this advice the moment the interview begins and their adrenaline surges. After all, we’re programmed to respond immediately when someone asks us a question in everyday conversation.
But responding immediately prevents you from thinking through your answer before delivering it – which often leads to an inferior answer that requires you to speak out loud for a few seconds before finally stumbling upon your point. When I ask our trainees to pause for a few seconds, their answers almost always become sharper, more focused, and devoid of the “uhhhs” that otherwise plague their responses.
If your interview is live and/or contentious, at least do yourself the favor of letting the reporter finish the question before beginning to speak. Too many people are unable to resist the temptation of jumping in before the question is completely asked, wasting a free pass to think for an extra couple of moments.
Practice this technique in your business meetings, personal conversations, and Q&A sessions. You’ll be shocked how easily you can become a better spokesperson in just three seconds.
Related: Why You Shouldn’t Say “I Don’t Know”