I don’t care about Davy Crockett. I’ve never been much into American folk heroes, and most of what I know about Crockett comes from the hit 1950s song.
So why am I suddenly writing about Davy Crockett?
Last Thursday, historian Michael Wallis appeared on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to discuss his new book, David Crockett: The Lion of the West. He managed to do the near-impossible – he captured my attention. And I wasn’t the only one to notice his terrific appearance: his book suddenly zoomed onto Amazon.com’s Top 50 list.
Here are six reasons Wallis was such an effective media guest – and what you can learn from his success.
1. He Loves Talking About His Topic: Wallis is clearly enchanted by his subject, and speaks about it with fascination. His contagious passion transferred from him to the audience, as evidenced by the studio audience’s enthusiastic reaction to his interview.
2. He Is Authentic: Wallis knows who he is. He appears comfortable in his own skin, and looks like he knows he belongs on that set. Rock stars and artists aside, few male media guests can pull off a giant green finger ring. Wallis can, because it seems completely consistent with his personality.
3. He Tells Great Stories: Many people can tell good stories, but few can tell complex stories – with the full power of delivery – in 30 seconds or less. Mr. Wallis gets to the heart of each story quickly, placing a premium on each word and taking advantage of every moment.
4. He Displays Humor: Wallis rolls with Jon Stewart’s questions and reacts with good humor when appropriate. He then quickly transitions into delivering a substantive answer. He also gets a couple of good one-liners off, including one about Congress that results in cheers from the live audience.
5. He Uses His Full Vocal Range: I envy Wallis’s perfect baritone, but he doesn’t rely solely on his mesmerizing low rumble. He varies his pace, volume, and pitch throughout the interview – and even introduces short pauses before delivering a well-timed punch line.
6. He Gestures Naturally: Wallis uses large, sweeping gestures to help make his point. He uses his hands as tools to help supplement his words; they are an essential part of his storytelling prowess. Wallis demonstrates that the Holy Grail of any media appearance is when a speaker’s words, voice, and body language work together in perfect alignment.
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