Six Things You Can Learn From This Great Media Guest

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on August 15, 2011 – 6:23 am

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.

Do you want to be a better media guest or public speaker? Do you like free things? Sign up for our monthly email newsletter by entering your name in the upper right-hand corner of the blog.

Related: Seven Ways to Rock Your Next Radio Interview

Related: How To Tell a Good Story: Make It Small

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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