Five Things I Wish I Had Done Better In This Interview

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 11, 2013 – 6:02 am

Over the past three years, I’ve critiqued hundreds of media interviews. When I see a spokespersons on television, I can’t help but to identify their strengths and weaknesses as communicators.

So when I watched back the video of an interview I did with Bob Andelman (known as “Mr. Media”) earlier this week, I couldn’t help noticing all of the flaws in my own performance. No, this interview wasn’t a bomb, and I doubt many people would look at it and say I did badly. But there’s no denying that it could have been better.

So today, I’m going to turn my pen onto myself. (After all, if I’m going to criticize others, I should be willing to be self-critical, as well!)

Here are five things I wish I had done better in this interview.

1. I Forgot My “Tight” Answer: A few days ago, I wrote a post featuring ten questions every author should be ready to answer. So when Bob asked me, “Why did you write this book?” I should have had a tight answer ready to go. The thing is, I did. But when he asked the question, I went blank. The good news is that you’d probably never know that I went blank since I answered the question without hesitating. But the answer I wanted to give temporarily eluded my grasp. You’ll hear the “right” answer at the very end of that reply.

2. I Gave a Clumsy NRA Answer: When discussing a topic that elicits such strong emotion as the National Rifle Association, you have to be particularly careful in your word choice. At one point, I referred to the gun show loophole as a “small thing.” That isn’t a word choice I’m comfortable with. I could have avoided that altogether by cutting off my answer a minute sooner. In general, many of my answers were too long. And as I tell others, the more you say, the more you stray.

3. I Nodded Too Much: At times, I looked like a Bobblehead Doll. It’s okay to nod along while listening to a question (assuming you agree with the premise), but a little goes a long way.

4. I Lapsed Into the “Energetic Monotone”: I had a lot of energy in the interview—but sometimes, energy without variety can lead to what I call the “energetic monotone.” It’s a good idea to vary your energy throughout an interview and occasionally break your vocal pattern when making a key point (doing so helps regain the audience’s attention). I should have slowed down and gotten quieter at a few moments when making an important point.

5. I Forgot One TINY Detail: I’ve gotten to know Bob through the years, and we occasionally trade emails. In a recent email, I mentioned to him that my wife and I are expecting our first child in March. I’ve never stated that publicly before, and hoped to have it remain private. But I failed to tell Bob that, so he brought it up in the interview (as he had every right to do). As I’ve written before, there’s no such thing as an “official interview” – everything you say before and after an “official” interview is reportable. 

Conclusion

Yes, I write a media training blog and also recently published a media training book – so it might seem odd that I made some of these mistakes. But one of the points I make in The Media Training Bible is just how important it is to review your own media appearances and continue to learn from them. I may never reach media “perfection.” But I sure as hell am going to keep striving for it.

Okay, now it’s your turn. What else could I have done better in this interview? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

(Note: Despite the similarity of our names, “Mr. Media” Bob Andelman is not related to the Mr. Media Training Blog. But he does great work, so you should check him out!)


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What Great Radio Guests Do (Part 2 of 2)

Written by Brad Phillips on September 3, 2010 – 7:37 am

Click here if you missed yesterday’s article about the three terrible things radio guests do.

Radio isn’t an easy format for media spokespersons. Without the visual cues they normally rely upon during in-person interviews, they often feel like they’re flying without a net, merely guessing whether their answers are satisfying the interviewer.

Bob Andelman, the radio host known as “Mr. Media” (no relation to this site), has interviewed hundreds of celebrities over an accomplished career. I spoke with him earlier this week to ask him to identify four qualities that great radio guests have.

  1. 1. They Live in the Moment: Mr. Andelman says his greatest guests are the ones able to have an off-the-cuff conversation.  “A lot of guests and their representatives ask for questions ahead of time, and I really hate to do that. I want someone listening to the show to feel like it’s a conversation, not scripted.”
  2. Great media spokespersons should always sound unscripted, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be prepared. Being unscripted doesn’t mean you wander terribly off-message or do yourself harm, but rather that you are agile enough to match your message to the moment.
  3. 2. They’re Confident: Inexperienced radio guests are understandably nervous during the interview. But Mr. Andelman says it’s important to remember why you’re there in the first place. “I would go into it being confident that you know your stuff. You’re being interviewed because you have an expertise on the topic, and you have information that people want access to.”
  4. 3. They Match the Host’s Energy: NPR is obviously a lot lower energy than Howard Stern’s show. So how much energy should a radio guest convey during an interview? “Take your cue from the host,” says Andelman. “If that person is subdued, you don’t want to overwhelm them by shouting or pulling a Tom Cruise by jumping up and down on the couch.”
  5. One addition to that good advice: Remember that “subdued” doesn’t mean passionless. Nelson Mandela and Elie Wiesel are both rather subdued spokespersons, but both convey an astonishing amount of intensity.
  6. 4. They are Sincere: Of all of the guests he’s interviewed, Mr. Andelman considers raunchy stand-up comedian Robert Schimmel one of the best. “I was not prepared for how charming and alternately sincere and crazy funny he was. At the end of the interview, I said what I always say, which is ‘I hope you’ll come back some time.’ And he said, ‘I’d love to. When?’ No one had ever said that before.”
  7. To listen to the first of Bob Andelman’s two interviews with Robert Schimmel, click here.


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What Terrible Radio Guests Do (Part 1 of 2)

Written by Brad Phillips on September 1, 2010 – 7:42 am

“The worst guest I ever interviewed was David Lawrence, one of the co-stars of the NBC show Heroes.”

So says Bob Andelman, a gifted and funny interviewer who has spoken with hundreds of radio guests over the past 30 years. He’s talked to a wide-range of stars, including Hollywood icons (Kirk Douglas), movie stars (Billy Bob Thornton), musicians (John Denver), journalists (Chris Matthews), and politicians (Dennis Kucinich).

Heroes was not a show I was terribly interested in,” says Andelman. “Although I did watch the previous week’s episode, I didn’t watch the show the night before the interview, and everything about his character apparently changed. This guy raked me over the coals, and said I obviously didn’t watch the show. He was just the worst.”

Radio Host Bob Andelman

I spoke with Mr. Andelman, host of Mr. Media Radio (unrelated to this website), earlier this week about the qualities that make for a dreadful radio guest. Here are three things terrible radio guests do:

  1. 1. Miss an Opportunity: Most interviewers aren’t experts in your field. It doesn’t matter how much your interviewer knows about your topic or how well they’ve prepared. Every interview is an opportunity to convey a message, and your communication should be aimed toward listeners, not the interviewer.
  2. “That was a situation where he had an opportunity to share with me why he loves what he did, what was exciting about it, maybe bring more people on – and instead, he handled it very differently,” says Andelman.
  3. 2. Give One-Word Answers: Few things frustrate an interviewer more than a guest who consistently gives one-word answers. Interviews are supposed to sound conversational, even if the spokesperson is sticking close to his talking points. Little is worse than a guest who gives mono-syllabic answers.
  4. If it continues in that direction, I may just wrap up the interview in a matter of minutes,” says Mr. Andelman. “I’m just going to send them on their way.”
  5. 3. Leave Their Humor Behind: If the host tries to keep the show light and the guest refuses to play along, it’s deadly.  Little is worse than if I make a joke and there’s silence,” Andelman says. Unless humor is inappropriate to the topic, bring your sense of humor to an interview. That doesn’t mean you have to be a comedian – it just means you have to be willing to play along. 

Click here to see Part Two of this interview, the four great things radio guests do. 

You can hear Mr. Andelman’s interviews here.

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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.

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    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.

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