Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sparkling in an Interview

My teasing father always called it charm school. I didn’t find that amusing. But my employer deemed it necessary to my role as a corporate media spokesperson. What was it? My enrollment in an intensive crisis media training course.

The format was simple. A trainer corralled a dozen executives into a cube-shaped room. One by one, he planted us in the hot seat and subjected us to simulated TV interviews. He videotaped us being asked combative questions that would make the most seasoned interviewee squirm. Then he critiqued our reactions—with the aim of making us sparkling corporate representatives. We endured the process again, again—and again. Each time the class enlisted new recruits, I’m sure it single-handedly kept the makers of Tums™ in business for a solid year.

I ran across my notes the other day (I burned those videos ages ago!) and realized techniques I gleaned have become crucial to engaging media interest in my books. For example several months ago, in preparation for a TV appearance on my newest book The GOD Interviews, the makeup artist gave my lips a little added sparkle and buffed the shine off my nose. But as soon as the producer counted down to the live segment being broadcast around the globe, no makeup could manufacture sparkle. I was on my own.

Hold Their Gaze
How did I succeed? I started  by holding the interviewers’ gazes comfortably, but firmly. Shifting eyes, I remembered, make viewers suspicious of anything you’ll tell them.

Listen Closely
Next, I listened intently to the interviewers’ questions—showing I valued them and appreciated being on their program.

Answer Directly
What they asked, I answered: directly and succinctly—in good thirty-second sound bites packed with memorable points and engaging anecdotes. We all knew I was there to promote my book. But I didn’t need to make the interview seem like the elevator speech I’d give to an editor. I wanted them to be satisfied with my truthful, practical answers to the questions they chose to ask.
In this case my goal was to whet listeners’ appetites on the subject of my book’s challenge to bombard God with our tough life questions.

Make It Valuable
What I learned in “charm school” was that in addition to answering interview questions, I could integrate this message about the book into my answers. For example, while answering their question about how a book that’s more than 2000 years old could have anything relevant to say to this sophisticated world, I wove in an apt story from the pages of The GOD Interviews. I nailed my communication objective: whetting appetites for my book, while I also nailed their objective: creating engaging conversation and entertaining TV.

Ignore Distractions
The eleven- minute segment went so quickly that I forgot all about producer signals, camera lights, or the fact that I was freezing in the studio. It was all about being such a sparkling guest for my interviewers that I’d be worth inviting back when my next book releases.

Julie-Allyson Ieron, was a corporate communications specialist before moving full-time into a multi-decade career in Christian publishing. A mentor with the Christian Writers Guild since 2002, Julie is the author of more than 35 books, including The GOD Interviews and her newest devotional, Comforting Words for Caregivers … And Those They Love. She blogs at http://womencareforagingparents.blogspot.com and is a frequent conference speaker.