Thursday, December 27, 2007

Does your media trainer use Bob Newhart?

I had fun watching the PBS 'American Masters' program on comedian Bob Newhart last night--but what came to mind were the dozens of media trainings we've seen in which one segment from the Bob Newhart Show in the 1970s was shown. This staple of trainers shows Bob squirming through a local television talk show interview in which he starts naively thinking the interviewer means well, but learns on the air that he got caught by her pleasant off-air style.

Trainers use this episode as a quick lesson in interview don'ts: Bob doesn't know the real topic, tries to answer leading questions and trusts the interviewer. The exaggerated style works, as any viewer can recount what Bob did wrong--and feel comfortable about it. Fun as it is to watch, it's now overused and outdated for training purposes, and takes up valuable time that your trainees could be using to learn skills.

How many trainers use this video? Newhart's website notes that its most frequently asked question is how to get a copy of the video for this episode. (For the record, it's called "Who Is Mr. X?" and is episode #81, released on a 2-video set called The Very Best of the Bob Newhart Show: Hi Bob!). Get one for your own viewing pleasure (VHS only), and ask your media trainer for an updated training that takes into account today's realities instead.

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