Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Media interview smarts: How to stop saying "That's a very good question"

"That's a very good question" might be the most over-used response to media questions ever invented. Many listeners, this one included, start counting how many times it's used in a single interview. Before your live interview or post-speech Q-and-A session gets lost entirely behind this phrase, try these approaches instead:

  • Advance the answer while you buy time: Don't just delay. Share some detail while you buy time. If the query is unusual, you might say, "I've never been asked about that aspect of the project." Think out loud, as in "You know, I'd never considered what it would be like to change places with someone else. Can I change places with anyone, living or dead? Let me see..."   This takes practice, but the result will be a conversation that doesn't turn off the audience or the interviewer...because both are wanting the answer to start.
  • Redirect the question if you need to correct an assumption contained within it. "So you always wanted to be a fireman?" or "You must have enjoyed the lecture" can be countered first ("Actually, my first wish was to be an architect" or "Frankly, I've heard better"), then followed up with your real feelings, intent or perspective.
  • Clarify if the question isn't clear to you: Do so directly, with your own question. "Tell me more about what you're asking," is one way to find out the direction the interviewer's heading toward.
  • Find another way to compliment the interviewer: That can happen outside the actual interview, for preference, either before or after. Send an email, a tweet, a nice note. But don't waste interview time praising the interviewer.
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