Don’t make a drama out of being interviewed

Written by Lahra Carey

Let me ask you something – when you are nervous, and you act like you are relaxed, do you think anyone can tell the difference?

If the answer is ‘no’, then you should go and get a Hollywood agent, because you should probably be in show business.

From a NewsFlash perspective it’s normal to feel nervous when we are faced with a high pressure, or unfamiliar situation. And all the acting lessons in the world are probably not going to change that. Which is why it surprised us to hear recently from one of our clients – a top-200 ASX company – that Marketing had engaged an actor to help prep a senior executive for an upcoming presentation.Giving an interview or a presentation is not acting. In fact authenticity is key if you are to connect with your audience as an expert in your field.

However, in our day-to-day work putting executives in front of a camera, there are a few truisms which help with performance anxiety.

  1. Keep it relaxed. Performing in front of a journalist is not the same as appearing before the Board, or speaking at a conference. The camera creates intimacy. After all, you are appearing in someone’s lounge room or office desktop, and as such there is little room for big gestures or elaborate choreography.
  2. Simple language. Using complex language to prove you’re the smartest exec in the room will probably leave listeners/viewers confused, or wondering why you can’t just get to the point. Much better to use conversational language and remember the point of your interview.
  3. Don’t be boring. As my Partner Steve always says – “News is information wrapped up as entertainment”, so give the crowd what they’ve paid to see. That doesn’t mean hamming it up – but packaging your message as a story, or peppering your interview/presentation with examples and anecdotes will bring even the driest subject to life.
  4. Remember to breathe. A simple one to forget- but when we are nervous, we do forget to breathe. This means we lose control of our volume and pitch, we start to speak to fast and sound breathless. It’s hardly providing evidence of a thought leader in control of the messaging.
  5. The pause. A pause before responding to a question may feel like it’s lasting an eternity to you, but in reality it’s not a big deal. It also has the value of both providing you a chance to collect your thoughts before you start to answer as well as providing a moment to take a breath (refer to Point 4 for added benefits of this).

All of these techniques are very simple, but if applied in both rehearsal and on the day, any one of them can make the difference between a good performance and a bad case of nerves. What a pity they don’t award Oscars in our industry.