Most of us have found ourselves in awkward situations where we, or others, said something that ground communications to a halt. Or, we've left a meeting wishing we'd said more to advance our position but couldn't find the appropriate transition to continue making our points.
The frustration of these situations is greatly compounded when this lack of effective communication occurs before the media, with thousands or millions of people watching.
In media training, we teach the use of simple devices that allow you to effectively transition to deliver all of your key messages, while moving away from sensitive questions.
Walk the bridge: One technique is called a "bridge." This is a phrase that allows you to make effective transitions. A bridge is also a great metaphor. Picture yourself walking across a bridge to safety, away from dangerous issues. Also, picture yourself walking toward your goals, toward the key messages you are seeking to deliver.
So, instead of answering a question with one message and stopping, you can bridge to each of your other messages. Examples: "That's a good point, but the key issue is." " In addition, our research shows." "Not only have we grown profits, but we've also."
Flag it: The other device is called a "flag." You use a flag to signal to your audience that a particular point is critical. The metaphor, of course, is waving a flag for attention.
For instance, in answering a question about your area of expertise, you might say, "The most important thing for people to remember is." "The critical issue is." "The focus of the debate is."
Gentle warning: It's important to note that these devices are best used with some subtlety. Don't be like a presidential candidate, leaping from one topic to another with no logical transition between.
Carry your flag, and cross your bridge, with finesse. You won't be elected president, but you'll find you've more effectively communicated with your key audiences.
This article was written by John Millen, president of MainStream Public Relations. Millen is a speaker, trainer and adviser who helps people and organizations to work effectively with the media. The article originally appeared in the All About Public Relations Web site.