Shakespeare knew it; Hollywood knows about it, too. Broadcasters may be aware of it but what about the person meeting the media? Are they informed? Most media training “talks” to the verbal aspect of dealing with the media. This article focuses on the non-verbal aspect of talking to “internal and external” customers through the media and using non-verbal communication/body language. Executives or other key spokespeople may have a strong verbal message, however, the nonverbal message speaks much louder.
Emerson said it best: “What you are shouts so loudly, I can’t hear a word you’re saying!” A corporate executive was preparing for a live interview. He might have been a shining star in front of the board or a customer but in front of a camera, he showed poorly. His eyes kept roaming the room or were downcast, his hands were either behind his back, in the fig leaf position or in his pockets and he kept shifting from foot to foot. He did not portray the leadership look the company was after for this interview. At this point, the company called in a media consultant to create the look for the interview. Here are five strategies using body language that can position the interviewee as the leader who is interested and interesting.
1. What turns viewers off is distracting mannerisms. Adjusting your tie, your skirt, a cufflink, your hair, your hat or your coat are all distracting so people will be watching what you are doing rather than listening to what you are saying.
KEY IDEA: Leave your hands at your side or clasped together at waist level. Do not put them behind your back or have your hands folded in front of your pelvic area (the fig leaf position).
2. Be willing to take up more space. The camera person can and will zoom in and out on you so be prepared to look more powerful by taking up more space.
KEY IDEA: Put one hand on your hip and one hand on a table or lectern. Keep your feet in an “A” position with one foot slightly behind the other and turned out at a 45-degree angle. A second option would be to assume a steepling position where your hands appear to be making a church steeple either just below your chin, at waist level or in front of the pelvic area. This naturally forces your elbows out and you take up more space.
3. Your goal is to demonstrate confidence and self-assurance during the interview, even if it is a difficult one. When you change your physiology, you change your psychology and your audience will pick up on your strengths.
KEY IDEA: Stand or sit erect. Keep your head straight up and down as if there were a string attached to the top, pulling it straight up. Your shoulders should be back, however, not in the fashion so popular with the military, unless you are in the military and are in uniform during the interview. If you are standing, your feet should be in the “A” position and your arms should be bent at a 90-degree angle at the elbows and you can either be holding an index finger, a pen or even a coffee mug. If you are holding a mug, make certain it has your company logo on it and it is facing towards the camera. If you are going to be seated during the interview and there is no table separating you and the interviewer, try to get a chair with side arms so you can place your elbows on them and then clasp one of your index fingers and stay there. Don’t shift in your seat; don’t cross your legs or ankles, as these are all defensive positions.
4. To connect with your real audience, the viewer, decide where you eyes will go—toward the interviewer or the camera. The person who really wants to make a connection with the viewer will know when to look at the interviewer and during the emotional moments to look directly into the camera at the viewer. It’s a very powerful movement and you only have to turn your head and make eye contact with the camera. Even if the interviewer says to keep eye contact with him/her, you still have a choice to make a huge impact on your audience.
KEY IDEA: Practice looking in your mirror and just stare at yourself. When you feel comfortable doing this, you will feel more comfortable looking into a camera.
5. A study found that most doctors sued for malpractice didn’t give their patients any lower quality medical information but on average spent three minutes less with them and spoke in a domineering tone. Tone of voice is critical during an interview. What do you want to convey? Leadership, victim or manipulator? All these can be portrayed depending on the tone of voice. During difficult interviews, it is best to keep the tone charge neutral. That’s just like asking for the salt or pepper at the dinner table. Unfortunately, many women have a tendency for their tone to heighten at the end of a sentence, thereby removing them from a leadership position in the eyes/ears of the listener.
KEY IDEA: Decide how you want to come across and practice that tone of voice. If necessary, hire a voice coach or speech therapist.
Just a few coaching sessions helped the executive realize what was taking place with eye contact, hand gestures and body movement. Historically, he had never paid as much attention to his body language as he had to the words he was using. As soon as he became aware of his body language, he was able to make needed adjustments to portray himself as the leader, filled with confidence and competence during the interview and viewer response was extremely positive.
It is your choice, your option, your decision to control the media experience or not through your non-verbal communication or body language. Many times you feel intimidated by the camera or interviewer, however, remember that you are always in control.
This is excerpted from PR News Media Training Guidebook 2009 Edition. The article was written by Linda Talley, a Houston-based professional speaker, executive coach and author of Business Finesse: Dealing With Sticky Situations in the Workplace for Managers and The Daily Win—Building Success One Step at a Time. To order this guidebook or find out more information about it, visit www.prnewsonline.com/store.