Serena’s Olympic Victory Celebration: Learning from The Dance that Became a Distraction

 

Serena busts a move (http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/tennis/highlights-serena-williams-dancing-after-winning-gold.html)


Likely it was simply a moment of unbridled joy — as she told Access Hollywood, “A good moment for her”–  but Serena Williams’ golden accomplishment became tarnished when she spontaneously broke into a  “C-Walk” victory dance — moves tied to gang life in her home state of California.

Of course, the various pundits and people around the blogoshere rushed to weigh in:

It was embarrassing.”

It was just a dance (and the criticism smacked of racism).”

It was inappropriate.”

It was cool.”

No matter what the meaning or intention, the result of the action was the same: It inadvertently shifted the focus from her incredible achievement to a less than stellar image.

[Read more…]

Media Training: Taking Our Own Advice

Over the course of our careers, we’ve both spent endless hours in media and messaging training sessions with our clients, where either we alone–or, more often, with a professional media trainer–put these folks through the paces before they were to appear on television. We worked on key messages, body language, posture, wardrobe, verbal and physical tics (i.e. ums, uhs and frequent repetition of a word or phrase like “absolutely,” “exactly,” or “I think”) and, most importantly, how to take control of an interview.

Sometimes, we witnessed the transformation of a raw natural talent into a superstar. Other times, we came to the conclusion that no amount of training would ever make a person into a TV personality. But regardless, we never realized how truly difficult it is to prep for a television appearance until we went through media training ourselves in preparation for the release of our book, Be Your Own Best Publicist.

We dedicate an entire chapter to using tips and tricks from the best media trainers, TV producers and on-air talent in the industry to help anyone prepare for a job interview, presentation or speaking engagement, so we knew it would be a good idea to be the trainees for once instead of the trainers.

As a result, we have a newfound respect for the people we’ve sat in those sessions with because the truth is: it’s hard work to come across as comfortable, confident and knowledgeable when there’s a video camera in your face. Here are some lessons we learned about how to knock a TV interview out of the ballpark:

[Read more…]

PREPARE FOR A MEETING LIKE YOU’RE PACKING FOR A TRIP

This week, half of the BYOBP duo heads off to fulfill a dream first conceived in 7th Grade Social Studies — to see the Galápagos Islands. Years of pining and planning now hinges on making sure everything that’s needed ends up in the suitcase (and with her on the plane, of course!).

Funny…going through the process mirrors something we learned from a mentor about prepping for an important meeting: Come packing. We wouldn’t dream of heading off to see the Puffins or Blue-Footed Boobies without the right equipment to record the trip or shield us from the elements. The same holds true for meetings: We make sure to come to the table armed with information, knowledge of the topic at hand and fresh ideas to move the conversation along and make our points effectively.

So, how can you make sure you come armed and ready for any meeting, large or small?

Know where you want to go.
It stands to reason: You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where you want to go.  If you’re hosting the meeting, have an agenda.  There’s nothing we hate more than going to meetings with no agenda — they usually end up accomplishing nothing because no one knows what the end goal was before they arrived.  Being crystal clear about your goals can keep the conversation moving in the right direction.

Use your key messages as your guide.
Key messages are the GPS of your conversation. While you may not have that annoying woman (or, if you prefer, Daria or Darth Vader) commanding you to “TAKE A RIGHT IN 10 FEET,” having thought-out understanding of what you want to say will help prevent you from wandering into dangerous territory. We’re not suggesting that you be stilted; just map out some thoughts so you can speak in the most compelling way about your subject of choice.

Be prepared with options.
Anyone who has ever packed for a trip knows that it’s challenging to say the least. You want to bring the necessary items, but also want to include enough stuff to have some flexibility while away. When “packing” for meetings, be sure to keep a few alternatives or “work arounds” in your back pocket, just in case you need to switch it out mid-meeting. Try to anticipate negative feedback or stumbling blocks and draft some responses to have at the ready.

When it comes to meetings, how do you “pack it in” to prepare? Let us know at Facebook or Twitter (@BestPublicist).

HOLD THE FILLERS

In fast food, fillers are additives that bulk up the weight of a food with less expensive, less nutritious ingredients. In conversation — particularly when we’re nervous — we pepper our speech with fillers such as “like,” “you know,” “kinda” and “um.”  But use them too often, and they can cheapen your words and distract your listener from hearing your intended messages. Think “Valley Girl” or “Clueless.”

Don't talk like Valley Girl Cher from, like, Clueless, you know?

For example, we once interviewed a woman who, on paper, had great experience but throughout our meeting said “you know” so often that we started thinking, “Will she come across as authoritative and polished to our executives and clients, or will she sound inexperienced and immature?”  In fact, no matter how many intelligent things she said during our meeting, we couldn’t help but tick off how many times she injected “you know” in between her sound bites.  Then, there was that teacher that Meryl had in elementary school who used the word “um” incessantly. So much so, that it became impossible to focus on the lesson at hand and, ultimately, the only thing learned in that class was how many times a person can actually use a pointless word over the course of an hour.

Most of the time, people don’t even realize they’re using fillers.  But there are things you can do to prevent this from happening and taking your interviewer’s, boss’ or client’s attention away from what you really want to say.

1)  Practice! It may sound silly but ask a friend to role play an interview with you and record it.  When you listen back, note how many times you said a filler.  It’s important to do this with another person versus just recording yourself saying your answers – you’re more likely to rely on fillers when in a conversation with someone else.

2) Nail down your messages. The more thought you put into your potential answers to tough interview questions, the better they will sound when the time comes.  Nervous tics show up most often when we’re nervous, unsure or lack confidence.  If you go into the interview knowing what you really want to get across, you’ll be more articulate.

3) Take a breath. A filler is called that because it literally “fills the air” between thoughts.  If you pause or take a breath in between phrases or sentences when answering a question or talking about yourself, you will be less likely to insert superfluous words into your conversation.  You can also tell the interviewer, “That’s a good question.  Let me think for a moment before answering.”  That way, you can gather your thoughts and put them in order before letting them spill out in a disorganized fashion. 

4) Watch the pros. Tune in to morning shows and news programs to see how on-air guests do when responding to interviewers.  If they use a lot of fillers, you’ll notice – and so will the show.  Chances are, they won’t be invited back.  The best guests speak intelligently, clearly and with energy but don’t sound overly rehearsed.  Take some cues from them.

We’d love to hear from you: What are some fillers you notice in day-to-day conversation? How does that affect what you think of the communicator?