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Media interview 101: the death stare

Each of us has to answer difficult questions every day.

 “How’s that report coming along?”

“When can we expect things to change?”

“It’s your turn to cook tonight – what are we having?”

“Can I speak to the home owner please?”

All around us each day are requests for information, access, insight, updates.

We’ve written extensively here about how to answer these questions in everyday life or in a media interview.

But there’s another skill at work in doing so.

We call it the Death Stare.

media interview training glasgow girl doing death stare.

Mastering it will help you in work, in your personal life and of course, in a media interview.

Here’s what it is, and how it can help you.

The Death Stare

When running a crisis media exercise at an oil refinery in central Scotland before Christmas, we simulated a media interview in response to a fire.

In the midst of the chaos, we asked the Operations Director:

“Do you believe you’ve responded well, or…?”

“Yes”, came the bold and direct answer after a moment’s pause.

Unbeknown to him, the question was being completed while he began his answer.

“…or will you resign?”

The answer “yes” had already been given.

The damage had been done.

It’s a classic “sting in the tail” question from a journalist during a media interview.

It’s designed to tie you in knots.

So what should you do?

media interview training glasgow cat doing death stare.

Make sure you remain completely neutral during the media interview and the asking of the question.

Your eyes should remain fixed on the person asking the question.

Your expression should demonstrate neither joy nor anger.

Your head should remain steady, without nodding in approval or shaking in disagreement.

Make sure the question is finished before giving your answer.

Only then can you be absolutely sure what you’re answering, and that you’re giving an appropriate response.

Breathe, and begin your answer.

Here’s more information on how to formulate your content when your answer begins.

Or even better, come to us for a media training or crisis media course and we’ll show you exactly how it’s done.

Andrew McFarlan is Managing Director of Glasgow-based media training and presentation skills firm Pink Elephant Communications.

You can view his profile here.


Photo credit: tenaciousme via / CC BYs-a-m via / CC BY

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