Working with Producers

TV hits are weird and wonderful, but a little scary if you’ve never done one. Over the next several weeks, we want to demystify the process by outlining every step. Let’s start at the beginning with how you can prepare for the interview and what to expect from the producer.

Here are the top 5 things to know:

#1 – The producer will reach out to you a couple hours before your hit via email– they will include the topic, but not the questions.

#2 – Once you know the topic, it’s likely the producer will expect you to respond with your point of view. We suggest you not offer too many details– no need to write out your talking points verbatim and hit “send.” Please know that if you include a clever phrase or two, the host may use it in their intro to your segment. If you’d like to use that clever phrase on air, refrain from including it in your email.

#3 – The topic is subject to change, so be flexible.

#4 – If the producer offers car service, accept. This way you don’t have to worry about parking your car or navigating public transportation.

#5 – Thank you notes are not just appropriate for good hospitality and job interviews, they can also get you invited back for future TV hits.

Let’s talk about our rights

In honor of America’s 242nd birthday tomorrow, we’d like to give the gift that keeps on giving – a lesson in how to talk about our rights so we persuade rather than polarize.

For us political nerds who live in D.C. and work with the federal government, or those who live in real America and work with state and local governments, it brings us great joy to name drop “Amendments,” the “Constitution,” and various bill numbers coming up for a vote.

But if you want people to understand the argument and join your cause, you have to appeal to that basic human instinct in all of us – protecting our rights.

Here are a few suggestions about how to name drop “rights” into every conversation and maintain common ground.

#1 – Amendments

Play it safe and define the amendments to include talk of rights. For example, instead of “First Amendment” or “Second Amendment,” say “the right to free speech” or “the right to protect myself.”

Doing so equalizes the playing field for those who can’t name the amendments and saves you the time and effort to explain.

#2 – Constitution

Sure, it’s a founding document and critical to the endurance of this great nation (nbd), but some think the Constitution is outdated and does not apply. Choose the path of least resistance (and greatest persuasion) by talking about “rights” instead of the “Constitution.”

#3 – Economic Freedom

Most people probably agree that economic freedom is a good thing. But in the interest of not wasting time to define a wonky term or two, bring it back to rights. Instead of “economic freedom,” say “we all have the right to do business with whom we choose.”

There’s a time and place to name drop and defend “Amendments,” the “Constitution,” and wonky terms like “Economic Freedom.” But if you need to reach a broad audience, talk in terms people understand for a cause they believe in – protecting our rights.

When to go public with your faith

In the past couple weeks, we’ve watched two men from two different Hollywoods talk about their faith. One received a lot of applause and praise hand emojis; the other was relentlessly mocked.

So, why the discrepancy? Because Chris Pratt considered his audience and provided context, and Jeff Sessions didn’t. Let us explain.

#1 — Know Your Audience

While most people believe in a higher power, not everyone subscribes to the Bible. To guarantee your message reaches as many people as possible, remain inclusive by using generalizations that most people agree with regardless of their faith – i.e. God loves you.

#2 — Context Matters

It rarely works to apply one Bible verse to a complex issue, so we recommend you don’t. But if you find yourself speaking to an audience that wants (and is prepared) to hear scripture cited or read, you have to give context.

Jeff Sessions may have been able to escape the mockery if he had first provided context for the Romans 13 reference, or he may have realized in the process of providing context that his reference didn’t apply to the larger policy issue.

If you’re unsure whether to talk about your faith in public, first consider the audience:

  • Sometimes it’s best to stick with a general truth that applies to many faiths.
  • Sometimes it’s best to use examples to prove your point — remember, Jesus often spoke in parables.
  • Sometimes it’s helpful to state your case, but not tie your perspective to faith.

Whatever you do, choose wisely. And if you cite a document of faith — Bible, Torah, Koran, etc. — always provide context.

David Hogg, author

David Hogg has been in the news since that fateful day in February when 14 students and 3 staff members were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

In the aftermath, he and his classmates have made a name for themselves by championing gun control. You’ve seen them in interviews on major news networks and as headliners at the March for Our Lives.

Today marks another activist milestone – David and his sister have written and released a book to serve as “a guide to the #NeverAgain movement.”

This means the media will turn their attention back to the Parkland shooting and the issue of gun control, and you should prepare to answer questions about it.

Here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t attack the kids. Doing so hijacks the conversation and turns attention away from the issue we should be debating.

Here’s what to do:

  • Start by acknowledging how great it is for young people to be exercising their free speech rights, and then pivot to solutions.

It’s a simple equation, but it works. Acknowledge the kids’ involvement as a good thing before you talk facts and figures. Otherwise, you make news by attacking victims of a school shooting, and that’s never a good look on anyone. Just because we can’t imagine the horror and tragic aftermath doesn’t mean we should skip over the emotion and their efforts to deal.

TED TALKS: Hand Gestures

So far in our TED Talk series, we’ve talked stage presence and visual aids. But there’s one more very important element you should consider – hand gestures.

It seems we never think about our hands and how we move them, until we’re on stage with an audience to entertain.

What you do with your hands depends on the stage setup, so here are 3 easy-to-follow “if/then” guidelines for your next TED Talk-style presentation:

#1 — If you’re given a handheld or lavalier mic…

…use hand gestures. This situation gives you the most freedom, so take advantage. And when you’re not gesturing, keep your hands at your sides.

#2 — If you’re standing behind a podium…

…don’t white knuckle the podium. There is a tendency to grasp the sides of the podium simply because it’s in front of you. Even if you’re behind a podium, you can use hand gestures. Though the audience won’t see most of them, the movement adds energy to your presentation.

#3 — If you’re someone who doesn’t gesture with their hands…

…your TED Talk-style presentation is not the time to start. We want you to be authentic on stage, which means you can’t incorporate new behaviors just because you think it’s the right thing to do. So, if you’re someone who doesn’t use hand gestures, keep your hands at your sides. DO NOT awkwardly grasp your hands in front of or behind you.

Before we sign-off, let’s take a minute to consider appropriate hand gestures for the stage and screen. Our recommendations are simple:

  • Don’t point.
  • Don’t chop.
  • Don’t illustrate.

You want your hand gestures to give your presentation energy and not detract from your message. Pointing separates you from the audience and seems condescending; chopping is harsh and uninviting; illustrating your point with your hands is a distraction.

Instead, think small, circular movement at waist-level. Doing so invites the audience to be part of your presentation.

TED TALKS: Visual Aids

Visual aids are great, until they’re not. Use them correctly, and your message is impactful and easy to understand; use them incorrectly, and no one will remember what you said.

Here are three things to keep in mind as you prepare for your TED Talk:

#1 — Visual aids are meant to be…visual.

The biggest mistake people make is to include too much text. Just remember that it’s a careful balance, and the text you include should emphasize your message, not compete with it. Instead, think images, videos, and sound effects.

#2 — Be strategic.

Visual aids can both enhance your presentation AND act as an outline for you, the presenter. What do we mean? Include images, videos, sound effects, and text that remind you of your next point.  The confidence monitors at your feet allow you to see the current screen and the upcoming screen, so rely on your visual aids instead of a separate outline to keep your presentation on topic.

#3 — Use spell check. 

About a year ago, Sen. Maria Cantwell (now referred to as “Sen. Cantspell”) failed to use spell check in her argument against the Republican health care bill. This mistake cost her the message. Though tedious, make sure every word you use is spelled correctly. The extra effort is worth it.

TED TALKS: Stage Presence

The Ted Talk format is becoming increasingly popular. We’ve worked with quite a few clients recently who find themselves anticipating a Ted Talk-style presentation, but no real understanding of what that means beyond the bright lights and imposing stage featured in YouTube clips.

In order to demystify the process and encourage you to present your best selves on stage, we’re going to offer a tip a week over the next few weeks. Let’s start with stage presence.

#1 — Use the stage.

If the stage is properly lit, and the AV team hands you a wireless mic, then you’re expected to use the stage. This is great news, because you’ll be better able to engage the audience. The podium creates a barrier, so view a podium-less stage as more casual and therefore friendlier to you and the audience.

#2 — Don’t wander aimlessly.

Be purposeful in your movement – pace slowly to one end of the stage, stop and deliver a few talking points. Then pace slowly to the other end of the stage, stop and deliver a few talking points. If you really want to prove to the audience that you know what you’re doing, time your stopping point with a critical point in your remarks.

#3 — Don’t turn your back to the audience.

If you turn your back to the audience, you cut off communication. Always face forward, even if there are screens behind you. The venue should provide confidence monitors at your feet so you know what the audience sees on the screens behind you, which means you have no reason to turn around.

TUESDAY TIP: Reporters have an agenda

We’re just going to say it — reporters have an agenda. Therefore, don’t ever walk into an interview with the expectation that you’re about to engage in a fair Q&A. You’re not, and you never will.

Don’t believe us? Listen to this exchange. Ed Helms reveals what it was like to interview Daily Show participants. The discussion starts around 1:17:00, but here’s a snapshot:

Ed Helms: “But I’m not a real journalist. I have a game I have to play and a script I have to stick to.”

Interviewer: “That they don’t even know they’re playing, really.”

Ed Helms: “Usually they do know that they are playing a game. They just overestimate their own defense mechanisms and their own ability to handle it. The people that knew the show the best were often the easiest to hoist on their own petard because they were cocky. And they don’t even consider the fact that you get to walk away and sit with the footage for two weeks and use whatever part of it you want. You have the final say. They don’t.”

Interviewer: “It’s a rigged game. And not in a bad way…”

Ed Helms: “It is very rigged. Listen, I’ll say it: We took advantage, sometimes.”

But don’t let Ed’s honesty keep you from agreeing to media hits. Instead, use it to your advantage.

Here are the three things you need to keep in mind as you walk into every interview:

#1 — Just do it
Agree to the interview. Even if the reporter has an agenda, he/she can’t put words in your mouth.

#2 — An interview isn’t a Q&A 
Don’t ever treat an interview like a Q&A, because it isn’t. Instead, take control. You should walk in ready to deliver your talking points, which you can do by blocking and bridging. Acknowledge the reporter’s question, and then pivot to what you want to talk about.

#3 — Your audience is at home
Even though the reporter is standing in front of you, or talking to you via an IFB, your audience is the viewer/listener. You aren’t trying to convince the reporter of your talking points, you’re trying to convince those who will read, listen to, and/or watch your interview.

TUESDAY TIP: Equal Pay Day

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, Equal Pay Day “symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.”

Excuse me? If true, this is horrifying. And if true, it’s easy to understand why people usually present an emotional argument in defense of the gender pay gap.

But the defenders are wrong, and we have the data to prove it.

Watch as Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute summarizes what the data tells us about the gender pay gap:

The good news is we have facts on facts on facts to combat this myth. The bad news is we’re trying to dismantle an emotional and false narrative. Tread carefully.

Here’s how we recommend you respond when confronted with an unfair question or false claim about Equal Pay Day:

Q: <Insert false claim or unfair question about the gender pay gap>.

A: “If what you say is true, we should all be outraged. But the reality is <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, validate the emotion of the other side before you make your case. If you don’t, people will assume you don’t care. And if people assume you don’t care, they’ll stop listening. Reiterate that you would share their outrage if the disparity existed. It’s just you know it doesn’t. So, really, you’re the bearer of very good news. Adopt this approach, and we guarantee you’ll change hearts and minds on the gender pay “gap.”

Interested in DMG’s services? Contact us! We’d love to work with you.

The gift that keeps on giving.

You guessed it! The gift that keeps on giving is what DMG does best: media training.

Whether you’re new to interviews or just want to improve your performance, it’s always a good time to purchase a session for yourself and the media star (or stars) in your life.

DMG offers customized training to highlight strengths, increase confidence, and refine message delivery. Sessions can be organized for individuals or groups in hourly, half day, and full day increments, and all interview formats are fair game – TV or radio; satellite or in-studio; live or taped.

We know that every media interview is important, so let us help you be your best self behind the mic.