BEWARE: Early Voting

The media are hungry for predictions ahead of midterms, and they have their sights set on early voting. But as we’ve warned (here and here), making a prediction leads nowhere good. The safe play is to answer the prediction question by pivoting to what’s more important.

Here’s what we mean:

Q: Voter turnout for early voting is high at 8.1 million and counting, with more Republicans casting ballots than Democrats. Does this mean the “blue wave” is receding?

A: “The high voter turnout is interesting, but it’s too early to make a prediction about results and the “blue wave.” No matter which party controls Congress post-midterms, the issue we need to focus on is <insert talking point>.”

Acknowledge the high voter turnout but refuse to make a prediction. The more substantive answer will pivot to a pressing policy issue. And if they push you to make a prediction, push back by explaining that early voting numbers don’t give us the data we need to make an accurate prediction. Sure, it’s interesting that a lot of people have turned out, and that a larger number of Republicans have cast votes, but there is no guarantee that a registered Republican voted for Republicans.

EXCEPTION: If you’re working on a campaign, you have to predict that your candidate will win. No matter how unlikely it seems, a victory is always the right (and expected) prediction.

Why Nikki Haley is so popular

As Nikki Haley prepares to step down from her position as UN ambassador at the end of the year, her popularity on both sides of the aisle has come into sharp focus. In April, Quinnipiac released a poll that showed Republicans and Democrats liked Haley 75-9 and 55-23, respectively.

With numbers like that, Nikki Haley might be the most popular politician in America right now. But why? We think her communication game has a lot to do with it. Here are the three things she does that we wish more politicians would consider:

#1 — She stands up for herself.
Haley has responded to a number of unfair comments about her and her motivations, but the tussle ignited by Larry Kudlow highlights how good she is at standing up for herself:

“When a White House official suggested this week that United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley had suffered ‘momentary confusion’ over the Trump Administration’s approach to new Russian sanctions, she responded with a clear message to the contrary. ‘With all due respect, I don’t get confused.’

Haley could’ve ignored or apologized for the attack, but instead she defended herself with confidence and clarity.

#2 — She doesn’t take sides.
As a female, Haley had to address the allegations against her boss that surfaced in the 2016 campaign, and she did so in the best way possible:

“More than a dozen women came forward during the 2016 campaign with allegations of unwanted touching or kissing or other forms of sexual harassment. Haley addressed the allegations on CBS’s Face the Nation, after discussing North Korea’s missile tests and the plan to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Haley told host John Dickerson that women who feel that they were harassed by Trump have ‘every right to speak up’ and ‘we should all be willing to listen to them.’

Haley didn’t discuss details or place blame, but instead focused on what everyone is seeking — the truth.

#3 — She’s tough.
There are numerous examples of Haley’s “take no prisoners” approach as UN ambassador, but the following statement is a good example of the kind of speech she’s now famous for:

“[In March 2017, Haley spoke] to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), [and] said the U.S. was putting countries ‘on notice.’  The U.S. now will ‘actually act on what we say,’ she said. ‘If you challenge us,’ she said, ‘be prepared for what you’re challenging us for, because we will respond.’

Women are often categorized as shrill or aggressive when they talk tough, but Haley hasn’t received that same characterization. When she’s tough, she speaks simply and clearly and exudes confidence.

How to Host a Podcast

Podcasts are a dime a dozen these days, but only the few, the proud, the very good survive. Why? Star power and high production quality don’t hurt, but we’d like to argue that a podcast’s success hinges on the host’s ability to…host. It’s about more than sitting behind a mic and hitting “record.” A good host is in control and drives the conversation from beginning to end.

Here’s how we suggest you do it:

#1 — Prepare your guest

Not every episode will include a guest interview, but a few might. If you’re preparing to interview someone, make sure you manage their expectations. Send questions ahead of time, but also ask if there’s a topic they’d like to discuss. Finding and highlighting their enthusiasm makes for a more compelling conversation. Make sure you’ve read through their bio in advance, and don’t be afraid to ask for a punchier version – you will lose a listener (or 3) over a long bio. And finally, end the conversation with a shout out to their social media accounts and website.

#2 — Transition seamlessly

The most awkward moments usually involve a transition, so it’s important you practice. Know how you plan to welcome the audience, introduce yourself/co-host/guests, segue between segments, and sign off. Your goal is to immediately capture the audience’s attention, which you risk losing via a sloppy or awkward transition. If you feel awkward, the audience probably feels awkward, and they will stop listening.

#3 — Have a conversation

Though you already know what you plan to ask (because you took our advice and sent questions in advance, right??), your conversation with the guest is more than a Q&A session. The questions should serve as your guide, but also play off what the guest says. If they bring up an interesting point, ask a follow-up question or acknowledge their answer and block and bridge to a new question. If you mindlessly ask questions and fail to make connections between answers, the episode will sound rehearsed. Remember: the audience wants to listen in on a conversation between you and your guest, so the goal is to make them believe that’s what’s happening.

Understanding how to host is only one part of podcasting. Thankfully, the Leadership Institute is organizing its Conservative Podcasting School on October 15-16 to teach you EVERYTHING there is to know about how to start a podcast. We highly recommend you register to attend.

The key to your audience’s heart

Humor goes a long way to make someone like you, and we think there’s no better approach than self-deprecation. If used appropriately, self-deprecating humor has the power to instantly unite speaker and audience for the simple reason that it’s hard to dislike someone who’s just made fun of himself.

Here’s our best advice for how to be self-deprecating:

#1 — State the obvious

Does the audience know something unflattering about you? Has the media latched onto a past mistake you wish to not be identified with anymore? Then use this opportunity to make a joke about it. (The keyword here is “obvious,” so the joke only works if everyone knows what you’re talking about.)

For example… “[George W. Bush often] beat comedians to the punch by telling many jokes at his own expense. He opened the 2005 Correspondents’ Dinner, for example, by saying, ‘I look forward to these dinners where I’m supposed to be funny . . . intentionally.’”

#2 — Play off the unexpected

If something happens during your presentation that is unexpected – mic fades, lights blink, you trip on stage – laugh about it. If you ignore the mishap, the audience will continue to think about the awkward moment you didn’t acknowledge instead of what you’re saying.

For example… “How refreshing, then, was Romney’s quip upon taking the stage with glitter in his hair, thanks to an ambush from a gay activist: ‘That’s not all that’s in my hair, I’ll tell you that…I glue it on every morning, whether I need to or not.’”

#3 — Don’t apologize

The last thing an audience wants to hear as they settle in for your presentation is a disclaimer. Do not apologize for being tired, having less star power than the previous speaker, etc. Instead, make fun of yourself.

For example… If you’re the last speaker of the day, joke about how you have the power to hold the audience hostage, delaying happy hour well past the time that anyone can be considered happy anymore. Insert a line about “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

FINAL NOTE. Be self-deprecating, but not too much. There’s a fine line between ingratiating yourself and making the audience feel bad for you. One joke at your expense is enough.

How to talk about #metoo

The testimony this week will again remind us of the #MeToo moment we’re living in. It’s tragic, it’s pervasive, and the way we communicate about it will have consequences. It seems obvious that you want to speak carefully and factually whenever you’re asked about sexual harassment claims, but HOW and WHEN you say what you say matters.

Step 1: Don’t do this.

Step 2: Consider this approach instead.

  • Don’t pretend to know the facts.
  • Reiterate that it’s important to know the truth before making a judgment.
  • If a claim seems politically motivated, focus on the process rather than the victim’s authority.

Here’s an example of how you can navigate a reporter’s question about sexual harassment claims you know nothing (or very little) about:

Q: Who do you think is telling the truth?

A: These are serious allegations, and it’s irresponsible to make a judgment before we know all the facts. I hope, for the sake of both parties involved, that the facts come out soon.

Conversation Starters: Networking

Networking events often feel like survival of the fittest, because that’s what they are — you either take charge of the room or the room will take charge of you.

The good news is there are strategies you can implement to make the most of your next networking event. Turns out, the better you’re able to communicate, the more successful you’ll be as a networker.

Here are the 3 things we always do at networking events:

#1 — Ask Questions

“What do you do?” is the most obvious opening line. You’re not wrong to start here, especially at a networking event. But if you want to take it to the next level, listen to their answer and ask follow up questions. For example, “do you travel often for work?” or “how long have you been working at x company.” If you’re familiar with their line of work or know people who work with them, you can always say something like, “your org has been really solid in x area. I’ve always appreciated the work you do.”

#2 — Talk about interesting things

Though it doesn’t often feel like it, you’re more than your job (and so is everyone else). The more you can discover about a person outside of their 9-5, the more likely it is that you’ll build a connection. Can you talk sports or hometowns? If so, you’ll demonstrate that you have an interest in who they are beyond what they can do for you at work, and this motivation is greatly appreciated.

#3 — Make your exit 

The goal of a networking event is to talk to multiple people, which means you need an exit strategy for every conversation. If you started talking to someone without a drink in your hand, you can always excuse yourself, mention your need for a beverage, and end with how nice it was to meet him/her. (This strategy also works if you empty your glass mid-conversation. Just say you need a refill and excuse yourself.) Another “out” you can claim is your interest in talking to x person. Again, this is a networking event, everyone knows the goal is to talk to as many people as possible.

One final point… if you notice someone is alone, be kind and initiate a conversation. No one will think this is weird as the point of a networking event is to get to know people, so really you’re just playing by the rules.

How to speak in a staff meeting

Most people agree that meetings are the worst. They take a lot of time and are rarely an efficient means to communicate past successes or future plans.

But what if you viewed your next meeting as a speaking opportunity? We practice, practice, practice for a public speech or presentation, because we want to be compelling and persuade people to do something (agree with us, donate money, join a cause, etc.). We’re here to say that staff meetings should be given the same consideration.

Depending on who’s in the room, your next meeting could be higher stakes than a speech to 500+ people. And if you’re not prepared, you risk stuttering, speaking in circles, and wasting everyone’s time.

Here are three things you can do to impress in five minutes or less:

#1 — PREPARE. You should want to be known as the employee who speaks well in front of a crowd no matter the setting, but that recognition only comes with practice. Outline your talking points for the meeting, and practice aloud until you’re comfortable with the content and setting. We promise you’ll never think to yourself: “I wish I didn’t spend five minutes practicing.”

#2 — PROMOTE, DON’T BOAST. You want to name your accomplishments, but not brag. To walk that fine line, make sure to highlight teamwork and cite metrics where applicable. Numbers don’t lie, so oftentimes you can allow a percentage increase to speak for your success without naming it.

#3 — BE BRIEF. As with every public speaking opportunity, the audience matters, so let those in attendance drive your talking points. Stick to the highlights and summarize the big picture. If you need to talk specifics, consider first if the whole group should be in on that conversation.

Back-to-School SALE!

Not to rush the seasons, but we’re already a few days into August and the onslaught of back-to-school everything is very real. That next season (which shall not be named) is right around the corner, and with it comes a renewed sense of preparation and education.

To help you jumpstart the learning process, may we suggest you brush up on your communication skills in order to share all that you’re about to learn in the most effective way??

Great! Here’s what we can offer:

Restrictions always apply, so let’s lay some ground rules:

  1. The discount can only be used towards the purchase of one of the following services – clip review, one-hour media training, and one-hour public speaking training (sessions via Skype are an option).
  2. The service can be scheduled any time between now and December 31, 2018, but you have to redeem the discount before August 31, 2018.

If you’re interested in scheduling a one-hour media or public speaking training, or have a clip you’d like us to review, email info@districtmediagroup.com NOW. We’re happy to answer questions or choose a date/time for your discounted training.

How to Sit in the Hot Seat

For the past few weeks, we’ve provided you with a series of tips to demystify the TV interview process. You’ve learned how to communicate with the producer and book a TV hit as well as navigate the green room, which means it’s now time to talk about the hot seat. Here’s what you can expect:

#1 — Mics and IFBs

Someone will mic you up and place an IFB in your ear. This audio device allows you to hear the host as well as the producer, so they can announce when you’re about to go live and then give you the “all clear” once the interview ends.

You’ll notice a knob on the box clipped to the back of your chair for IFB volume control – don’t hesitate to use it.

#2 — Live Feed Monitor

There will be a monitor near the camera that displays a live feed. Some people like to see themselves, so they can fix any stray hairs and adjust their tie, but others find it distracting. If you find it distracting, feel free to ask the person staffing you to turn it off.

#3 — Always Be Ready

Until the producer gives you the “all clear,” assume you’re live. This applies to commercial breaks and well after the host says “thank you” to end the segment. Just keep smiling or maintain a pleasant resting face.

Green Room Etiquette

Last week, we talked about how to prepare for your interview and what to expect from the producer. This week, we’ll address the next step in the process – green room etiquette.

Help us help you be a low maintenance guest by following these three simple rules:

#1 – Check in with the makeup artists.

Even though the makeup artists have a rundown of the guests and corresponding hit time, it’s best to let them know when you’ve arrived. You’ll likely walk by the makeup room on your way to the green room, so just take a minute to check in with them first.

A note about makeup artists: they want you to be happy with your hair and makeup, so don’t hesitate to speak up and let them know what you prefer. We’re not suggesting you dictate the exact cheek color, but you can request a bold lip, smoky eye, overall understated look, etc.

#2 – Don’t take selfies. 

Maybe this goes without saying, but here we are saying it – don’t take selfies with the other guests in the green room. Most people use that time to refine their talking points and prepare for their hit, and you will too.

#3 – Hydrate.

Always grab a water and take it with you to the studio to prevent a sudden case of dry mouth. There’s nothing worse than anticipating a live hit with a dry mouth and no way to remedy the situation.