Skype Studio Setup

With most TV interviews being done via Skype to protect against the spread of coronavirus, here’s how we recommend you set up an at-home studio to guarantee the best lighting, audio, and background.

  • For the best lighting: sit so the light (natural or in-door) is shining towards your face and not the back of your head.
  • For the best angle: place your computer on a table or stack of books on a table so the camera is eye level.
  • For the best background: make sure the objects behind you are appropriate and well placed. A bookshelf is always a good option.
  • For the best audio: use AirPods. Producers are requesting that guests use AirPods because they eliminate feedback and guarantee the best audio quality.

How to develop talking pts

Talking points get a bad rap because people assume talking points = scripted. But in reality, well-developed talking points = preparation. And the reason you want to prepare is so you’re able to control the interview by communicating your message regardless of the questions asked.

Below are a few tips to help you develop the best talking points for your message:

#1 — Condense. The more you know about a topic, the more difficult an interview will be because there is so much you COULD say. The trick is to determine what two or three points best sell your message to the intended audience – what do they care about? – and then physically write them down.

#2 — Don’t memorize. Once you determine the two or three points you want to make, it’s important to NOT memorize them. You’ll sound rehearsed if you try. Instead, create bullet points to summarize your talking points. You’ll stay on message and you’ll sound conversational as you allow words and phrases you’d naturally use to fill the gaps.

#3 — Internalize. Now that you’ve written out your talking points and understand how each can be summarized into bullet points, it’s time to practice out loud. You’ll find that your ability to remember and deliver your talking points is much easier when you’ve taken the time to not only write down what you want to say but to also say it out loud.

How to talk about the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal (GND) hits the Senate floor this week. Though it’s been in the news since its release, coverage will increase in the next few days as we watch the Senate presidential primary candidates decide whether to back up their vocal support with a vote.

Increased coverage means you should be prepared to field a question or two in your upcoming interviews. The good news? So often it’s difficult to visualize the impact of legislation –- how will it affect pocketbooks, what changes day-to-day, etc. — but tangible examples abound in the GND.

Here are a few of our favorites:

#1 — Cost
Total cost is roughly $93 trillion, which is a meaningless number to quote. Instead, break it down to cost per household = $419,000. There is not one single household willing to expand their budgets by $419,000/year. Not one.

You can also use a comparison to emphasize the sticker shock. The CBO has estimated that the moon landing would cost $225 billion today (which is a lot less than $93 trillion). AND WE WERE ABLE TO PUT A MAN ON THE MOON.

#2 — Eliminate air travel…
…in favor of high-speed rail. Given the recent high-speed rail fail in California, this seems like an impractical suggestion.

#3 — Everything is free
Literally, everything. The GND promises free money to those “unable or unwilling to work,” free jobs, free education, and free housing for EVERY American. 

The legislation is outrageous and unworkable as the facts and figures suggest, and you only need to highlight one or two examples per interview to prove your point. 

***

BONUS — If you’d like to stay away from facts and figures, here’s a block and bridge to highlight the absurdity:

Q: Don’t you think the GND is the best answer to a pressing issue?

A: “Why take seriously something the authors of the bill aren’t ready to put their names on? The very day AOC unveiled this plan, she removed it from her website and voted against it on the House floor.”

How to win the mental game

Nailing a media interview is equal parts technique and mental game, but more attention is often paid to the importance of mastering what you say and how you say it rather than your mindset before and during the interview.

We’re here to say that your mindset matters and will absolutely determine an interview’s success. So, before you put all your effort into mastering talking points, body language, and facial expressions, it’s worth your time to develop the right mindset.

Here are three ways to do so:

#1 — Realize perfection is a process
Your first few interviews probably won’t be great, and that’s ok. There is a learning curve everyone has to face, but the one obstacle that will keep you from making progress is fear. You have to allow yourself to be human, make mistakes, and learn. A good perspective to keep: if you’re speaking about an issue you believe in, the worst that can happen is you’ll think about how you *could’ve* made the point better, but you won’t ever regret making the point.

#2 — Don’t be afraid of the media
A media interview IS NOT a battle of wits between you and the reporter. It’s your job to acknowledge the question asked and then immediately pivot to your talking point. If helpful, think of the reporter as a facilitator. They are there to fill air time and ask questions. It’s up to you whether the discussion is meaningful.

#3 — Always speak to the audience
Consider who you’re speaking to and what you want them to know regardless of the question asked. People are tuning in to hear from you and get your perspective on an issue, so give them your perspective.

Gov. Northam: A Cautionary Tale in Crisis Management

You don’t have to be a PR professional to understand that Gov. Northam absolutely failed in his response to a racist photo that surfaced last week. Between his initial reaction on Friday to the follow-up press conference on Saturday, there’s a lot to talk about.

We want to focus on something that people in the public eye struggle to do—admit they’re wrong. Responding to a crisis isn’t easy as you risk destroying personal and professional relationships, but Gov. Northam’s “apology” fell short as he gave into the popular narrative of “I’m not that person.” 

Here’s how we think Gov. Northam should’ve handled the situation:

  1. Don’t say “I’m not that person.” 
  2. Instead, admit you’re wrong and say you’re sorry.
  3. And then explain what you’ve learned/how you’ve grown since the incident.

It’s painful to admit you’re wrong, but this strategy is much less newsworthy than a denial, reversal, and offer to moonwalk. If you get out in front of the story, the story will never exist.

Makeup Artist Rec!

One of the best parts of our day is interacting with a lot of talented people in many different industries. But maybe the one that has the biggest impact on how we’re perceived is the makeup artist. These people make us look good, and we appreciate them.

Whether in the TV studio, on a stage, or posing for a new head shot, your hair and makeup matter. So, why not trust the professionals to help you look your best??

We’d like to introduce you to Carolyn Berry.

Carolyn is a makeup artist in the Washington DC area. She regularly prepares FOX News talent and guests for their work on TV, but was previously employed at CNN and HLN. She is represented by AMAX talent agency in Nashville TN, and her specialty is developing the look to match the vibe that the client needs for each individual project.

Carolyn is a developer at heart and loves to teach. She held positions as the Education Coach at the Aveda Institute and as a regional corporate beauty trainer with Walgreens. After 20 years in the business, Carolyn is still in love with what makeup can do for the spirit, bringing her talent, professionalism & enthusiasm to every job. She is certified as a master esthetician and licensed educator with a focus on holistic health and wellness.

If you’d like to hire Carolyn for your next event or TV appearance, you can contact her here. We highly recommend you do!

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.

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.