When a Reporter Calls: How Can You Be Memorable when Presenting your Science?
Date: October 20, 2011
A phone call from a news reporter can spur fear or anxiety. Yet such a call can just as easily be an opportunity for researchers to communicate the meaning of their work to new and important audiences. At a special session in San Diego last month, Carol Schadelbauer of Burness Communications demonstrated to Annual Meeting attendees the power of message and storytelling in talking with reporters and others. See 12 tips for being memorable below.
You get one shot. Don’t plan on another. So here’s what you should do:
- Be yourself and have fun. Don’t segment yourself into the worker person and the real you. The real you will always make a better impression.
- Obsess about accuracy, but let go of precision. Don’t talk about the “process it took to get there,” or the exact percentage to the decimal; be accurate but less detailed.
- This is an opportunity, not a moment to be feared. Either you’re in charge, or the other “guy” is in charge. You decide.
- Speak with conviction. Don’t excuse or qualify your point before you make it. Nuance and gray areas can be explained once you’ve set the stage, but ambiguity leads to doubt.
- Be clear about your message. What are the two or three points you want the person to learn or remember – not the 20 or 30 points. Test your message with a teenager or a neighbor. Do they get it? Are they “sold”? If not, try again.
- Speak simply and clearly. Leave your buzzwords and other jargon at home.
- Know your audience. Think about their perspective—what do they need to hear? What is in it for them? Be as specific as possible when asking them to do something.
- Think action, not process. A meeting or collaboration isn’t an end goal, it’s one step in a process. Talk about the ultimate goal when delivering your “ask.”
- The messenger is more important than the message. Both are crucial, but don’t underestimate the power of your personality and your delivery. It matters more than the content of what you have to say.
- Tell stories – brief stories. People are moved by stories and the emotion behind them more than they are by data.
- Your interview or meeting is brief, not a seminar or lecture. A typical face-to-face meeting, interview or chance encounter runs about 15 minutes – or less. You have about 3 minutes or less to make your point.
- Anticipate tough questions and practice the answers. You should almost never be caught off guard or surprised. Sometimes the hardest question is “how can I help.” Know what you want them to do. Be prepared to make a plan and agree on next steps.
Remember, be yourself and have fun!