Episode 226: Michael Sorrentino provides media training
January 27, 2020
In this video edition of Unleashed, Michael Sorrentino provides Will Bachman with an introduction to media training.
No one is a natural in front of a video camera, because you need to speak in an unnatural way and hold yourself in an unnatural position if you want to look normal.
If you have invested time and effort to build up your visibility and expect to be appearing on camera, it is a worthwhile investment to obtain media training from a professional so that in your few minutes on screen you make a good impression. (Will Bachman will need a lot more than 1 session.)
Michael Sorrentino’s studio is located in the heart of Manhattan, and if you are interested in getting training from him for yourself or a member of your team, visit his firm’s website:
Will: Hey. Welcome to a special video edition of Unleashed. I’m here at the global headquarters of Sorrentino Media with Mike Sorrentino, and Mike has agreed to give me some media training today. So media training, obviously helpful. If you are planning on going on some kind of video on TV, if you’re planning be on a panel where you might get recorded, or even being if you’re going to be on a podcast just for the audio aspect. But not just for external media. If you or an executive that you’re serving is going to be doing some internal media, maybe a video for the sales, global sales team or global CEO speaking to the company, then it’s useful to get some media training. I’m going to learn why today as Mike walks me through it. So we’re going to talk both about … He’s actually going to give me some training and we’re going to talk a little bit about how the process works. So Mike, thank you so much for having me in here.
Michael: I’m really happy to be with you. So this is something that I’ve always just really been interested in. I started as a producer working for news, and I was out in the field, and I would work with reporters. Standing right next to them and they would … Some reporters don’t need much hand-holding, some definitely do. What I found was that I was constantly starting to get assigned the new people to start working with them and get them used to conversational delivery and writing. So I got a knack for it. And it developed into what ended up being this career, which is a really fun and exciting thing. So I’m always studying and reading about how our brain works, and what is it that our nonverbal cues are doing to help convey the message, and so it’s really fun and interesting. So I hope that today we’ll be able to at least tackle a couple things for you.
Will: Yeah. Give us a minute on your practice. So who are the types of people that you work with that will come here into this studio, which … I don’t know, we may edit this, but we’ve got a green screen behind us. So it could be white-
Michael: Could be anything. It could New York City.
Will: New York city skyline. We’ve got a green screen behind us. And just to give you kind of a have a visual of the room here, and maybe we put in even some B-roll pictures. Around us we have some sound padding. We’re right on Madison Avenue at 37th Street, but it’s nice and quiet in here. We have lights on us. There’s lights behind us here. We’re sitting in this table. Behind is all sound padding, so really impressive. Like 4K camera up there?
Will: Who are the folks that you have in here that get media training?
Michael: Who runs the gamut. A lot of people that come in here are looking to break into TV. They’ve maybe built a company on their own or part of a firm, and they’re now being thrust into the media, but they want to make sure they start right. So we’ll start from scratch and we wanted to replicate a real studio. This is also a working studio where we’re actively producing a lot of content for brands. And I like to point that out because it’s like you have this college professor who hasn’t worked in the industry in 20 years and is sort of out of practice. I find it’s important for people to know, this is a working studio, we’re working producers, I’m still producing. So we have the beginners and then we have the people who sometimes I’m like, “Why are you hiring me?” And I find that it’s people that just really want to fine-tune their delivery.
I had one person that hired me, and he’s been on TV basically every day. Had been on TV every day for maybe five years and continues to be on. I actually had to say, “Why are we working together and you could teach me how to do this.” And he said that I want to be more likable. He said he found that he was getting a lot of comments on social media that he was not exactly a very relatable person. And you know what we did? We ended up having his wife on FaceTime during our sessions because between me and her, we were able to really be honest and brutal in our feedback. Anyway, so we have a big variety of people. And I also work with teams and corporations. And sometimes we’ll go in and work with managers who are trying to convey messaging to their sales team, or companies who want to have their leaders be better as public speakers.
Will: So if you for your firm are spending money on a public relations firm, and the idea for this episode came when I spoke to Andy Scranton, who you’re very familiar with.
Michael: My better half.
Will: Yes. Nice wife. And when I spoke to Andy Scranton about just understanding the world of public relations, if you’re spending all that money to get interviewed and get on TV, then you want to make sure you make the most of those two or three minutes that you have.
Michael: Yeah. And that’s what we’re going to focus on today. So I would say that there are a couple of really interesting things that we want to focus on with you.
Will: All right.
Michael: The beauty is that we haven’t practiced yet.
Michael: So I’m going to be finding out in real time what we should really work on.
Michael: What I want to start with is the things that for anybody watching, for you, just to know some of the really key basics. It may sound like common sense, things that you already know, but I just find that you need to hear it.
Will: Right. Let’s go for the basics.
Michael: So the first thing I like to get across is the importance of … I call them the four P’s. It’s just the easy way for me to remember sometimes. It’s pace, pitch, posture and passion in no particular order.
Will: Pace, pitch, posture-
Michael: And passion. So let’s start with posture.
Will: All right. Posture, yeah.
Michael: Okay. Let’s think about what is happening in the environment of a studio. Okay? We’re nervous. We are probably in a new environment, meeting new people for the first time. Thinking about, what is happening? Do I have all the information? Am I ready to go? What happens a lot of times when you step foot in the studio or even the building, you’re taking shorter breaths. Because when we’re nervous we’re taking shorter breaths. And when we take shorter breaths, we’re not getting enough oxygen into our lungs, less oxygen then into our bloodstream and then ultimately our brain. So we’re not firing on all cylinders. Much like breathing, posture will also allow your body to make sure that the blood and the oxygen is flowing. So that’s one tiny thing about posture, but the other is it also makes you look more presentable.
Michael: So taking a step back to the breathing point, which is pace. A lot of people speak very fast. I’m going to talk fast today. I’ll try my best to slow it down. I’m just a fast talker. What I find is a really great way to slow yourself down is just take a couple deep breaths. Because again, it’s your nerves. And so when you … Just do right now. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Three deep breaths will really just slow things down and honestly, just let you breathe and just settle in. When you can level yourself out, you’re setting yourself up for a more successful interview or a more successful conversation because you’re not as nervous. Again, I’m a fast talker. So I will fill in the gaps with ums and ahs, like, so, these filler words, which we all do it. And the reason we do that is because our brain can’t keep up with our mouth when we’re talking too fast. So just the simple act of taking a few deep breaths will be the first step that you can do to address your pace.
Will: Okay. So pace.
Michael: We’ve gotten posture. So pitch. You’ll notice that a lot of times when you’re answering questions, you may when you’re explaining something to somebody sort of end up on a like a little bit of a higher note, if you were supposed … Up talking, as we call it. If I was going to draw the direction of the speech, it would go up and I would say, I want to tell you today about coffee mugs, and it’s really important that you know how coffee mug works. And what happens is, it’s not the end of the world, but the audience is going to take you a little less seriously.
Will: It sounds …
Michael: Condescending a little bit, right? So I like to tell people talk with declarative sentences, speak with authority, and end your sentence with periods and exclamation points rather than question marks. So now from now on, I’m going to just try to slow myself down. I’m going to try to be mindful of the delivery that I make and try not to make the mistake of up talking. And I do it a lot too. It’s normal. And one thing I want to say too is, media training, there’s no magic bullet. You don’t come away from a media training session and you’re magically an amazing speaker. What I find is there are so many things to focus on and learn, you can actually become overwhelming. So I try to focus on two or three key things at the end of the session so that you know what you should really just focus on in the short-term. Because then in long-term it’ll get easier.
Will: Pace, pitch, posture and passion.
Michael: Now passion is what I really like to focus on. Have you ever worked in retail?
Will: I have not worked in retail Mike.
Michael: Okay. I did. I worked at Circuit City when it existed. And I used to sell, I loved selling the computers, the TVs and the CD players. What I didn’t love to sell were the appliances. But what I eventually found out was the commission on the appliances was awesome. So I would have to go into a refrigerator section and sell that thing like I really cared about a refrigerator. So I’m in high school and I have to pretend like I care about a storage freezer. But what I found was when I really got into it, the person on the other side really was buying what I was selling. In the figure it makes sense in more ways than one, and that was where you have to deliver with passion.
Will: Now, my brother-in-law, Brendan [Stylesoto 00:10:10], gave me some advice. He does marketing, does video editing. He told me for video, you need to kind of amp up your passion by a factor of five because the camera just sort of sucks energy out of you. So your normal energy level, it looks like you’re kind of dead. So you really need to go … Is it true?
Michael: That’s 100% correct.
Will: Amp it up little bit more than you would do in life.
Michael: I like to tell people, you know how they say that the camera adds 10 pounds?
Michael: I also like to remind people it takes away about 20 to 30% of your energy. So you need to overcompensate for that. And it doesn’t mean yelling like we’re one of five people on CNBC. Which helps, but you need to think about the platform that you are broadcasting. Now if somebody’s listening to this on an audio podcast, it’s a lot more intimate. So we can tone it down. And that’s why you find with podcasts, it’s a little bit more calm and relaxed. When video is involved, it’s often on a screen, on a wall, especially television, maybe you’re doing something else, you’re folding laundry, you’re preparing dinner, you’re working, it’s at the bank. You need to punch through all of that other noise in order to reach the person who is talking. And passion is more than just your projection, which by the way is not volume. Projection is the way in which you deliver it. For those watching the video podcast, I’m looking at the camera and I’m really leaning into it and I’m using my hands to help be animated.
Will: I got a question about.
Will: So you’re talking, when I’m the guest or when I’m not talking, should I be looking at you?
Will: Because I feel like an idiot if I look at the camera.
Michael: I know. It’s weird. Well, first thing, let’s just be real. Video is weird. It’s not 100% authentic. It’s you’re in this fake studio and you’re lying to people sometimes saying that we’re in a beautiful window when we’re sitting in front of a green screen. But what I like to tell people is let’s just try to bring out as much real authenticity as we possibly can in this delivery. So with that said, I like to tell people, you’re looking at two places. If you’re on set with somebody, you’re looking at the human being or the camera. If you’re addressing the audience or occasionally trying … So I’ll talk to you for the most part, but knowing that somebody else is watching, I’m going to let them in on the conversation.
Will: Got it.
Michael: So I would occasionally just I’ve got a tip to share with you, the audience, and I am currently looking at the camera. Now I’m going to turn it back to you and say, that is the point that I’m trying to make.
Will: All right. So I’d like to a couple tips on the posture right now because I’m sitting on this kind of awkward stool, is that kind of typical for a studio? You’re going to be on some kind of, I mean, chair, stool, kind of …
Michael: Yeah, it’s strange. I don’t know why, but they’ve been putting swivel chairs in studios a lot. And when I do one-on-one training with people or even group sessions, I like to show clips specifically of people messing up, because it makes for a more fun session, but it also is a lot more effective.
Michael: So one clip that I show people is a gentleman who’s being interviewed on TV and he is just in a swivel chair, and he’s slouching a bit, and he’s just doing this. And I always dissect it. I’ve watched this clip a million times. The reason I think that happened is because he lowered himself into a false sense of security. And I’m going to get to this in a second about how to prevent this, which was that I think during the commercial break, he and the anchor had a great conversation, and he was relaxed and comfortable. And he just sort of was like, let’s continue the conversation on. But as you will see me doing this as I relax in the conversation and use this, I might get caught staying in this position. I need to check back in with myself and remember, sit up, Mike. Smile. Bring up the energy. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
So it’s important to remember posture along the way. So, a good trick is if there’s a chair with a back, a chair with a back like an L, put your butt all the way in the back of that seat. It will force you to use the back of the chair to sit up straight. So that’s one good tip. We’re currently sitting on stools. I in our studio like to use stools or we have director’s chairs and we’ll pull the back off of them, because I think it creates a crutch sometimes where people can sit back a little too far. Well, when I’m sitting on a stool, I’m thinking, I hope I don’t fall off this thing and embarrass myself. So I’m sitting up straight. So you got to sit up straight like your mother told you.
Will: Sit up straight.
Michael: So my wife tells me all the time that my posture is bad. I’m walking down the street and I’m like this. She’s like, will you just look confident. And that’s the point. Looking confident. So it comes back to passion. The onion of everything that we talked about, if we peel away every layer at the core of it is confidence. And passion is a way to help sell that, but what’s really important is that you do all these other things to help sort of tie it together. Posture is a big part of that. I guarantee with you … Is posture an issue for you?
Will: Probably a little bit, yeah.
Michael: I guarantee with you then one thing that we’ll take away from today is posture. So before we do a practice, I want to talk about one quick thing. Which is, somebody said to me once, and anybody that’s been in a session with me has probably heard this anecdote a million times. Somebody said to me once that you can sail from Los Angeles to Hawaii, but if you’re just two degrees off, you’re gonna end up in the middle of the ocean. So you have to constantly check your bearings. It was interesting advice as it related, as he was telling me to a successful marriage, which is great. But it also applies to this, which is, you need to constantly check in with yourself. And by that I mean, find moments where you can remind yourself of those key points that you need to focus on. Mine are posture and it’s pace. I’m a fast talker and I’m a [slugger 00:16:17].
As a media trainer, it doesn’t mean, by the way, that I am perfect on the media. It just means that I’ve done all the homework, I’ve done all the research, and I’m pretty good at conveying it. So I am no expert. I’m just pretty good at working with people. But I still need to remind myself of these things. So I find opportunities, like when we sit down and we are recording, and we say okay, we’re going to start in five seconds. I am taking that five seconds ago. Okay. Sit up straight, take a breath, slow down. Every so often when you’re talking, you might find me sort of straightening up my back. That’s checking in with myself. It’s finding moments during an interview when the other person is talking. It’s when there’s a commercial break. It’s when another guest is talking that you can say, all right, sit up straight, smile. So that’s it. I think you and I will work together. We’re going to see what your areas for little development are, and we’ll try to focus on them.
Michael: All right. So I’m going to step off here, and we’re going to have you look towards the camera.
Will: So I’m looking towards the camera.
Michael: And I’m actually going to step behind the camera.
Will: All right.
Michael: And I’m going to watch you now.
Michael: So the first thing I want to do is, I want to have you act as if you’re a guest in a remote studio with a television anchor who is on the other side of the country.
Will: Got it. So I’m looking-
Michael: And they’re interviewing you. So you’re going to sit facing towards the camera straight.
Michael: Okay. And I’m going to just for the sake of speed, we’re going to just have you do an elevator pitch for you and your company.
Michael: So you’re going to introduce yourself. So why don’t you start without any direction, let’s just jump into it. Give me a quick 20 to 30-second elevator pitch on you and your work.
Will: Great. So I’m the co-founder of Umbrex, which is the world’s first global community that’s connecting top-tier independent management consultants with one another.
Michael: Okay, that’s a good start. And what I want to do is I want you to introduce a hello into that, because it’ll help you kind of kick off the right energy.
Michael: And the other thing I think is … Posture was pretty good. First of all, I think people we really, especially people who are professionals and who are leaders, we tend to really pick ourselves apart because we always want to improve. So the first thing I would say is, you have a great foundation, so don’t worry about it. Okay. But let’s focus on your posture and your energy. So remember that point of, the energy is decreased by 20 or 30% through the camera, you need to overcompensate for that. Some would say, ham it up a little bit.
Will: All right. Ham it up. All right.
Michael: I want you to give me a little bit more. I want you to look at the camera, but I want you to pretend like I’m standing 30 feet behind the camera.
Will: All right.
Michael: Okay. It may sound you like yelling, but what I want to do is bring it up a notch. From there, we’ll probably go even-
Will: Bring it up a notch. Okay.
Michael: Yeah, let’s try it.
Will: All right. Are you ready?
Michael: So I want you to say, “Hello? I am …” And then jump into it.
Will: All right. Okay, here we go. Hello? I am Will Bachman. I’m a co-founder of Umbrex, which is a first global community connecting top-tier independent management consultants with one another.
Michael: That was great. It was definitely better. It was clean energy. And by that I mean, it wasn’t too much.
Will: Not too much. Really? Okay.
Michael: The good thing is, you’re there with your energy. But now what I want to do is bring it up even higher.
Michael: So what I find is, when you think overdoing it, it’s usually just enough. But it’s definitely easier to dial it back than it is to bring it up.
Will: Yeah. That definitely felt odd. Like, it would be weird to do that in person with somebody.
Michael: Well, think about it this way. So if you’re on a hill in the winter, and it’s covered in snow, and you and your friends are kids and you’re sledding. What happens is, one person goes down, the next person down. You’ve got a track in that snow. And everybody’s going down the same track. That’s what’s happening with your brain, with your muscle memory as it relates to delivery. You’ve got this sort of, I don’t want to say neutral, this gear, you put it in and you go. What you need to do is to jump out of that and have that awkward first few times down that uncarved path in the snow to really create a new path. And so what you need to do is sort of play the part, and long enough, you’re going to build muscle memory.
Michael: So that’s what media training a lot of it is, is just repetition and practice. So let’s do another one. I want you to make sure that your energy is up. I want you to sit up tall. I liked that you’re using your hands. Have you ever seen the movie Hitch?
Michael: There’s a scene in it where Will Smith and Kevin James or Kevin James is like dancing like crazy. And Will Smith is like, no, this is where you live. You live right here. Okay? And that’s basically the same for you. Anybody that’s on video, I like to say, keep your elbows generally to the side, that will allow you to make sure that your hands are still within the frame of the picture. But it also won’t go too far. And then it also … You don’t want to lock them in like a T-Rex, but you want to sort of keep your elbows to your side. So I like hand gestures, energy up. Declarative sentence was the big takeaway there. It sounded like you were focusing on your energy too much that you weren’t really focusing on being an authoritative deliverer of the message you’re trying to convey, which is, hey, here’s who I am. I’m trying to sell you on what I’m doing.
Michael: Let’s do it.
Will: All right. So we’re already?
Michael: Jump into it.
Will: Okay. Hello? I’m Will Bachman. I’m a co-founder of Umbrex, which is the world’s first global community connecting top-tier independent management consultants with one another.
Michael: That’s great. One more time. What I want you to do is take a breath and pacing got a little staccato.
Will: Okay. Too much staccato.
Michael: A little too staccato.
Will: All right.
Michael: So let’s bring it down. Let’s just take a breath. Keep that energy. Is where it should be.
Will: All right.
Michael: One more time. I’m standing 20 feet behind the camera. Jump into it.
Will: So remind me of what I’m thinking about here. Don’t be staccato. Stand up straight.
Michael: See, this is a perfect example of it’s like a golf swing. You play golf?
Will: I don’t play golf, but I get what you’re talking about. It’s like you’ve told me to do like five different now.
Michael: And then when you step at the golf ball, you mess it up. When you don’t think about it or your friend who never plays, steps up to the golf ball and doesn’t do anything, they nail it. It’s the same thing. This is why we can’t overwhelm with information. So what I want to do is find two or three key things. For you, I want you to just remember to keep your energy up-
Will: Keep your energy up.
Michael: And I want you to take a deep breath and just keep your pace nice and even.
Will: Nice and even.
Michael: Everything else is going to follow.
Will: All right.
Michael: Okay? There are all these little things, we’ll get there. Let’s just try it.
Will: So keep the pace nice and even, take a deep breath, energy but don’t shout.
Michael: That’s right.
Michael: I think when you start, you should remind yourself, breathe, smile and sit up.
Will: Breathe, smile, sit up. All right. Okay. All right. Hello? I’m Will Bachman. I’m a co-founder of Umbrex, the world’s first global community connecting top-tier independent management consultants with one another.
Michael: Great. How do you feel about that?
Will: Felt okay.
Michael: I want you to overdo it now. Even though people are probably watching and listening, let’s pretend that they’re not.
Will: All right.
Michael: I want you to break out of your comfort zone and I want you to overdo your energy.
Will: Overdo my energy.
Michael: Yep. I want you to pretend like you’re a game show dancer. I want you to give me too much, and let’s just see what we’ve got there when you give me way too.
Will: Okay. Now we’re going to see what too much is like?
Michael: Yeah. This is like almost being silly to the point of like, you know.
Will: All right.
Michael: Let’s try it again.
Will: All right, great. Hello? I’m Will Bachman, the co-founder of Umbrex. The world’s first global community connecting top-tier independent management consultants with one another.
Michael: So interestingly, you could dial it back a little bit, but interestingly, that was again, little much. But it was a lot closer to I think when you’ll probably bring it down about 10-15%-
Will: No kidding?
Michael: Yeah. Let’s try it again.
Will: Okay. That’s amazing, because it feels like-
Michael: I know. Of course, it’s weird.
Will: Doing that personally would be super strange.
Michael: Oh, my gosh. When I have people who are really good on TV, and I used to interview them as a producer, and they would talk to me just one-on-one in a room like this, they would always yell. And I’m like, why? It’s because they’re used to doing live television.
Will: Yeah. So if you’re doing like TV like CNBC or something, then 10% less than that is where you’re supposed to lay.
Michael: Yeah. You want to project more when you’re doing live TV.
Michael: Yeah. So again, that kind of gets back to the point of it depends on the medium. If you’re thinking podcasting, it’s really a lot more like closer to here. If you’re thinking of even a digital video, it’s not as much as TV because people are maybe watching on a mobile phone with headphones. Maybe they’re have it on a computer, but they likely may have you on a tab in the background. But they’re close to it. So you can kind of find a happy medium between podcasting, computer and digital video, and then live TV is really where you ought to be that salesman person that you just were. I would say you have to sort of tailor your delivery really to that, but you need to know what all these ranges feel like.
Michael: So you’ve done now the CNBC.
Michael: That’s the trading room floor is what you just gave me. So now what I want you to do is give me a live stream on LinkedIn. Okay?
Will: All right. I’ll just keep saying the same sentence, right? Okay. So let me see. Set up straight, breathe, smile. All right. And this is, hello, I’m Will Bachman, a co-founder of Umbrex, world’s first global community connecting top-tier independent management consultants with one another.
Michael: I mean, I thought that was great. I thought it was real. I thought it was a great energy level. It’s not too far off from what I would expect to see from you in person. Now again, could we nitpick? Are there things that anyone watching would say, I think this was good or I think this was bad and disagree with me, of course. However, I like to focus, again, on just the real key elements because everything else you can build on. So your foundation should be as you move forward and continue to do more video, I think your foundation should be energy and pace. Just smile, slow it down and relax.
Will: Slow it down. Okay.
Michael: Your pacing was good.
Will: All right.
Michael: Remind yourself to slow it down. Because then you’re going to have the staccato delivery. Now, again, without overwhelming but just because we’re here and we should talk about any little details, some of the other things that I would probably focus on. Eyebrows and facial gestures. I noticed that they are very intentional and deliberate. However, it doesn’t match the relaxed conversational delivery that I see. You’ll see it when you watch it back. This is a really key part of anybody that does media training, which is watching back what you do. So generally, what we would do if we were in a session that wasn’t being broadcast, what we would do is have a monitor here, have somebody on the camera and would play back each time because then we would analyze it together.
Michael: And then you could see, yeah, I’m moving my eyebrows a lot. I don’t realize I do that. Do you find that you do that?
Will: Well, I wasn’t aware of.
Michael: Yeah, now you know.
Will: Now I know.
Michael: Yeah. So it’s just there’s a lot of minor things. But again, I like to just really keep it simple and you can build from there. Otherwise, you’re going to go crazy. But also you should remember, if you walked in here today for the first time, you’ve got a great starting point.
Will: What I can already tell, Mike, is that with media training, video is 100 times more complicated than audio, than podcasting.
Will: Right. With the podcast, you’re only thinking about what you’re saying. And also podcast, you can be much more conversational. It can be a warmer medium, you’re more intimate. But with video, you’re thinking about your hands, you’re thinking about your eyebrows, you’re thinking about standing up straight, not talking too fast. So I can see how, just like you said, to carve out that second channel down the hill and really build those new habits. It’s not just sort of hearing it from you once, you would really need to come in for multiple sessions to see yourself and then practice one thing at a time and keep getting feedback. It would really take me, I don’t know, a dozen sessions to get practice, see it, practice, see it.
Michael: And you know what a great thing is, there’s a democratization of video production that’s happened over the last five years and continues to happen. And so one thing, I do work with a lot of startups and nonprofits, and what I can always say to them too is, you don’t need me for everything. I hate to say it, but the truth is, practice makes perfect and one can practice by creating their own content, and then you’re getting two for one. As you do more podcast and as you do more video podcasts, you could record them at home. And then you could watch and pick it apart yourself and have somebody that you really trust, not a really good friend is going to be nice to you, sort of critique you. And that really helps. A lot of small companies, I always encourage them, start doing video blogs. Even if you’re not going to publish them, it’s a great way for you to get yourself on camera, record it and then watch it back and see what you would want to improve and find ways to do it.
Now, of course, there’s always experts so we could give shortcuts and all that too. So that’s one thing. And then the only thing I want to kind of point out that we didn’t really get to talk to about much was the different environments of a set. There are rooms like this where you’re alone talking into a camera, to a reporter or an anchor on the other side of the world. There are times when you’re on set with-
Will: In that first one, would I normally see a monitor with that person and I’d have a little ear thingy?
Michael: Yeah. That’s actually a good question. Exactly. You have something called an IFB, which stands for interoperable feedback. They can send you the sound coming from the studio and they can interrupt it by connecting with you. I have a great video that I always show people on what’s happening on the other side of that IFB because it’s really valuable to know. Why are they telling me to count to five 600 times? But those are really difficult. And that’s why we practice this one because that’s where the energy is. You’re in this weird fake environment.
When you and I are having a conversation where it’s host and guest, it’s a lot more real, because I’m talking to the human being. So that’s a lot better. When you’re on set with an anchor or a reporter, it’s a lot better. And then sometimes you’ll be asked to give a soundbite or talk to a producer slightly off camera where I’m looking now and I might be giving some information or telling my story as a business owner or something. Those are also great because usually there’s a human being standing on the other side of the camera that I can actually have that conversation.
Will: So that you would be in the room with the person but instead of looking at the camera, you’re looking off camera at a real person who’s standing right over there.
Michael: And now when anybody watches the news, you’ll notice where they’re looking. And if there’s somebody looking off camera, they’re either talking to a correspondent or a producer or somebody. And those conversations are usually you’ll find a lot more authentic than the ones where they’re just sitting looking at the camera. This is the hardest thing to master, I think. We call it a remote studio.
Will: Especially because you wouldn’t want to look … We’re looking at the monitor of the actual host, the anchor, when you should be looking at the monitor.
Michael: That’s right. So getting back to your monitor question, there’s usually a monitor either right below the camera or above it. And I encourage people to tell the person in the studio sometimes, especially if it’s your first time, turn it off. The first thing they’re going to usually show you is an image of yourself. So use it as a mirror, as a vanity shot so you can make sure your tie is straight and that your hair is nice. And then after that, I would ask them to shut it off. Because what happens is, and we see this all the time when we’re faced timing with family members or Skyping with a colleague is, where are we looking? We’re never looking at the camera. We’re always looking just below the camera at the screen, of course. Because you should be looking at the other person but what are we really looking at? Ourselves.
When we’re Skyping or FaceTiming, how’s my hair? This is a weird angle. You’re thinking about the conversation. So when you can look into the camera and the camera only, the camera becomes that safety blanket that it’s always there. And the more, like [Lomas 00:33:28], we focus on this one thing, it should relax us. And I find with those people who are really good at it, they’re used to just as I am just look into the camera and just stay focused on that thing. Because if I look slightly over here, or over there, or I look down at my feet, the viewer takes their cues from me, and they say he’s distracted.
Will: Right. So in working with a client, you do some of this kind of stuff of just saying things, right? Walking walk me through, and we don’t necessarily have to role play, but walk me through some of the other aspects. I imagine some of it is not just your tone of voice and how you sit, but also helping people craft short answers, avoid a lot of ums. What are some of the other things that you work on?
Michael: Big thing is diverting? Is redirecting. If you’re asked a question you’re not comfortable with, if you’re maybe in a debate situation, and you need to get off the subject or move around, especially as we work with political guests on that. The truth is, I really tell people to just be honest and real. You can say, I’m not the expert to talk about that. I’d love to give you an answer, but I’m probably not the best person to tell you that. Or if you’re really somebody who has your talking points, you need to just get those talking points out. Sometimes the reporter or the anchor has their line of questions and then the guest has what they want to say, and they may not be in line. But if the guests can do a good job at steamrolling them, and just getting those talking points across, it does help.
But what I would say in regards to redirecting or being asked a question that you’re not comfortable with or don’t know the answer to, you want to be honest and then you want to give something. And here’s what I mean by that. I have to tell you, I haven’t read that study yet this year. But I will say that our company has worked really hard to become the first and best technology refrigerator provider that exists. Give them something. You want to make sure that you’re fair to your interviewer and to the audience that’s watching. So rather than doing the steamroller and saying like, that’s not for me, next. That’s not doing any anybody any good. You have to stay positive. So that’s one thing that we work on.
Another thing that we work on is as you said, messaging in terms of finding your message. I find that a lot of people cannot describe what they do in 20 or 30 seconds. And that elevator pitch exercise is so important. We think we can do it. But I give the example of people … I’m a talker. So people will say to me, what’s your favorite soda? And I’ll say, “Well, I used to love Dr. Pepper and then I loved Sprite. But then recently I have been really into Coke.” No. The answer is, I really love Dr. Pepper and root beer. Just keep it simple.
Will: So practice short answers to the obvious questions that you’re going to get.
Michael: Yeah. I think a good answer for a live interview is 20 or 30 seconds long. That’s two to three, maybe four sentences. It’s pretty brief. Let the anchor do the work. If you’re being interviewed by a reporter or a correspondent or an anchor, their job is to drive the interview. So you don’t want to give them nothing and say yes or no answers. But you don’t need to elaborate on everything. And this is another key thing that I always remind people, which is, why are we doing this? Why? If you’re a guest promoting your company on an interview as an expert in your field, you’re likely there to promote your company or your work. It doesn’t mean a bad thing.
It could be your nonprofit and trying to promote what you’re doing. In order to do that, you have to let the audience wanting a little bit more. So maybe I can give enough information that those out there watching will say, I’m going to Google this guy. I’m going to find out a little bit more. And I think that less is more when it comes to especially live television.
Will: So keep it short, don’t meander, try to avoid filler words.
Michael: The filler words is a big issue that we have. I see it with so many people and it comes down to pacing, it comes down to nerves and channeling your nerves. I channel my nerves to my gut and I use that. My voice tends to go lower a little bit when I’m in an environment like this. When the camera stops, I’ll probably be A little different in my tone.
Will: Do you have tips for people that are used to using filler words or have that habit? Are there media trainer tips on how to eliminate those from your-
Michael: There’s a lot of individualized tips that you can give somebody. I find that some people just respond well to certain things that others don’t. So that’s one thing. But the other thing is it really comes down to slowing it down. Because the reason we give those filler words is we’re not processing what we’re saying. So if you can just remind yourself to take a break, slow it down. We don’t need to just jam a bunch of information at the person who’s watching.
Will: This probably also comes across if you’re recording yourself and watching yourself and just becoming more mindful. Holy cow, I can’t believe how many filler words I’m using, then that would make you less likely to use them.
Michael: It’s true. I find that just in studying things myself when I need to memorize things, it’s repetition. And it’s just the practice makes perfect. And I always I’m telling people like you can come out of here and maybe feel like you’ve gotten a lot of great tips, but unless you practice them, it’s not going to go anywhere. I was a horrible trumpet player growing up and that’s because I never practiced.
Will: So you work with clients and on the redirect that feels maybe a bit of an advanced area, just answering questions succinctly, eliminating filler words, redirects. What other topics?
Michael: One thing that I find a lot of people are coming to us for is certainly you’ve got the little things like appearance, what should I wear? How should I-
Will: What should you wear? I wore this maroon shirt because I don’t have any white shirts.
Michael: I’m actually glad you wore that. Generally, I tell people not to wear patterns that are too close. And for those that are watching the video, I wonder and hope, of course, I don’t contradict myself, but that when we’re wearing patterns that are very tight, it tends to have what’s called a Murray effect-
Will: Murray thing.
Michael: Yeah, exactly. So it’s moving. So generally, I would say flat colors. I would never, ever tell anybody to wear one solid black or white outfit. It’s just boring, just not visually appealing.
Will: A white shirt is okay?
Michael: Yeah, a white shirt and a black jacket is fine. So black and white is fine, but not all black or all white.
Michael: And as we are in more and more, the technology is allowing green screen to become so popular, I would tell people to find out about the studio. And if you’re going to wear green, bring a backup because I have had people walk into this room with a green dress and I’ve had to say like, I hope you brought something else.
Will: Because your head would be …
Michael: Yeah. Unfortunately, ladies have it a lot harder because their wardrobe choices are much more broad than ours where it’s generally a jacket and a shirt and possibly a tie. And the tie is the way to pop a little color.
Will: So for men’s shirts, solid Color.
Will: So like a solid white or solid blue.
Will: And ties, so the tie also just be a solid color to avoid a-
Michael: You can add a little fun, if you’re comfortable. I also like to tell people, there’s sort of three stages to being a good TV guest. The first is just don’t mess up, don’t drop the F bomb on the air. Get all the basics down. The second is when you can start injecting a little personality, and that’s where maybe the fun tie. Because maybe you’ve got a relationship with the anchor and ultimately the audience, and so people can kind of get you a little bit. The third stage, which is way down the road with anybody, is when you can start trying to be funny. Funny is so subjective.
Will: So don’t try to be funny.
Michael: Don’t try to be funny.
Michael: We do a lot of work with people who are going on shows like Bill Maher, where he’s a comedian, and this person might think they have a great funny one liner. But you’re not the comedian. You’re the expert. You’re there, you’re invited to be the expert, which is the main point that I like to drive home to people. As I mentioned earlier, the core of all this is confidence. Remember, if you’ve been invited to talk about something, you have the credentials. I think a big part of this is this imposter syndrome that we’ve heard so much about. That we all are victim of, myself included. Right now, in the back of my mind, my brain is going, these people are watching and they’re saying, this guy’s an idiot. He doesn’t make any sense.
Of course, that happens with every single human being. You got to just shut it off for the 5 to 20 minutes that you’re being interviewed. And just say like, this is what I’ve studied, and you know what, it works. And the same for your field or whatever it is that you’re being interviewed on. Remember, you’re the expert. You’re the subject matter expert.
Will: Mike, that is a great point and a great place to wrap. Thank you so much for having me in here to your studio. This place is amazing. This was fantastic, so educational for me. It really makes sense if you’re going to be on camera, and so much of the world now is moving to video that it makes sense to get some training so that you do it right. And I clearly have a long way to go. This was a fantastic introduction, though. I’ll mention here as we wrap that if you would like to receive a weekly email from me with a summary of each episode, transcripts of each episode and bonus material, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll make sure you get on that list. If you have any questions you’d like to see me answer on a future show, let me know. Thanks for listening.