Media Training Tips: Eliminate uums and aahhs.

Australians are champions when it comes to peppering their speech with uums and aahhs.   Younger Aussies, particularly girls have replaced uum with “like”. Others have a tendency to overuse a favourite phrase: “‘to be honest”, ‘like I said before’, ”actually” and ”ectetera” just to name a few.

Old habits die hard and a few uums and aahs in my book don’t really matter – but when a presenter or spokesman uses them in every sentence it’s a habit that can really distract from the message.

While I’m yet to find a magic pill to cure this verbal afflication I really encourage my clients to slow down and before answering a question to take a breath.  Rather than uttering an um, try pausing.  Give your brain a chance to catch up and forumulate an answer.  As well as buying some much needed thinking time, a deliberate pause will provide punctuation in your delivery.  A pause can help to emphasise a word or a point, it can also provide some much needed light and shade in your speech pattern.

The second exercise you can try (and I’ve shamlessly stolen this idea from Mr Media Training, Brad Phillips) is to practice delivering a 30 second speel about anything without an uum, aahh or verbal stumble.  Any inanimate item will do as a topic:  your phone, handbag, a landmark – record yourself and listen to it back.  Remember to pause whenver you are tempted to throw in an uum!   With a little practice and some self awareness there is no doubt anyone can reduce what I call verbal garbage.



RIP Chopper Read

Some time ago, when I was working as as a reporter on A Current Affair I was asked to interview Mark Chopper Read at his home in Tasmania.  The interview was to take place on a Sunday morning (Chopper’s choice) and we were given a generic address – from memory I think it was a petrol station in the township of Richmond, east of Hobart.

Chopper arrived on time, about 9.30am and instructed us to follow him in his car, a petrol guzzling holden or valiant, to his home.

I recall sharing a foreboading sense of panic with my crew as Chopper sped along unsealed country roads tossing beer cans out the window one after the other.  My beverage of choice on a Sunday morning is usually English Breakfast tea.  Melbourne Bitter was Choppers.

We made it without incident to the isolated country property he was sharing with his then wife Mary-Anne.  There were some other characters milling around but Chopper took centre stage. I did wonder: was he putting on a performance for our camera or were we seeing the real Chopper Read?  Loud, boisterous and on edge.

Of course I had a list of questions I’d prepared for Chopper, who had just been released from prison, again.

Did he feel he was a changed man?
What had he learned from this latest stint in prison?
Had marriage calmed him down?
Would he lead a quiet life and abide by the law?

But before we sat down to talk Chopper wanted to show me something.  From the front of his jeans he pulled out a hand gun.  Laughing manically we were told to watch as he took aim and hit a line of tin cans.  It struck me that his parole conditions probably didn’t allow him to keep firearms – but I wasn’t brave enough to challenge him.  He was waving a gun around ok?

All up I think we spent about 3 or 4 hours with Chopper.  We got our interview – he played along – he also wrote a couple of twisted poems for the then host of the program Ray Martin.  (At that time Chopper fancied himself as a writer and in fact had published a number of crime stories whilst in prison.)

But perhaps my overwhelming memory of my morning with Chopper Read was the immense relief I felt as we pulled out of the homestead and made a hasty exit.   I’d lost count of exactly how many beers he’d sunk but by the time we were ready to leave he was drunk, erratic and yes a bit scary.

I was glad to have met the man but even gladder to have said my good-byes.

I hope Chopper Read finds some peace on the other side.  I don’t think he got much in this life.

Star media performers

When it comes to media training there are loads of examples of what NOT to do. Politicians usually star in these blooper reels, followed by ill prepared business people and stupid sports stars.
I’m often asked for examples where interviewees have done particularly well … Where they have confidently delivered their key messages and yet remained authentic and believable.

John Borghetti, CEO of Virgin Australia, is one of my favourite media performers. He is calm, compelling and on message. Here is a link to a fairly relaxed interview with The Bottom Line.

I’ve also got to give a gold star to Olivia Wirth from Qantas. Even when under siege by the media she is able to stay calm and focused on her Qantas key messages.″/

And whilst politicians usually get a bad wrap I have to applaud Anna Bligh who went from villain to hero thanks to her media performance throughout the 2011 Queensland floods. It wasn’t enough to win her an election however I think people really respected her honesty and her leadership through what was a catastrophic time for Queensland. title=”Anna Bligh “>

Your first TV Interview: What should you do?

There is no doubt being interviewed on television can be nerve-racking.  Most of us dislike having our photo taken at the best of times!  So I understand why being interviewed on camera can be very uncomfortable.  Even more so when the interview is being recorded live in a studio.

For the uninitiated there are lights, monitors, microphones, sound technicians, floor managers, researchers and makeup people coming at you from all directions.  Often the hosts are so busy they don’t get to say hi until that studio red light has switched on and “you’re on”!

Hopefully by that time you’ve prepared your points.  You know your objective and have planned what you’d like to say.  But where to look?????

Placed directly in front of you is a huge monitor showing yours truly in wide screen.  It’s hard not to stare at it.  The producer directed you NOT to look at any of the studio cameras but when you take a seat next to the host it’s hard not to notice the red lights that go on and off indicating when a camera is being used and when it’s not.

My absolute best piece of advice is (unless directed otherwise) to focus on the person asking you the questions.  Try not to worry about what’s going on around you.  If you can focus on the host you are almost guarnanteed to be looking in the right direction.  And when the interview is over stay seated until you are directed to move.  There’s nothing worse than watching a guest trying to leave the set when he or she is still on air.

Media Training Tips: Do’s and Dont’s

There are a a few golden rules when it comes to speaking to journalists.  I’ve put together a list of simple “do’s” and “don’ts”.  Here goes:

Don’t say “as I said before” or “as I was telling you earlier” or “as I explained to your producer” or make any reference to an earlier conversation.

Don’t overuse the journalist’s name.

Don’t refer to the subject as “it”.  It can mean anything and later be taken out of context.

Don’t tell a lie.

Don’t make up an answer or guess.

Don’t over explain.

Don’t exaggerate.

Don’t fill in the gaps or pauses.  Make your point and the stop talking.

Don’t repeat a negative.

Don’t be frightened to show emotion.

Don’t speak off the record.

Do use language that’s descriptive and colourful.

Do use metaphors and analogies to explain your message.

Do repeat a key word or phrase to emphasise your point.


Media Training tips: Body language tells its own story.

If you’144013-ian-macdonaldve kept up with the media over the past few months, you’ll have seen former Labor Minister, Ian MacDonald’s smiling face as he has made his way to and from ICAC.  Mr MacDonald is under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption for (amongst other things) ‘gifting’ a mining licence to a former union boss.

Every day, Mr MacDonald has been required to navigate his way through a hungry media pack and no matter what the line of questioning from journalists or how damning the evidence, Mr MacDonald steps in and out of court grinning from ear to ear.  Perhaps he thinks a big cheesy smile will help convince the public of his innocence; that he’s unfazed by the investigation.

At best I think he looks ridiculous.  The smile reminds me of Batman’s arch enemy the Joker – there is something sinister and false about the grin.


And while we’re on the subject of whether grinners really are winners, take a look at another seriel smiler!

Tom Waterhouse-tom waterhouse has also made headlines recently, first for his “advertorial” commentary and gambling tips on Channel 9’s NRL coverage and just last week for his role in the “More Joyous” racing scandal.  Taking an ill advised leaf out of Ian MacDonald’s book, Tom hasn’t yet learnt that it’s ok not to smile for the cameras.

Let me know what you think.  Is the smile a tactical error on Mr MacDonald’s part?  Has it rightly or wrongly influenced the way you’ve interpreted the ICAC investigation so far?  And as for Tom …… I realize in gambling circles it pays to have a poker face but seriously!  Body language and facial expressions tell a story of their own.  Make sure your expressions match the words you are saying and the situation you are in.  If they don’t, you run the risk of looking like a fake.


Why the mainstream media can’t or won’t name Australian Entertainer arrested in London.

Late last week rumours were rife that an iconic Australian Entertainer now living in London had been arrested on suspician of sexual offences.  The arrest is apparently not directly related to the Jimmy Savile case but is part of Operation Yewtree which has drawn attention around the world.

While the mainstream media remained conspiciously quiet about the exact identity of the arrested man, twitter outed him as did a number of smaller online media outlets.  The media in Australia said it was unable to identify the man for ‘legal reasons’ however no one could explain exactly what those reasons were or why suddenly this man was afforded anonymity when so many others before him were not.

Claire Harvey from The Sunday Telegraph explained her decision to refrain from naming the man in her column published over the weekend.

“So why do I think it’s not fair to name him?

“Not because I’m scared of any legal penalty for doing so, or because I’m worried about what the print media’s self-regulator, the Australian Press Council, might do to me.

“It’s because I believe we have absolutely no right to jump past the legal process.

“But people are named all the time as being questioned by police, you might argue. Sure – but they’re not hugely famous international celebrities.

“We have no confirmation – beyond gossip – of what this entertainer is supposed to have done.”

It’s a long time since I can recall such restraint and respect from journalists and so while this might explain Claire’s decision, I’m not convinced it speaks for the industry at large.

Then I read Nick Miller’s piece from the Sydney Morning Herald and suddenly the whole story made alot more sense.

Here’s Nick Miller’s explaination for why journalists are being so unusually coy about claiming a scoop …….

Last  Friday journalists in London camped outside the home of an Australian  entertainer in Berkshire. It was a chilly day, but  most complaints weren’t  about the weather. They were about the fact that they would not, unless someone  broke ranks, be able to publish or broadcast  the instantly recognisable name of  the man they were pursuing.

Partly they were being kind. Partly they had legal fears. And partly it was  due to the self-conscious paranoia that has enveloped British media for the past  year.

Last week an 82 year-old man from Berkshire was arrested by British police on  suspicion of sexual offences. He was not charged,  but bailed to a date in May  pending further inquiries. He is being investigated as part of Operation  Yewtree, launched after claims emerged that the 1970s’ TV host Jimmy Savile had  abused teenage girls.

The accusations against this man were not linked to Savile.

And that’s all the news fit to print according to official, on-the-record  sources, and it’s pretty much all you can find in the mainstream, professional  media.

However, those who tweet and blog have published the name of  a high-profile  Australian entertainer. ”What a disgrace mainstream media won’t name [the  man],” one Twitterer tweeted.

”The MSM propaganda machine is working overtime in a bid to sway public  opinion,” another blogged.

Australian PR director Geoffrey Stackhouse chose to name the entertainer and  then use it as a ”teaching moment” to spruik for business on his company  blog.

”Our legal system is based on the presumption of innocence, but sadly the  court of public opinion is not,” he wrote, without apparent irony. It was not  clear what his sources were for naming the entertainer.

Perhaps it was Twitter, which overflowed with the man’s name at the weekend,  some being slightly cautious about it (that is, phrasing it as a question), most  not, and many jumping straight to ”X is a paedo” without any visible pause to  consider its basis in fact, legality or compassion.

Or Mr Stackhouse may have played an easy game of join-the-dots. In the age of  Google, this narrows the field a tad. No wonder reporters at the stakeout  expressed fervent hope the antipodes would be the first to break the naming  taboo.

Fairfax Media has been unable to confirm from official sources the identity  of the arrested man.

Politics and media blogger Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, has jumped the  hurdle that the press did not, naming the suspect on the principle of free  speech. He blogged: ”a secret police is a dangerous thing, reporting the arrest  of suspects is an important safeguard in a free society …  No judge has ordered  reporting restrictions in relation to [the man], no super-injunctions prevent  the reporting of news concerning him.”

Staines told Fairfax  many British media have plenty of evidence to  confidently name the suspect –  including seeing police at his house when it was  raided last year – but arrests following the phone hacking scandal have led to a  ”compliance structure” in the press.

Journalists have been arrested over their ”off-the-record” contact with  police. Last week The Sun’s  deputy editor Geoff Webster was in court,  charged with authorising payments to public officials for information.

On the subject of professionalism required of police officers, the Leveson  inquiry into press regulation said:  ”Leaks about forthcoming arrests or the  involvement of the famous in the criminal justice system are not in the public  interest.”

In this climate, newsrooms are unable to report stories they used to. ”The  Met[ropolitan Police]  just won’t give you any guidance,” one reporter told Press Gazette in December. ”They say there’s no such thing as  off-the-record any more.”

Fairfax understands that many in the British media have established the name  off the record. But they can’t publish on this basis.

”If a newspaper published that it was [the person], they would be asked ‘how  do you know?’,” Staines said. ”You can’t say that you have a contact at the  Met who confirmed it. Well, you can say that to the editor but not the lawyer.”  Staines said this was ”curtailing the freedom of the press through fear”.

Another reason for excessive caution is that media reforms prompted by the  Leveson report are still in the hands of politicians and the public (and actor  Hugh Grant). Offending the public mood could have long-term consequences for  press freedom.

Still another is the recent scandal involving former Tory treasurer Lord  McAlpine, who was wrongly accused of child abuse in a BBC Newsnight  report. If this investigation came to naught after the entertainer’s name was  tarnished, the press could take the blame.

”Heard of McAlpine?” one BBC reporter at the stakeout said. ”We’re never  going to be the first to name anyone ever again.”

The accused man has helped keep things quiet. Others investigated by Yewtree  angrily, publicly, quotably denied their guilt. In this case there has been  silence. His agent does not return calls, emails or texts. The stakeout was  uneventful.

Finally, and most generously, there is the ”being nice” explanation. The  entertainer is much-loved by generations of TV-watchers. Police are taking the  accusation seriously, but they evidently do not now have enough evidence to  press charges. He is old, and reportedly  was so upset by the accusation that he  spent Christmas in hospital being treated for acute stress. His camp is said to  be emphasising his frail health to newspapers.

Is it such a bad idea not to name him just yet? Or is such self-censorship a  slippery slope? So far, the old media have one answer to this question, and  social media another. But, as shown with the photos of naked Prince Harry in  Vegas, there is only so much a tabloid can stand until its instincts take  over.

And if one domino falls, every media outlet is likely to follow.

Nick Miller is Fairfax Media’s Europe correspondent.

Read more:

Julia’s glasses make media headlines.

Game on ... Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced the election.

When Julia Gillard announced the date of the Federal Election (September 14) perhaps she thought her new rose coloured glasses might bring her good luck!  Those same glasses now have their very own Twitter Account @JulesGlasses and social media has been buzzing with commentary about her new look and sharp new wardrobe.

But of course it’s not all applause and fashionista excitement.  Most seem very cynical about this image “renovation”.

During the course of the last election, Julia Gillard famously promised to be “real” and “authentic”.  She told us there would be no more scripted lines and labor party messaging.

This very deliberate attempt to look sophisticated, chic and dare I say it smarter was a dumb move.  Instead of enhancing our opinion of our PM it’s provided yet another distraction and fodder for jokes and one liners.

In 2013 we’re a media savvy bunch.  Cynical, critical and quick to spot a fake.  I wonder how many more incarnations of Julia Gillard we might see before September 14?

How to deliver a simple key message!

This little story from the Daily Telegraph recently caught my attention. Note how the Police Inspector sticks to his key message about new mobile phone laws.  He gets final say – and I’d suggest police media will be very pleased!


Look officer, it’s a Tic Tac box not a phone, says fined teacher Marina Alexiou

A fine mess … Marina Alexiou, from Bondi / Pic: Justin Lloyd Source: The Daily Telegraph

IT was the packet of Tic Tacs that left a bad taste in this Sydney mum’s mouth.

Marina Alexiou claims she was pulled over and issued a $298 fine for handing the lollies to her two children in the backseat – after a police officer mistook the mints for a mobile phone.

The Bondi resident was driving her children to school along Old South Head Rd when she was pulled over at 8.20am. She claims her phone was in her handbag, on the passenger seat, the entire time.

“He pulled me over and said ‘Where’s your phone?’,” said an infuriated Ms Alexiou yesterday. “And I said ‘It’s in my bag’. So I searched in my bag and it was there.

“I just feel gutted.”

Ms Alexiou said even her children told the officer she had been passing them Tic Tacs when she was stopped on December 5. She plans to contest the matter in court.

“What infuriates me the most is that I am a primary school teacher who often calls on police officers to come speak to children at school to help build good relations and diminish the idea that police officers are (just) the people that put baddies to jail but rather that they are people of integrity and people whom you could trust.

“My own children went to school understanding that police officers lie, they intimidate and you can’t trust them.”

A police spokesman said the infringement was issued and said Ms Alexiou could challenge it.

“New mobile phone laws make it quite clear, if you are using a phone without a cradle you will be fined,” said Inspector Phil Brooks.
#keymessage #mediatraining #interviewskills

Common Communication Mistakes

Good communication skills are great life skills.   Invaluable in the board room and perhaps even more important when it comes to managing our personal relationships.

Here are some common mistakes that can really hinder the communication process:

1. Ambiguous body language:  We are visual beings and so words never override body language.   When expressing excitement you want to look and sound excited.  If you’re sorry you need to express that in your tone and demeanor.  In conversation, if you stand with your back half turned to someone then it’s likely your body language will send a signal that you’re not interested in talking.

2. Silence is golden:  The next time you speak to a colleague, think about how often you remain quiet.  When you do this you allow for feedback.  Periodice silence gives people a chance to ask questions and offer ideas, thoughts and observations.

3. Fidgeting:  Do you scratch, strum your fingers, adjust your clothes or fidget with a pen?  These mannerisms are often unconscious but they can be very distracting and diminish what you are saying.

4. Eye contact: When you make eye contact, you are giving the other person your attention.  You are telling them they are important and that you want to hear what they have to say.  Poor eye contact can make you seem unapproachable and/or disinterested.

5.  Overspeaking:  Think about the point you’d like to make and then go ahead and make it!  Being verbose and long winded is often a symptom of speaking before you think.  Plan what you want to say and then get to the point!

6.  Interrupting:  It can be difficult sometimes to wait for someone to make their point (especially if they are guilty of overspeaking) however by cutting others off, you not only send a message that you don’t care about what they’re saying, you also cut yourself out of the conversation.  Remember that we learn more from listening than from speaking.

#publicspeaking #communicationskills #presentationskills #presenting
#bodylanguage #confidence+publicspeaking