Broadcast training during the pandemic
There’s little doubt that appearing on TV is potentially one of those important points in a lawyer’s career. Do it well and you will have come across as knowledgeable, professional and eloquent and receive pats on the back from the managing partner or CEO. Do it badly and you at best you come across as inept. At worst you risk damaging the reputation of the firm you work for and potentially losing your job.
As a result, getting the right broadcast training that teaches you how to handle difficult questions, use the correct body language and generally come across as an expert in your field is fundamental. Before the pandemic, this training traditionally took the form of going into a studio to get the feel of a ‘real life’ broadcast experience. This would allow you to do interviews to camera, on the sofa and down the line. This immersive experience under the studio lights was undoubtedly effective, if expensive way of learning the ropes.
But, like so many things, Covid-19 has changed how TV and radio guests are interviewed, at least for now. Very few guests have been going into the studio, with the vast majority of interviews taking place over Zoom. But what has this meant for those needing broadcast training and is it even possible?
I was asked to train some spokespeople from charity Z2K recently and found lockdown training was simple to carry out and, so I hear, useful for those being trained. Zoom was an easy tool from a trainer’s perspective to conduct a session, but most importantly it was an extremely useful vehicle for those receiving the training. The option of carrying out an audio or visual recording allows the interviewee to carry out mock radio and TV interviews, while the sharing screen function allowed me to go through the interview with the interviewee question-by-question, as I would in a normal studio or office setting.
Ever since I started in legal PR I always find that one of the most valuable things people take away from broadcast training that I give is the realisation of what physical ‘ticks’ they unconsciously do on camera. I remember one lawyer who didn’t blink for three minutes during an interview and another whose mouth fell open every time he wasn’t talking. It is much more common for interviewees to look away from the camera, but people do all sorts of things that they aren’t aware of. All of this is completely visible over Zoom and it is easy to see the tweaks people can make to their body language for a more professional interview.
In addition, Zoom is very similar to one of the forms of broadcast interviews that many people find the hardest – down the line. In this format the interviewee stares at a screen with an earpiece in, unable to see the interviewer. It is commonly used on 24-hour TV news channels such as Sky News. With Zoom broadcast training this is easily replicated as the interviewee is staring at a laptop screen. However, even if the interviewer is on the screen the same discipline of having to constantly look at the camera is used. Moreover, conducting training over Zoom did not lessen the knowledge gained – such as how to treat a broadcast interview, dodging difficult questions, body language and learning what broadcasters want – we just physically weren’t in the same room.
While the face of broadcast interviews has changed this shouldn’t prevent organisations from getting their spokespeople broadcast trained. Whatever your organisation, you should always be prepared and this includes having spokespeople trained should your firm be thrown into the media spotlight. As the pandemic has shown us, you never know what may be around the corner.