Marketing Mondays: More on Media

In a recent MM post, Meet the Press, I talked about getting interviewed. This week, I’m going to reprise the information I learned in “TV school”—a media training course I was sent to when I had a day job as an editor for a high-profile women’s magazine. The training helped me when I had to speak on behalf of the magazine. More important, it has served me well since, whenever I’ve had the opportunity to speak about myself and my art.

Some of the info here was originally part of
The Artist’s Talk, which I posted about a year ago, but I’m expanding it for this post. If you’re going to be interviewed on videotape for local, regional or national TV, or as part of an archive about your own work, why not present yourself in the best possible way? .

Speaking on camera? Somewhere between the grand gesture and no gesture at all lie a range of viable expressions
A Lineup of Clichés
As part of my training I was sent to a three-day course to prepare me for speaking on TV and to large groups. There were six of us in the class. Our first assignment, right then and there, was to stand in front of the group and talk about ourselves. We were videotaped. We hit all the clichés.
. The Jingler: First came the outgoing fellow who kept his hands in his pockets and jingled his coins and keys the entire time. Annoying? I found myself focusing on what he was jingling, trying to discern the various metallic sounds--the dimes from the quarters, the quarters from the keys. I didn’t catch a word he said.
. The Preacher: Then a plain-dressed woman stood up and told us about herself. The entire time she held her hands clasped together in front of her chest in a gesture of supplication. “Let us pray,” she might have been saying to her congregation.
. The Fig Leaf: Then came the demure young woman who kept her hands locked together over her pubis, as if she were as naked as she seemed to feel.
. The Ummer: Ah, um, ah, um, er, uh, ahh. It was excruciating to sit through.
. The Eye Roller: Every time this guy struggled for a word or phrase he rolled his eyes back and looked up. Yes, the information was in his head, but he looked as if he was trying to read it, as if off a TelePrompter.
. The Gesticulator: Finally, I’m embarrassed to say, it was my turn. If you’d seen my video without the sound, you’d think I was performing Evita.
You learn a lot from watching yourself on tape. You don’t need TV school, just use the movie feature on your digital camera and talk about your work. Read the tips below before you begin shooting. Then tape, review, refine.
Some TV Tips from TV School
Watch a panel of speakers on CNN, or a pundit being interviewed one on one. They’re more media savvy than the average artists—indeed, they’ve probably gone to TV School—but make note of the ones who stand out for not standing out, the ones who seem perfectly comfortable, neither orators nor ill-at-ease mumblers.
. Stand up (or sit up) straight. Sounds elementary, but it makes a difference. When your spine is straight and your shoulders are back, your lungs can take in more air. That makes you more alert and gives your voice the air it needs to sound like you. Visually you have more authority. Plus you won’t look like … a Turtle (another stereotype whose presence is marked by slouching or shrinking, seemingly in effort to hide). Relatedly . . .
. Know where your head is. That expression “can’t keep his head on straight” has relevance if you’ve ever seen a speaker, head cocked to one side, addressing an audience or talking to an interviewer. You find yourself cocking your own head to compensate for the lack of perpendicular. (Remember the team of disco barhoppers from Saturday Night Live?)
. If you’re using a mic, adjust it before you begin so you don’t fumble. And, this sounds ridiculously elementary but it’s not, know how to speak into it. There’s a sweet spot where your normal speaking voice will be amplified without your having to strain. If you’re on a panel, there’s nothing more annoying for an audience member than being unable to hear you because you’re not making adequate contact with the mic (or vice versa, when you lean over and shout into it)
. Make eye contact. If you’re speaking one on one to an interviewer, look at the interviewer—not on the floor, on the ceiling, or darting about. Darting your eyes makes you look as if you’re up to something. If you’re speaking to a group, make eye contact around the room
. Too many, um, vocal pauses is, ah, annoying to the listener—and, uh, it takes you twice as long to, er, get your point across.
. The answer is in your brain, but rolling your eyes back to find it will not retrieve the information. That looking-up-to-heaven eye roll is endearing in little kids, but in adults, not so much. Once you’re aware of it, it’s pretty easy to avoid.
. So, what do you do with your hands? Just let your arms hang by your side if you’re standing, or rest in your lap or on your thighs if you’re sitting. It may feel unnatural at first, but it allows a viewer to focus on your face and on what you’re saying. TV school tells you that the occasional “small gesture” for emphasis is OK. That goes for facial expressions, too. I’m Italian, so “small gesture” is relative. If your conversational style is physically expressive, you don’t have to straightjacket yourself—you’re not the Queen—but save the conducting for Sunday Dinner. (You bluebloods don’t have a clue to what I’m talking about, but the rest of you know what I mean.)
. Can you relax enough to let your body express itself? Normal facial expressons go along with our spoken language. Smiling, especially--not the "cheese" smile, but the relaxed, lips-apart expression that's part of conversation--puts your audience at ease and conveys your message with sincerity.
Over to you
How have you prepared for public speaking? For a taped lecture interview? Tips, comments, and of course your personal stories are welcome.


Anonymous said...

Back when I was the Creative Group Director at a national magazine, I decided I needed to improve my confidence and presentation skills. Being pretty much terrified of public speaking, I joined a Toastmasters group in Boston. We met at lunchtime. I went for about 2 months, once a week. It was torture. I spent every Tuesday morning in acute digestive distress and dreaded the thought of going to the meeting. I finally quit.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I was invited to teach an 8 week class in drawing. I was nervous but also excited. I did research, planned the lessons, and practiced. I envisioned worst case scenarios (mostly). But by the time I got to teaching I was nervous for about 10 minutes. The students helped it all take off and I had a lot of fun. Not so nervous! Of course, it's not quite the same as public speaking but a good jumping point.


I recently entered a juried show, and was quite surprised when I received a phone call telling me I had won first place. I was even more surprised when soon after I got another call asking if I'd be willing to be interviewed on TV. A humida, humida, humida, O.K.
I did fine considering how unprepared I was, with one exception. My voice. Something like De Niro's Frankenstein.
Be prepared. You never know.

annell4 said...

So many good ideas! Thank you.

lisa said...

Thanks for this one Joanne.

I have used a tape player for the few public speaking stints I have done.It definitely helped to identify the ums
ahs er and uhs but not the eye rolling which I would guess would be my cliche.
Next time the digital camera!

KRCampbellArt said...

I was interviewed last fall by a local TV station about an exhibition of my work. I was a little nervous but thought it went well and was looking forward to seeing the result. It was then the interviewer after speaking to the camera person told me the camera person had forgotten to put a tape in and we would have to do it over! Because the interviewer was not happy and because I had already answered his questions and explained my work to a new person it wasn't nearly as good the second time. It felt forced and abbreviated. I guess the lesson is to ask if the camera is working and has a fresh tape or card before the initial interview begins. HA!

Sarah said...

Excellent post, Joanne, and thanks. I'm sure this is commonplace now, but recently I've been interviewed via email, which is a pleasure. I can actually think about my answers and express them properly. I wish all publicity was that easy. The only trick is to write in a fairly natural, unforced way so I don't seem pretentious or over-prepared.

Years ago I was interviewed by a local TV station for a show of mine featuring a lot of knot and rope imagery. I was very nervous. Then the interviewer produced a giant rope and asked - on camera - if I would mind tying him up while we talked! So I did the interview while tying him up. It took my mind off my nervousness, that's for sure. But I think he enjoyed the process more than I did.

Jaime Lyerly said...

Great post. I am The Gesticulator, but I am working on it. I was interviewed on a public access show called Artist Connection recently, so I have been taped. But I have been so nervous about actually watching the show, that I have avoided it. This post reminds me that I am missing out on a great learning tool. Thanks,
Jaime Lyerly

Mink said...

I don't know what will happen to me if I am in this situation but luckily the gods are on my side, I married a video editor who has done tons of TV commercials and has no problem with this stuff he has gotten up and done many presentations and a few lectures. etc. and I'm sure will be ready with the video camera for practice sessions, he has all that gung ho ness to make sure I do all right, theirs just one problem that I can't seem to fix, i have a twitch, this dimple in my cheek, under my eye seems to go like crazy when I least expect it.

Mink said...

I don't know what will happen to me if I am in this situation but luckily the gods are on my side, I married a video editor who has done tons of TV commercials and has no problem with this stuff he has gotten up and done many presentations and a few lectures. etc. and I'm sure will be ready with the video camera for practice sessions, he has all that gung ho ness to make sure I do all right, theirs just one problem that I can't seem to fix, i have a twitch, this dimple in my cheek, under my eye seems to go like crazy when I least expect it.

Hylla Evans said...

First, there was horrible panic and aversion. Teenager: cramps were a viable excuse to avoid a dance performance onstage.
College: avoid all classes that call for public speaking.
Early career: as the only female in the recording studio, and in a position of directing musicians, I was quiet but firm. Dottie West told me to "kill 'em with kindness."
Mid-career: highest tv network exec asked my opinion and I was kind (it didn't kill him). He said, "We didn't hire you for your arms and your legs. When I ask your opinion, I want to hear it."
So now I speak my mind. My kind apologies to those of you I offended by being too direct.
Can we ever win?
Joanne, this was such a funny post because I've been in that situation of prepping someone to go on camera. You're so right about all the cliches.
Ha, my word verification to type into the box below is 'brave.'

Unknown said...

Joanne, I always look forward to your Marketing Mondays. I wonder how you keep coming up with ideas for it! This one made me laugh- it's so hard to remember all the things NOT to do when you speak in front of a group. I've never seen myself on tape so I don't know if I'm doing the head thing or the looking to heaven thing...I hope not! Teaching has definitely helped- you need to think on your feet and engage the group. The one problem I have is when I can't think of a word and have to substitute another word, not quite right, but close enough to keep going.

Karen Jacobs said...

My question is: how to steer the interview when presented with dumb questions like 'how long have you been painting' and 'how long did it take to paint that?'

I found myself in front of a camera from a local station last week (gallery didn't say why I was supposed to show up...) so didn't really know what to expect but wish I'd thought about points I would want to make and packed them in whether asked or not. Short interview which meant little chance to control.

I suppose one should have a prepared song and dance for those times the above questions turn up... as they seem never to go away.

Anonymous said...

Very timely, Joanne! In about an hour I will be interviewed by our local television station and next month I have to give a presentation at the IEA event...
Last June our RipOff project got a lot of attention and I was interviewed by a real nice guy, who made me feel totally at ease. Managed to get my words out without too much ehs and ahs. Not easy for an ESL girl.
Hopefully the same will be true this afternoon.
Keep fingers crossed (behind back...)

Anonymous said...

I recognized myself in a couple of these....I have lots of hummms and I slouch too. I also can sound like Frankenstein (see William Chesapeakes comment). Thank god I can laugh at myself now and understand it is all just practice! Thanks for the info. I'll remember to sit up straight!

Mead McLean said...

I think the trick to correcting all these things is not just to identify and "work on them". When you have an unconscious habit, you have to consciously train yourself to make a new habit to replace the old one.

I've worked through a mixture of those problems. For nerves, I prepare myself and make sure that I'm well fed and biologically comfortable (warm, cool, whatever).

For the uhm/ah, I try to speak slowly and pause silently to think. This helps interviewers lead you where they want to go without you sounding un-confident.

For gestures, I try to use them at the end of paragraphs or long statements.

I think the big thing is just taking control of as many things as possible and having a good elevator pitch.

Bernard Klevickas said...

Thank you Joanne,
In late September I will be participating in Artprize. During the event I will be doing an artist talk about my work and this gets me to start thinking and preparing about how to present myself.

Marie Kazalia said...

I used to do readings of my writing in San Francisco at various venues, and then I did a series of stage performances at a small performing arts center there too.

To warm up, and test my material, I'd read at open mics. Open mics are a great place to "practice" and get used to being up in front of an audience speaking into a microphone.

Most large cities have several open mic venues active every night of the week. You can probably find a list of locations online for your city. It's also instructive to try the same material at different venues. No two nights are alike at the same venue either.

Also I did complete a course at the public access cable TV station. That was a great way to learn about TV production, and remove tension about being on camera. I also learn how to do film editing which has proved useful many times. If you are accustomed to some aspects of film making or video recording that helps, IMO.

Meltemi said...

Just pretend that you are speaking directly to a loved one who is somewhere in the audience...look each person in the eye and say a few words to that person...remember the gathering has a left, a middle and a right. You need to talk to them all.

Angeline said...

Joanne, please recommend Toastmasters as a resource for learning how to speak in public. I am finding their program invaluable to me as an artist. Being in Toastmasters is improving my speaking and writing skills as a visual artist. I believe my silly videos are improving as well! More information can be found about Toastmasters when Googled.