Tips for talking to journalists

Everyone remembers how you made them feel, but not what you said!  In percentage terms, remember the old communication myth that:

  1. 55% is body language, environment, and clothes (in the public’s eyes, doctors always wear ties!)
  2. 38% is attitude/tone of voice: project warmth, friendliness and enthusiasm.  But, if talking about a tragedy, don’t smile or laugh (like the doctor in the Simpsons!), but be serious, strong and determined
  3. 7% is the actual words you say 

Helpful phrases with difficult questions: 

  • “I’m really sorry to hear you say that because…”
  • “Maybe some people would say that, but…”
  • “I can understand how some people would think like that, but, in fact…”
  • “Well, I’m not sure about that, but I do find that…. (what’s important is)…”

Tips for confronting unknown jargon

Beware when using jargon; look out for quizzical facial expressions or surprised gestures in your audience.  Invite queries; say something like, “Does that make sense?”, or “You look like I’ve said something you don’t understand?”

If you hear unknown jargon, you can wear a surprised expression, or try:
“I’m not being funny, but what does …. mean?”
“At the risk of seeming ignorant, can you explain what you mean by… please?” 

Try and say these questions in a light-hearted tone of voice.

Tips for chairmen

Useful phrases to use during a meeting, (especially when dealing with people who love to hear the sound of their own voices!)

• “This meeting is about…… and by the end we should have clear actions for ….”
• “Let’s remind ourselves of the ‘ground rules’” (i.e. show mutual respect, one person talking at once, avoid shouting, let everyone contribute, be open and honest, etc)
• “I think we should hear from ……. on this”
• “Can we have some comments from …..on this, please?”
• “You’ve expressed your point very clearly, and I think everyone has understood. Is that right? Good, so let’s move on to….”
• “You obviously feel strongly about this. Can we talk more about it after this meeting?”
• “It’s difficult to concentrate when more than one person is talking at the same time”
• “So, to sum up that point…..”
• “Let’s take 5 minutes to freshen up”

Pause techniques

It can be very helpful to have a trick or two up ones sleeve to do whilst in pause mode.  Taking a deep breath in, holding for a second or two, and slowly exhaling, helps to control the tendency to hyperventilate when angry/upset, and also appears to others that you are ‘in control’ and being thoughtful.  Personally, I also like to put a hand over my mouth (fingertips on lips pointing up).  This gives a clear, non-verbal indication of “I’m listening and thinking carefully about this”. Using a pause, is the first lesson in gaining control.