Preparing for a television interview can prove painful. Proper rehearsal involves videotaping yourself as a “host” peppers you with tough questions.
Chris Komisarjevsky, former chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, coached many clients to perform well on TV. He recalls working with a physician who championed a prescription drug that wound up producing adverse side effects in some patients.
The physician, who was scheduled to appear for a grilling on “60 Minutes,” hired Komisarjevsky to improve his performance under fire. Komisarjevsky and his staff recreated the “60 Minutes” set and posed a series of brutal, accusatory questions to the physician, who received blunt advice to stop squirming and covering his mouth while he spoke.
After three hours of rehearsal under hot lights on a crowded stage, the physician viewed his practice round on video. Like most clients, he cringed while watching himself.
Before leaving, the physician told Komisarjevsky, “This was disrespectful to me. It was a waste of time. And I will never speak to you again. You’re fired.”
Nevertheless, the physician appeared the next day at the “60 Minutes” taping. He withstood an hour of harsh questioning from the real host, which was cut to about 10 minutes on air.
After leaving the “60 Minutes” studio, the physician called to thank Komisarjevsky. He explained that as much as he hated the preparation, it helped him remain poised when it counted.
He also told Komisarjevsky that seeing himself on video was eye-opening. The physician decided to change his body language so that he could align his words and nonverbal behavior to come across more persuasively.
The experience reinforced a lesson for Komisarjevsky: The best way to brace for a media interview is to simulate the real thing. It’s often agonizing, but it’s worth it.
— Adapted from The Power of Reputation, Chris Komisarjevsky, AMACOM.
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