The Single Most Overlooked Essential In Media Training

This blog was originally published on Forbes as The Single Most Overlooked Essential In Media Training on Tuesday, August 22, 2017.

The hot new buzzword for Wall Street traders is FANG, an acronym for Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google, the high-flying technology stocks. What all of those companies also have in common is an intense focus on video. Amazon and Netflix have become movie studios as prolific as any in Hollywood. Apple, a high-flier on its own, only last week announced that it intends to join the production fray with a billion dollar war chest. Facebook and Google have implemented video in their social media apps so aggressively, they’re having a devastating effect on Snap, the pure play video app. Add to that the profusion of video conferencing platforms, among them RingCentral Office, Microsoft Skype, Cisco WebEx, Adobe Connect, Zoom, and BlueJeans Network, and it’s clear that the medium has become an essential part of our personal and professional lives.

As a result, one of the most frequently sought after business skills is “media training”—a term that spans a grab bag of factors including what to wear, what to do with one’s hands, how to be succinct, control nerves, eliminate “Ums,” slow down, spin, and, of course, provide an answer.

Because the last critical skill is the most challenging, most media training is focused on generating a long list of prepared answers, but that overlooks the most important skill: listening.

Humorist Fran Lebowitz once famously quipped“The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.” She speaks the truth. Is there a man or woman alive who either hasn’t accused or been accused by their significant other of not listening?

In interpersonal relationships, the result of omitting that simple act of courtesy usually results in a spat; in business—including media—the result can be the failure of a deal.

In presentation settings, the criticality of listening is compounded because people in audiences tend to ask long, convoluted questions—for several reasons:

• they have just taken in a lot of new information and are still processing it all

• they don’t fully understand the new information or they may have misconstrued it (that’s why they’re asking the question in the first place)

• they don’t want to ask a foolish question in the company of their peers/in public and so they become nervous

All of which results in rambling questions.

If you, as the presenter, think of your list of prepared answers while the question is being asked, you might as well put plugs in your ears, because you will have missed the essence of the question.

Listen to the question. Listen for the key issue in the ramble. Extract the one or two key words at the center of the ramble.

As you do, subvocalize. Without using your voice or moving your lips, say those key words to yourself. This simple technique will not only keep you from thinking of the answer, once you’ve clarified the key issue, it will tee up your answer.

Your audience will be grateful—and so will your significant other.

This blog was originally published on Forbes as The Single Most Overlooked Essential In Media Training on Tuesday, August 22, 2017.