Monday, 1 April 2013 Paxman

Jeremy Paxman's dismantling of Junior Minister Chloe Smith (see below) will put a lot of people off the idea of engaging with the media, especially the broadcast media. This is a shame because this type of interview is at the far end of the spectrum from the vast majority of interviews undertaken every day by the media. 

Here was a Junior Minister trying to defend a Government U-turn and Paxman had every right to go for the jugular.

Of course, a seasoned interviewee like Ken Clarke would have handled Paxman far better. Smith did not help herself by mishandling the first question and when you get off to a bad start it usually gets worse, as it did here.

Was she prepared? Who knows?

Here are my top 10 tips on preparing for an interview.


1. Sit down in a quiet room and decide on your objective. What do you want to achieve from the interview?

2. Organise your story. Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. What is the main point you want to make? You'll start your story here.

3. Do you have a couple of statistics to back up your argument (not a blizzard of figures)?

4. Do you have a human anecdote to support your position?

5. How are you going to end the interview? You usually get notice that it's the final question. Ensure you end on a positive.

6. Learn how to rebut questions. The interviewer, even Paxman, is not the police. You don't have to answer the questions in the way he or she wants. It's your interview, be proactive not reactive.

7. Rehearse. Having formulated your story get a colleague to play Paxman and see how you perform, preferably using a camcorder. Looking uncomfortable on camera can undermine you even if the words are persuasive.

8. Review your work. Bounce your interview off a colleague, preferably someone with a PR or communications background.

9. In the interview itself (unless it is about a tragedy) remember to look positive, smile sometimes, and above all stay calm.

10. Keep your responses short and simple. Don't use jargon. Under pressure Chloe Smith used the acronym "OBR". Do you know what that is? No, neither did I. I had to look it up.

This is the theory....but these tips won’t replace proper professional media training.

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