Talking Points 101:
A Guide to Making Your Interview Cheat Sheet
Talking points can serve as a great resource as you prepare for a media interview. Most often used for TV or radio interviews, talking points can be developed in advance so that both you and the interviewer understand the general direction of the interview. By proactively creating talking points, you can help ensure that the interview goes smoothly and that you’re able to share the advice and insight that you want.
What’s the best way to go about creating talking points? Once you and the media outlet have determined a topic, follow this brief how-to guide to help you as you draft your talking points:
- Determine how many points you want to make: Before you start drafting your talking points, you’ll first want to determine how many points you want to present. Typically, this can be dictated by the length of the interview. Often times, live TV appearances are quick 3-5 minute segments, which typically only leave room for 3-5 points. Radio interviews can often times run anywhere from 5-15 minutes, allowing you to share a greater amount of content. While over-preparing may seem like a smart move, keep in mind that cramming too much content into a short amount of time can leave you feeling rushed and anxious.
- Brainstorm ideas and pick your favorites: Once you have a set number of points you want present, start brainstorming the different tips you can provide. Don’t settle for the first few that you come up with. If you’re aiming to create 5 talking points, try brainstorming at least 10 different ideas that you could present. While the first few may come to mind right away, you may find that you come up with more unique and interesting points as you continue to brainstorm. If you’re talking points are engaging and unique, not only will you better capture the viewer/listener’s attention, but you’ll also increase the likelihood of being invited back by the media outlet for another interview.
- Order your talking points strategically: Once you’ve created your talking points and content, start considering the order you want to present. This may seem unnecessary, but taking the time to think this through can have a significant impact on your overall interview success. Start by ordering your talking points by importance. Next, consider if any of your points should go in consecutive order, and try to stack them in such a way that takes into account the order of importance as well as flow. Often you’ll find that some talking points actually lead you into the next topic, making it easier to transition between each one. For example, if two if your talking points are about estate planning – let’s say one discusses beneficiary forms and the other is on life insurance – it will likely make sense that these talking points are stacked together since you can easily transition between them. Another good rule of thumb – start with a short, easy-to-deliver talking point. This will not only help get some nerves out of the way, but it also guarantees you won’t make the rookie mistake of spending too much time on your first talking point. You also want to make sure that you don’t save your longer, more important talking points for last. Interview time can go by quicker than you might expect, and, should the interview be wrapped early, you don’t want to be stuck rushing through your most important insight. Here’s a good reference to give you an idea on how to strategically stack your talking points:
Short – straightforward advice/tip
Long – Most important point
Long – Could be summarized with previous point, if necessary
Short – straightforward advice/tip
Long – most important point
Long – second most important
Short – could easily be summarized
Short – could be summarized with previous point, if necessary
- Keep them brief: If you’ve finished drafting your talking points and they are longer than one page, then there’s a good chance you’ve written too much. Getting all of that content onto paper may have been a good idea during the development stage, but as you finalize your talking points, you’ll want to make sure they are as concise as possible. Drafting out a word-by-word script of exactly what you want to say is NOT a good strategy with talking points. At the same rate, bulleting out one word reminders that only make sense to yourself won’t help the anchor as they draft their interview questions. I typically recommend including 2-3 sentences for each talking points – enough to remind you of what you want to say but concise enough that you don’t get caught up in memorizing a rehearsed response.
- Share with the media contact in advanced: When you were booking the interview with the media outlet, there’s a chance they may have asked you for talking points. Often this is the case, but even if they don’t specifically request them, it’s still a good idea to offer your talking points one day before the interview. Sharing your talking points with the interviewer not only shows that you’re prepared for the opportunity, but it also provides them with background on the topic. Remember: you’re the expert on the topic, not them – so having your talking points on hand can be an extremely useful resource as they draft their interview questions. However, it’s important to note that even if you share your talking points in advance, this doesn’t guarantee that the interviewer will follow your talking points exactly. This is why you want to avoid memorization, remain flexible and be prepared to go out of order.
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