Talking Points: A fine line between resourceful and restricting
Talking points can be a great tool that captures and organizes yours thoughts for a media interview. They prove to be a valuable resource dealing with the media, as talking points can help you maintain your composure and deliver the right message. Many members of the media see the value in talking points and welcome them, especially when they are coordinating a live segment and would like to know the direction of the interview.
But as the old adage goes, investing too much in your talking points can prove to be “too much of a good thing”, making them more counterproductive than they are useful.
During my time as a reporter, one of the most common questions I would get from my resources prior to an interview was “what kind of questions will you be asking me?” While I understood the desire to be well prepared for the opportunity, I often times wouldn’t share the exact questions I planned on asking. This wasn’t because I was looking for a “gotcha!” moment; I was merely in search of authentic, unscripted answers. Instead of sharing my interview questions, I would provide a high level overview of the direction of the interview. This allowed the interview subject to still prepare for the appropriate topics, while still providing me with genuine answers.
So how can you find the delicate balance between proper preparation and memorization? The following are some tips to help you master your topic, while avoiding sounding like a robot.
- Create bulleted talking points – Especially for those who are visual learners, bulleted talking points can help keep your thoughts organized, concise and easy to remember. The length of your interview should determine how many points to develop. For a 3-5 minute interview, I typically recommend 4-5 points.
- Avoid memorizing – This is where many of us can go wrong. Memorizing talking points word-for-word will not only make you seem rehearsed, but it can actually increase your chances of freezing up during the interview. Avoid using too many numbers or statistics unless they truly support your point. Remember: you’re the expert on this topic!
- Play to your strengths – Any experienced on-camera pro has this tip mastered. Regardless of the topic or question, make sure your talking points play to your strengths and avoid advice on topics that you’re less confident about. Know what you’re good at and stick to it. If you need to conduct extensive research on a topic in order to do the interview, you might want to reconsider. Speaking to topics that you are well versed on will leave you feeling confident and self-assured.
- Practice – This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s more a matter of practicing correctly rather than consistently. Running through your talking points time and time again while your notecards sit in view on the table in front of you won’t be much help. It’s important to do multiple run-throughs without your notecards as well. You may find that some of your content is simply too difficult to remember, or that you could possibly add in a bit more information if you feel you’re running short on time. Either way, at some point the cheat sheet has to go and preferably the first time it’s gone isn’t when you’re live on TV.
- Remain confident– Taking the time to prepare properly should help ease your mind heading into your interview. If you find yourself reaching for your talking points for reassurance, remind yourself, again, that you are the expert and you know this topic. Think of it this way: if you were meeting with a client for the first time, you likely wouldn’t need a page of notes to explain your investment philosophy. Same goes for a media interview; they asked you to be an expert resource for a reason, so remember to play the part and do it with confidence.