No good media trainer is going to help you to lie which is odd because that’s what so many people think it’s about. But we won’t. It will catch you out eventually because you’ll forget who you told what and establish yourself as unreliable.

Here’s a short video on the subject.

It’s always important to know who you’re talking to when it comes to the media. One outlet’s audience will be different from others, they’ll respond differently to the same stories or will need a different angle and they’ll take different actions afterwards. Appear in a consumer publication talking about a money-saving gadget and you’ll hopefully appeal to those consumers; appear in a trade publication about the same thing and you might appeal to dealers, who will want to know more about the numbers.

That’s what this latest video tip is about – doing the basic research and not going in unarmed!

Guy Writes: I’ve been editing the next edition of my podcast, the Near Futurist, and if I say so myself it’s a good one. I take little credit, the interviewee was engaging and really knew his stuff – but I have had to eliminate fillers to make him sound better.

Let’s put it another way: he was one of those people, who, typically of speakers for the last ten years or so, started almost every response with “so”. It’s a good filler to eliminate and it’s worth explaining why.

Eliminate some fillers

First I should make my view clear. “Eliminate fillers” isn’t an absolute command. You can’t take out every “umm” and “aah” and nor should you; if you answered a journalist or podcaster in an interview and got rid of all of them you’d sound unnatural. Most listeners would assume you were reading from a script and that’s never good.

Unless they’re excessive, then. most fillers can stay. There’s an exception though, and that’s “so”. The reason is straightforward: it can actually end up damaging your answer.

I should explain.

Picture of a microphone

Eliminate fillers at the beginning of an answer

Most people who use “so” other than as a conjunction to link two clauses (“I did a big workout so I am tired” is fine) will use it to start an answer to a question. As a journalist I might ask how a company takes its products to the market and the answer might be “So we find the indirect channel works best for us”.

Now ask yourself: would that be stronger or weaker without “So”, as a standalone answer? To me the answer is simple – “so” takes the edge off. In my podcast I’ll try to get rid of it as often as possible and we’ll come to the practicalities in a second. First it’s worth looking at why people use it.

It’s better than “Umm…”

The subhead gives you my best answer. People start with “so” because they feel they have to start speaking immediately and they don’t want to begin “umm…”. In either case it wouldn’t be a comment on their subject knowledge. They just want a second to think and are terrified of silence.

Here’s the big secret: I can cut silence whilst editing my podcast. Radio and TV interviewers can do the same and there’s never any need to worry in a written interview.

But if I’m going to cut it out anyway, where’s the harm? Here’s when it becomes difficult.

An inconvenient stop

“So” tends to flow into the next word. If you start your interview “So I did such and such” and I try to cut “So” out, it can end up sounding like “why did such and such”.

It makes no sense and the listener will soon sort it out in their head but consciously or otherwise they will be distracted. This is why you don’t want “so” at the beginning of an answer – it can make the next word, once “so” is cut off, sound as if it’s starting abruptly. This is why starting with “so” can actually damage your quote; it will sound less natural when it’s removed.

The alternative is better.

I don’t mind listening to you thinking

Your instinct is to start speaking immediately so nobody ends up with silence on their broadcast or podcast. That’s considerate but as we’ve established, we can deal with that. Anyway you don’t work for us, you want to ensure your point is clear and well-made. So here’s what you do.

You take a second. You gather yourself and you think “I’m going to start here and finish there” and then you answer. The result will be the same answer you were going to give – media training is not about lying or removing an honest view from a quote – but better. You’ll have a strong start and a strong finish because you’ve taken a second to plan it.

It’s not a natural technique. We tend to launch into answers immediately, talk over each other a little, stop and start again. It takes getting used to.

It’s more useful to you, though, than starting everything with “so”. If you can get rid of that habit it will pay you handsomely.

Need a hand with your presentation or media interview skills? We can help – email Lindsay and she’ll set us a time for an initial chat.


On-camera confidence can be difficult to acquire. This isn’t because the camera or the TV journalist is out to get you; this is often far from the case. The camera professional will want to make their work look excellent and they’re not going to do that by making you look foolish.

Indeed, part of the trick is to make you look even better than you are. Some people still find it intimidating, though and this is a pity. So many media outlets now incorporate video into their offerings that if you’re a spokesperson, whether a chief executive or a manager, someone is going to ask you to go on screen very soon.

Here are some ideas to help you overcome your fears.

On-camera confidence on Zoom

If you’re hosting a video conference you need to look attentive. This can mean doing the counter-intuitive thing of not looking at the faces of the people on the screen but at the camera. It will then look to the listeners as if you’re looking them in the eye. You can buy a camera that sticks to the screen so the eye line is right – our lead trainer Guy has one – but make sure it’s stuck on properly before you start. If it falls off half way through then you will look as if you’re in the middle of an earthquake!

Think also about livening up any Powerpoint or similar presentations without going berserk. Making individual bullet points on a slide appear individually rather than all at once can be a subtle way of making it more engaging. You might consider putting animations in. Bear in mind that people on slower connections might see them looking very jerky. Also if you’re going to use stock images make sure they’re good ones. The same old image of people shaking hands is dull, dull, dull!

On-camera confidence in a studio

Our main camera operator Paul offers a couple of good tips in our promotional video:

If you don’t have time to watch it, the first thing he says is that if you talk with your hands then tell the camera operator – you’ll look better if they line up a shot with your hands in it properly rather than a tighter shot in which the focus is on your face alone with the odd thumb wafting into view.

We offer media training sessions both with and without a professional camera rig. Each of our camera experts offers so much more than pressing the buttons and operating the equipment; there is no substitute, if you’re likely to go out on video, for sitting under proper lighting in front of a professional-standard rig with an award-winning documentary maker like Paul offering counsel.

More basics

There are other basics to learn as well:

  • Paul Angell and Sophie Aldred at a Clapperton Media session
    Paul Angell and Sophie Aldred at a Clapperton Media Training session

    Look at the interviewer rather than the camera. It always looks more sincere and you’ll find it easier to talk to a single person rather than thinking there are thousands watching on the other side of the lens. If the interviewer is elsewhere and you’re doing “down the line” then you look at the camera.

  • Do as the camera operator suggests – they know what they’re doing. If they make you uncomfortable, though, maybe getting you to perch on a desk when you’d be happier   standing or on a proper chair, say so. It’s your interview.
  • That said, if you’re in a studio and someone advances upon you with make-up, let them do their job.
  • If you’re going to be seated, avoid swivel chairs – you’ll spend too much time concentrating on not swiveling.
  • Also on chairs: if you can avoid chairs with arms, so much the better, you don’t want to look hunched on the TV.
  • Remember people’s attention more or less falls off a cliff when you’re on video. If you can get your points in quickly, even if you have to say “I’ll get to that question in a second” and get them in first (but do come back to the question), you’ll be sure to get your points in.
  • Remember that a good soundbite will be played over and over again. So will a bad one!

That last point is a good cue to remind yourself that the basics count for a lot whichever medium your interview is for:

  • Prepare – you’re allowed to forget a figure or not have a fact to hand but make sure you know your stuff.
  • Try not to be too salesy. If the audience feels you’re just after their money they won’t like it.
  • If a journalist is unusually aggressive or insistent when you can’t answer a question, be polite. The viewers will see you’re being reasonable.
  • Be succinct and keep it as simple as you can. The more brief and memorable your point, the less likely it is to become confused later on.

Finally remember one thing. In spite of all of the horror stories you hear, journalists are unlikely to be out to get you. Unless there’s something seriously wrong (and crisis management is something else), the audience will listen with interest

Do you or your clients need help with your media interactions? Our team is here to help. Contact Lindsay or Guy to arrange an initial chat.