To Comment or ‘No Comment’

How to dodge bullet questions without those lethal words ‘No comment’? In tough Media interviews or post-presentation Q and A, how to avoid without sounding evasive or flaky? How to present the company position without being trapped into corners?

We tackled this hot topic in my recent Media Skills training. (I enjoyed working with these Rural Financial Counsellors, who assist those in tough situations.)

A picture tells 1000 words

People groan ‘not another PowerPoint!’ Enliven with (relevant) pictures. So at midnight before that day’s training I’m adding family photos of outback Australia to my slides.

Next day I’ll dress up to detract from bleary eyes – pearls will help.

Give reasons. I can’t comment because: 

  • ‘As this is not my portfolio I would refer you instead to Joe Bloggs.’
  • ‘I’m not familiar with that research so will leave it to those who are.’
  • ‘This matter is under investigation’ or ‘For legal reasons…’
  • ‘It is a complex situation and warrants XYZ…’
  • ‘I agree in part but won’t respond to hypotheticals. If you’re asking about QRS I can say…’
  • ‘My brief evaluation is LMN but others are better qualified to respond.’
  • ‘Your premise has some validity but STU…’
  • ‘I don’t yet have the full picture so will reserve judgment until then.’

Sincere thanks for the training program you conducted with my team. It put forward some views that people seldom consider. At an important meeting since then, they were well prepared, relaxed, and gave so much practical information that the meeting was extended.’
Shirley McNaughton, Executive Officer
Rural Financial Counselling Service NSW – Northern Region

How it’s done

British PM Cameron dodged a press conference question about the US-China deal to reduce carbon emissions. He wanted to see ‘more detail’ before making a judgment.

On the global stage

The G20 Brisbane heat abated after a week of celebrity and jet spotting. (Why don’t dignitaries plane pool to help save the planet? Were President Obama’s ex-forum comments appropriate?)

Constructive face-to-face meetings warmed friendships–often through non-verbal cues of body language and voice tone as much as words. Photo and metaphor beamed powerful messages around the world.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s vow to shirtfront Vladimir Putin brought a memorable concept to international diplomacy. It sent media into frenzies of:

Will he-won’t he-did he-don’t he?

(Spellcheck, you don’t get the impact of rhyme and rhythm.)

Top leaders joined Team Abbott to kick that ball after an inappropriate media skit. Which could lessen sympathy for ABC cuts of rural and regional programs, that deny voice to battlers in the ‘outback’.

Bear Diplomacy won friends

  • Vladimir Putin smiled while cuddling a koala, pronounced his hosts efficient and friendly but fled the heat.
  • Indian Prime Minister Modi gave Tony Abbott enthusiastic bear hugs.
  • Angela Merkel enjoyed our beer with locals.

Communication challenges

Merkel is tech savvy. ‘You can’t use two at once’ she advised when a microphone and live translation earpiece set up banshee wailing.

International conferences challenge communication even when the major language is English – my salvation when presenting in Finland.

Build your presentation confidence with training or coaching.

10 tips to perform words or music

speakoutmediumThe moments before a performance are your launch pad. Then, you can make a crucial difference between maintaining calm control or succumbing to blind panic. You need to learn to slow down on your launch pad, to resist the impulse to rush on and tumble headlong into an incoherent performance.

Assemble your own check-list from these suggestions:

1. Sit comfortably, visualise transferring all your nervous energy away from the tense part of your body (e.g. the jaw or fingers) down into your toes. 

2. Think “toes, toes, toes” and your jaw/fingers relax. Give your hands about twenty vigorous shakes.

3. Sip some water or rinse your mouth. 

4. Think “I feel fine, my fingers and shoulders are relaxed, I am in good form. The audience will like me.”

5. Turn down the volume of those nagging voices in your head. Instead, focus on the outcome you desire – to inspire, to entertain, to win.

6. Warm your hands and fingers by relaxed movements, stretching or other gentle exercise. Limber up as athletes do, starting with easy, relaxed actions, then
increase the challenge as your muscles loosen up. Water and heat are excellent therapies.
Cold contracts muscles, causing tension. Remember how reluctantly limbs move when we play in draughty halls in winter?

When performing in northern Sweden, often above the Arctic Circle, I learned to thaw my cold fingers under the dressing-room hot taps, the warmth relaxing my muscles. Alternatively, bring gloves or a hot-water bottle.

7. Turn those fidgets to good use! Waiting backstage, many feel the urge to fidget. Perhaps we should adopt the Mediterranean habit of fiddling with worry beads – a more healthy distraction than a cigarette.

8. Stretch. Stand against a wall to ensure upright posture.

9. Imagine “I am the greatest”. Assume a confident, positive face. Smile.

10. Breathe. Slow down.

                         You’re on. Be the greatest you can. Have fun!

Excerpt from Speak Out – Don’t Freak Out by Ruth Bonetti Available on Kindle