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Corn+Soybean Digest

Just for the Record

Ever been interviewed by national or even local media and feel like you've bungled it? It's a common feeling, say media experts, but with a little guidance you can do better next time.

Nan Siemer, a communications and media consultant from Alexandria, VA, who has conducted media training since 1995 on five continents, offers the following advice on things to say — and not say — when you're talking with the press.

  • Don't repeat negative trigger words. There are certain words and phrases that should be avoided in answers because they ring automatic warning bells in an interviewer's ears. For example, don't repeat words like frankenfood, behind schedule, disappointing, poor performance, hazardous, uncertain and unresolved.

  • Never say you don't know something and then turn around and talk about it.

  • Be careful about saying, “Personally…”

What Siemer says you can safely and responsibly say are:

  • I'll get back to you on that.

  • I'm not able to answer that right now.

  • Can you repeat your question? Or say: Can we talk about this later when I can get more information for you?

  • Ask, especially if you're on a panel or in a group, whether anyone else wants to answer the question.

Here's her list of top eight mistakes people make when being interviewed:

  1. Saying too much. “Make your messages short and sweet. Don't overexplain,” she says. “Too many times in public speaking, people talk more about what they're nervous about.”

  2. Parroting back inflammatory phrases to the interviewer.

  3. Getting defensive.

  4. Talking about things you shouldn't be addressing.

  5. Answering questions that haven't been asked.

  6. Getting off your message.

  7. Being impatient with the interviewer. “Often, journalists are generalists and don't have the expertise in the subject,” she says.

  8. Defending bad news too much. “Deliver bad news quickly and succinctly,” she says. “It's good to acknowledge bad news and move on, but don't ignore it. We need to fess up and admit when we've made a mistake.”

HERE ARE OTHER TIPS to follow during an interview, Siemer says.

  • Always look at the person who is interviewing you. Listen to what they're saying and focus on your agenda.

  • Forget about cameras and microphones, but remember that they're on at all times. So, no funny faces or motioning to those watching, or rolling your eyes or other inappropriate gestures.

  • Keep your arm, hand and leg movements to a minimum.

  • If sitting, keep your knees together, ankles crossed and hands folded in your lap.

  • Nothing is off the record.

  • Relax and remember that “you're in charge.” Smile and have fun.


Being nervous before an interview is common. “Remember that everyone gets nervous, and, actually, a little stage fright is a good thing because it puts you on your toes and helps you focus on your message,” says media consultant Nan Siemer.

Here are exercises to help you relax before an interview or presentation.

  • Shake out your hands. Then shake out your feet. Then shake out your body, hopefully in privacy.
  • Clench your jaw tight, then relax your jaw. Repeat. Clench your hands into a fist, then relax your hands. Repeat.
  • If your throat tightens up when you're talking, try dropping your chin as you speak.
  • Jump up and down, maybe doing a few jumping jacks. If nothing else, your blood will be circulating and you'll have color in your cheeks.
  • Stand straight and tall. Raise your arms and hands to the side, palms up, and hold. Then raise your arms and hands above your head, palms facing each other, and hold, stretching as far as your can. Then look up, bringing your arms down slowly.
  • Breathe. Count down to calm down.
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