“Did you think that panelist spent too much time promoting his book?”
That was the question an organizer asked me after her group’s panel discussion was over.
“No, that didn’t bother me,” I said. ” I expect a little of that from people, who have written books. I don’t think he went overboard.”
“Well, since you asked, I could tell that he was used to being interviewed for TV news segments. He spoke only in soundbites. He didn’t really engage the audience in a conversation, which is what I think you were hoping for–yes?”
“That’s it exactly! You nailed it!” she said. “How come I couldn’t put my finger on it?”
“Well, I do this for a living,” I laughed.
There is a time and place for soundbites. And there is a time and place for conversations. Really gifted people can switch between the two modes seamlessly.
When you’re part of an in-depth (hour-long) discussion on a panel, you want to engage people. You want to have a conversation. You don’t just spit out soundbites. You ask questions. You offer advice. You respond to follow-up questions. You elaborate about your experiences.
When you’re doing a TV news interview, especially if you’re live, you want to speak in soundbites. Ideally, you want to sound conversational while delivering soundbites. You want them to sound like they rolled off your tongue. BUT you want to deliver them quickly. I tell people: “Get in and get out.” This allows your interviewer to move on quickly to her next question. It also allows you additional opportunities to work in more of your messages.