During college I worked as an intern at the CBS station in Chicago. I once saw who I believe was a cleaning woman walk in front of anchor Bill Curtis while he delivered a live tease from the newsroom. Bill ad-libbed and worked the incident into his tease by joking viewers could see how everyone was working hard in the newsroom.
While I recently interviewed a former TV anchor via Skype, a man walked into his room and started emptying the trash. The former anchor worked in the man’s unexpected appearance into his explanation that people must know their audience before pitching stories to the media.
Once while I reported live on breaking news, a guy watching me in a nearby apartment ran down to the street, jumped between the camera and me, screamed at the top of his lungs and ran back home. I simply kept talking.
Another time, a homeowner apparently unhappy I was reporting in his neighborhood set off his car alarm during both my live intro and live tag. I pretended I didn’t hear the alarm.
Before playing on the road, some football teams pump loud noise toward the practice field to simulate a visiting crowd. Approach media training in a similar way. If you plan to give interviews in a loud environment where intrigued co-workers might awkwardly stare at you or make hand gestures to slip you up, don’t conduct media training in a faraway, quiet conference room. If you might talk to the media under a blaring sun causing a stream of sweat to drench your eyebrows, don’t enjoy media training in a 72-degree oasis. If you plan a visit to a bustling TV studio or a sidewalk where a crowd will be hollering at your comments or whistling at the reporter’s perfect body, recruit some office clowns as stand-ins and practice.
It’s easier to throw a perfect spiral when tens of thousands of fans aren’t yelling profanities at you. It’s also easier to deliver the perfect interview when you and the interviewer are standing on an isolated island of serenity. But interviews often offer something unexpected. Prepare in real world scenarios to ensure you don’t pop up as the next goof up on YouTube. If you really drop the ball, don’t worry. I will use you as an example during my next media training session.