or, How to Avoid the Need for a Heimlich Maneuver
If you lose your train of thought, you could find yourself in an embarrassing situation. Ironically, the fear of going blank usually causes it to happen. Help yourself by getting yourself free of distractions, develop your message (talking) points, and stick with them.
But, if a choke should happen to you, employ these techniques to help you get out of it:
In a live-broadcast interview…
- Be authentic. The audience can empathize if you didn’t understand or your mind goes blank. Just say, “Sorry, I missed the question;” or “I’m not sure I understand…”
- Pause; collect your thoughts for one or two seconds. A quiet moment may seem like an eternity to you, but is actually usually very short.
- Stay calm, cool and collected.
- Repeat the question out loud as you think about the answer. That will buy you time and appear as if you are contemplating the question for a serious answer.
- If your mind goes completely blank, ask the interviewer to repeat the question.
Avoiding disaster in a taped/edited interview…
- If you mess up your answer, just say “let me take that again” and start your answer cleanly from the beginning. The reporter will not mind and will cut out the blooper. Don’t tell the reporter to turn off the camera or tape recorder – it could end up as the sound bite that could be misunderstood.
- Remember, in a taped/edited interview, the reporter is looking for a sound bite or quote, so starting your answer over again is a win/win solution for both of you.
If you mess up your answer, just say “let me take that again” and start your answer cleanly from the beginning. The reporter will not mind and will cut out the blooper. Don’t tell the reporter to turn off the camera or tape recorder – it could end up as the sound bite that could be misunderstood.
In either live or taped/edited situations, don’t draw a lot of attention to your mistake by over-reacting. Mistakes are normal and you can say something like, "I'm sorry, I'm mistaken, what I meant to say was..."
If you completely choke up with silence, you can say something like, "I'm sorry, I'm a little nervous as I've never been on television or been interviewed before," or, "I'm not used to being on television or being interviewed." Then take a moment to compose yourself and continue with the interview.
Not correcting a spoken mistake can be much more damaging.
If you realize after the interview that you made an error in fact, call the reporter right away and get it corrected before the item is printed or aired.