Aaron Sorkin, writer of The West Wing and The Social Network, once claimed that he’d be perfectly happy to sit in his room and slip a script out and have someone slip a meal back. That way they’d all think he was as clever as his characters. Before today, I didn’t realize I agreed with that statement.
I got up at 6:20AM to get to CBC Radio Montreal and do a live broadcast about the terrorist attacks in Norway. I have to admit that I didn’t do the best I could. I walked out of the studio feeling like I didn’t get my point across as well as I would have liked, and that I didn’t sound as professional as I could have. That’s not a good feeling and I’m going to take the steps necessary to make sure the first interview for my book will be better.
As writers, we’re encouraged to participate in open mic nights, to read our stories to our friends and aloud to ourselves. Some people also tell you to practice your pitch in the same way. That’s sound advice, but I’d like to take it one step further and advice you to start practicing public speaking. Read the news and formulate your opinions on current events, pretending to be a reporter or an expert. Tape yourself speaking and listen back to it. Note what words you overuse and what words you forget. I, for instance, have a tendency to insert the words “thing,” “stuff” and “like” into every conversation. I also cuss a lot.
Don’t go crazy about it. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t say anything unless you prepared it beforehand, but I do want you to be confident. When you meet a agent or an editor, when your book is launched and the newspapers and local radio want to interview you on your bestseller (because we’ll all get there, I’m sure of it!), I want you to know that you can speak for yourself. Seriously, how bad would you feel if your pitch flew off your tongue, but was followed by mumbling interspersed with cusses?
Things I didn’t know about radio interviews:
1. Hearing how your voice sounds to other people while you speak is unsettling.
2. Having a timer in front of you takes away much needed focus.
3. Not inquiring about what kind of questions they plan to ask before you go in means you might end up saying things like “I don’t think he’s crazy. Well, I mean, he is crazy, but not, um, in Norwegian we’d call it “utilregnelig,” meaning…”
4. Having a glass of water will only make you notice how dry your mouth is whilst simultaneously make you freak out about making slurping noises on air.
I’m happy I went and I hope I adequately represented the Norwegians of Montreal, but next time I’ll come better prepared. Listen to the interview here:Daybreak clip
Do you practice public speaking? Do you have any tips on how to sound professional and intelligent on air?