A gymnastics interview can be a great opportunity for gym owners, coaches, and gymnasts when done well. Unfortunately for those without the professional media training normally reserved for celebrities and other popular public figures, there are number of mistakes that are easy to make. The knowledge in this article, along with a bit of practice, will help you to be a good ambassador for your gym and the sport.
What the Media Wants (and Needs)
News programs, whether for TV, radio, or the internet, are looking for sound and video bytes. No matter how much footage they take, it will be edited to a maximum of a minute, most likely even less.
Most media are interested in ratings and the best ratings come from controversy, crime, scandal and the like. In order to survive the final cut, what you say must be interesting enough to compete, but not so interesting as to embroil you in a controversy that obscures your real story. No matter what their intentions, their job is to provide interesting, ratings and viewer grabbing material. Help them do their job in a way that furthers your goals, also.
Setting the Scene for a Gymnastics Interview
If the interview is in your gym, play director and determine the best backgrounds and camera angles of your facility (for example, the beautifully painted wall with your gym and team name painted on it or the wall with your biggest sponsors sign on it). Have at least one alternative in case the lighting is not to the cameraman’s requirements.
It is probably best to use criss cross tumbling as your background for the interview facing your best wall. Tumbling allows you to get the maximum number of athletes a chance to be seen and provides an interesting visual for a gymnastics interview. This is good for the gymnasts’ and their parentsâ€™ morale.
Planning and Guiding the Interview – The Bread and Butter of Media Training
Prepare an agenda for everyone who is to be interviewed, i.e. what it is that you wish to get across. Interviewers are seldom well prepared to ask you useful questions. You must learn to get across your agenda, no matter what questions you are asked. Use their question to get quickly around to your topics.
If at all possible, manage who exactly is interviewed and make sure they are adequately prepared. Intelligent, well-spoken athletes can be a tremendous asset. Unprepared athletes can be loose cannons who can blow your agenda wide open, which can be devastating, funny or simply a waste of a rare, good PR opportunity. Use this article to give your gymnasts a bit of media training.
After building up one of our gymnasts on a talk show telling how hard she had worked and hours she had spent in the gym, our twelve year old National qualifier told them that she didn’t really work that hard and her favorite sport was basketball. That was the first time I remember being thankful for a commercial break, because even I didn’t know what to say after that.
Opponents should never be attacked. This can easily backfire and does not really put your program in a positive light. Redirect the situation back to your own agenda. “I don’t really know their program well, but our program …”
If there is one thing media training focuses on it is sticking to your own agenda and making sure you get your talking points in. If you are asked questions you donâ€™t want to answer, you can reply by saying, â€œBefore I answer that, I want to be sure everyone understands thatâ€¦â€
There is more and more of the type of journalism that tries to create its own controversy and there may be questions designed to trick or trap you into positions or statements that you will find yourself uncomfortable with when you see that one statement headlined on the news. Another of their tricks is to start the camera rolling before or keep the camera running after the formal interview and ask you questions when you donâ€™t know you are on camera. Stick to your own positive image agenda before, during and after..
Sound Bites – The Reality of News
Speak in short, clear sentences. Any one of your sentences may be edited out as the final sound and video byte. Because of the need to communicate well in sound bites and out of context professional media training spends a lot of time drilling speakers to always use full names instead of using pronouns, for example I would say “Gymnastics Zone” instead of “we,” “I”, or “our website.” Don’t be afraid to take a brief period to consider any question. Any excessive pause will almost certainly be edited out.
Where To Look
When responding initially to the interviewer’s question, you will be looking at them. Don’t be afraid to face and look directly into the camera once you have started into your own agenda or are addressing the public directly (i.e. to invite them to visit your facility or event).
Once you have started on your agenda, continue with it if you are on a roll. Turn back to the interviewer preferably after you have taken control of the interview and set its parameters (We are here to tell you about the upcoming National competition and how we have carefully prepared our athletes to…). This will probably bring questions related to the topic you have set, that you can use as a springboard to continue with your own agenda.
Now Go Out There and Knock’em Dead
Good gymnastics interviews can do a lot for yourself and the sport and when they go well they are a lot of fun. If you have any questions about media training for gymnastics interviews or stories of interviews (good or bad) then leave a comment below.