The idea of a media interview is enough to cause even the most confident executive to break into a cold sweat.

To make matters worse for some individuals, the thought of taking a media training session to prepare for interviews can be equally daunting.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

By selecting the right trainer, you can develop the skills needed to conduct effective interviews . . . and as an added bonus, you may even have some fun along the way.

Here’s how.

Experience as a journalist AND a spokesperson

Look for a media trainer who has experience on both sides of the microphone.

A former journalist understands the pressures involved in pursuing stories and meeting deadlines . . . and how these pressures can affect the interview process. A media trainer who has experience as a journalist is able to use realistic scenarios to train a spokesperson and manage your expectations.

A rookie spokesperson may assume that journalists always do extensive homework prior to an interview. In reality, reporters often lack preparation time and arrive for interviews with only a high-level awareness of who they’re going to be talking to or why.

A trainer with a journalistic background understands the constraints that reporters face and can teach a spokesperson to guide an interview when the journalist is uncertain of the questions to ask.

A media trainer with experience as a corporate spokesperson is harder to find—but perhaps even more valuable than the former-journalist-turned-media-trainer.

Former spokespeople know what it’s like to sit on the hot seat. They’ve faced tough questions and even tougher situations. They’re practised at thinking on their feet and have a tool-box full of effective techniques to turn awkward moments to your advantage.

Role-playing plus media theory

Role-playing is an essential component of effective media training. Role-playing sessions should be recorded for later review, so executives can observe their performances and see their strengths and weaknesses.

Sure, it’s uncomfortable to watch yourself in action. But it’s also surprisingly effective as a learning tool. Most people will immediately improve when they see themselves as others see them.

In addition to role-playing, a basic understanding of media theory helps budding spokespeople take their performance to the next level.

Many people believe journalists invariably focus on the negatives of a story and try to create sensational coverage. The truth is, the media needs a news hook to create interest for their audiences. No hook, no story.

Because negative news and conflict tend to make better news hooks than good news, reporters always look for these element in a story. But that doesn’t mean they won’t report your positive news or tell your story accurately.

Even when a journalist has decided to focus on the positive news in a story, they’ll still keep an eye open for a dramatic grabber. If you say something stupid in an interview, you should expect the journalist to report it.

A good media training session provides this kind of theory and background information to make you a better spokesperson. An understanding of media theory can correct any misconceptions you might have about the media and help you be more in control of your interviews.

Teach a spokesperson to fish

Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Same goes for media training.

In your role as a company spokesperson, you may operate on your own or perhaps you have a corporate team or PR agency supporting you. Whichever the case, it’s best that you learn how to create key messages in preparation for an interview and understand what to do if media call you directly.

Appropriate key messages are at the heart of any good media interview.

While you can’t control the questions you will be asked, you should know what you need to say and how to say it to get your ideas across. Your media training session should include instruction on how to write key messages, along with supporting statements and quotable quotes.

Additionally, you should understand the correct media protocol if a journalist catches you by surprise on the phone or in person and requests an interview. Asking the journalist a short list of questions will help you buy time to prepare.

If calls are handled through your administrative assistant or switchboard operator, these individuals should also be coached to get the required information, so you’re able to prepare before calling the journalist back.

Most importantly—have some fun

While talking to the media is serious business, there’s no reason you can’t have some fun in your media training. Pick a trainer and a team with a sense of humour. You’ll learn more quickly if you’re enjoying the experience, instead of fearing every question.