3 Tips to Help Tech Executives Polish Their Interview Skills

Media interviews are illuminating for many reasons. I'll set the scene: A C-suite member of a thriving tech company sits down with a reporter they've been itching to speak with. The briefing is ideally informative for both the journalist and, eventually for their audience. But, it may have also revealed areas where the expert's tactics or messaging didn't quite land, or at least could be sharpened. I'd argue that there's always some room for improvement here.

Every tech executive typically strives to represent their company to external audiences confidently; but effectively delivering that message is often harder than it appears. Here, I'll outline some of the challenges I've seen bubble up in briefings and offer some actionable advice around media training for tech executives.

Lead With the Key Messaging

When asked what a company or product does, tech executives may struggle to categorize themselves and balance the amount of information disseminated. Sometimes, they skip the compelling aspects or dive straight into a lengthy monologue.

However, the goal should be to grab a reporter's attention in the first few minutes of an interview by concisely conveying a key point. Not only will it set the tone and intent for the rest of the interview, but it will help focus the conversation.

Solution

More specifically, with media, our team encourages spokespeople to answer at a high level, with the key message, before providing greater context (and later some supportive proof points). Ultimately, reporters want to better understand why they (and their readers) should care about a company, or more commonly, a trending topic or technology.

As the conversation progresses, however, the interviewee can get more technical and detailed, as needed.

<split-lines>"Our team encourages spokespeople to answer at a high level, with the key message, before providing greater context..."<split-lines>

Demonstrate Credibility

The hope is that an executive can speak with both confidence and authority about their business and overall industry – how they’re addressing a clear societal need or otherwise moving the needle. However, declarations and claims cannot, should not, and will not be taken at face value.

Solution

One piece of advice we’ve seen work time and again in interviews: Data-driven storytelling, anecdotes, and concrete examples trump almost everything else. This starts with identifying the problem that the company or product is solving, and continues through to celebrations of achievements or growth. It’s not enough to reveal a goal – demonstrating results is more effective, and should always be quantifiable.

Remember, reporters often have limited time, and there will not always be an opportunity to further clarify a point or provide context. Weaving illustrative insights and proof points into responses will serve to both position tech executives as knowledgeable sources moving forward, and support any claims.

<split-lines>"It’s not enough to reveal a goal – demonstrating results is more effective, and should always be quantifiable."<split-lines>

Use Affirmative Language

Tentative language (i.e., "I think") and filler language (i.e., "yeah," "um") can be the default initial response for even the most experienced spokespeople. Despite holding leadership positions or discussing topics that they have a great command of, tech executives sometimes struggle to demonstrate the authority needed to instill confidence in the reporter. The goal is for the journalist to leave the conversation truly believing that they've spoken with a reliable subject matter expert and thought leader – a status that will invite future conversation.

Solution

As the interviewee, an executive should remember that they are the expert on their business – with valuable information and a unique perspective that can be disseminated (potentially en masse). In these settings, it’s often the fine details that matter most: In fact, pivoting from “I think” to “we are” can make an incredible difference in instilling that confidence.

Still, tech executives should feel empowered to respond directly if they're unsure of a specific data point or if a subject falls outside of their area of expertise. There's no need to waver or be apologetic.

<split-lines>"[They] should feel empowered to respond directly if they're unsure of a specific data point or if a subject falls outside of their area of expertise."<split-lines>

Breaking Through

Effective media training is crucial for tech executives to represent their companies with confidence and clarity. By leading with key messaging, demonstrating credibility with data-driven storytelling, and using affirmative language, tech executives can improve their media interactions significantly.

Even seasoned professionals can benefit from continuous practice and preparation. The ultimate reward is a stronger media presence that can drive remarkable ROI and reinforce the executive's role as a reliable source.

Mission North offers extensive media training opportunities for tech executives. Contact us if you’d like to master your media skills. Stay tuned for more insights!

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