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The Genius in All of UsIs there such a thing as a bad author who has a good book? Can you be a respected expert yet be a bore? What if you alienate your audience and the media? But deeper than that, can dull media appearances tarnish your reputation? I think so.

A while back I heard an interview with New York Times best-selling author David Shenk who wrote The Genius in All of Us. The New York Times Book Review called it a, “deeply interesting and important book.” The book may be “mindblowing” as another author suggested, but you’d never know it from listening to the author. What was “mindblowing” to me is that his publisher hasn’t insisted on media coaching. Given he’s a bright guy he could probably easily triple his book sales with some solid training.

The interview was not only dull but unenlightening. And I was very interested in the subject matter. On Michael Krasny’s NPR show Forum, which I adore, (it airs on our own local San Francisco station KQED) Shenk talked a lot about what he didn’t know and I began to wonder what exactly it was he did know. His not knowing made me question the reliability of the science behind his book. Krasny asked his usual probing and intelligent questions, but Shenk muddled about talking a lot but saying little.

Often sound bites can make or break a sale — for a book, product or service. In this case it broke the sale.

Here are some other mistakes David Shenk made that you want to avoid.

1. Shenk repeated his points.
Not only did Shenk repeat his ideas but he pointed out that he was doing so! Double double bad bad. Never say, “As I’ve said,” in an interview. If you’ve said it, you’re wasting time repeating it. Prepare enough information that you never need to repeat yourself and you’re always engaging us in some new thought or inspiring idea.

2. Shenk commented on the host.
Don’t ever comment on the host’s personality, style, manner etc. It’s not your position to judge him or his program. You’re there as a guest. Literally. A guest follows the manners of the host and is gracious about delivering information, entertainment and good will.

3. Shenk dissed the host’s question.
Dissing the host’s question is a huge faux pas. See above. At one point Shenk asked for clarification, a real no no during an interview. This is also a kind of dissing, implying that the question wasn’t clear.

Answer the question with information that you DO know to the best of your ability. Trust that the interviewer will ask you a follow up question if you haven’t gotten it right. Your job is to have exciting stories prepared that illustrate the best of your book, product or service. It doesn’t matter what the host asks you anyway. You answer with the information you want your audience to know. (Sorry Michael).

4. Shenk kept saying, “The book.”
What book? What is the title? I hear lots of authors make this mistake. It’s not just a mistake it’s a big missed opportunity. Remember that people are tuning in all the time so even if you’ve spoken your title once that’s not necessarily enough. Even if the host mentions your title, it’s still your job to say it during the course of conversation.

Whatever you are promoting you need to name it. How else is the audience supposed to go out and buy it or connect with you? Learn to weave it into your interview in a conversational way so it sounds natural and easy and nice. Your audience will actually thank you.

5. Shenk called attention to being self promotional and salesy.
Whenever anyone says, “I don’t want to be self-promotional” or “I don’t want to sound like I’m selling” that’s exactly what they are doing — sounding salesy. On the radio recently I heard the president of a company do this by saying, “In the spirit of full-disclosure, I own XXX company.” Then went on to tell how excellent the product his company made was. Clunk.

If you are delivering value it’s the natural next step for your audience to want more of you and your expertise or your book, product or service. Only focus your audience’s attention on what you what them to think about or know. You are responsible for synthesizing, and concisely delivering, the most important points you want to convey to your audience.

It’s up to you to choose the stories that will be most satisfying and intriguing. They should be constructed to entice people to want to engage more fully with you in the capacity you choose i.e. hire you, visit your store, buy your product etc. Leave your audience with a good feeling about you so they want more. Media appearances give you ample time to practice good manners and grace.


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