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Keren Haynes
Keren Haynes
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Blog Post

Getting a word in edgeways…..(Or how not to get lost on a panel!) 

Keren Haynes
Keren Haynes
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I was feeling less nervous than the previous time. I can’t have been that bad I thought, as I made my way to BBC Broadcasting House to take part in Radio 4’s The Media Show, or they wouldn’t have invited me back. (In media training we always say a repeat invitation is a sign of a successful interview). But the challenge, of taking part in a 4-way panel discussion, looking under the PR bonnet, was different from the previous programme which had been a much shorter debate between myself and a university professor, who was arguing the virtues of a degree programme in journalism and PR.   

Of course the other participants were going to be eloquent and confident; Alan Edwards is the founder of the long established Outside Agency, which has looked after globally famed celebrities including David Beckham, Jerry Hall and the Rolling Stones; Ian Gregory is the Managing Director of Abzed and has represented a host of controversial clients, from the fracking industry to e-cigarettes; and Polly Curtis was the Editor-in-Chief of Huff Post UK. Everyone had a lot to say and that’s the nub of the problem:  when the studio is so full how do you avoid sitting there like a lemon and, instead,  get a word in edgeways??  

A programme like The Media Show is very well organised; the producer has done his or her research, the presenters are well briefed, and, within reason, the production team has a pretty good idea of the direction the show will take. As a guest, therefore, there’s only so much you can do to get your penny’s worth in. Here are some suggestions (and I didn’t manage to do all of them!):  

  • Be prepared to talk. If you’re mono-syllabic the presenter will fear you’re going to leave them in the lurch with too many gaps to fill, so may direct the questions at other guests rather than you.    
  • Have an opinion. When you speak try and say something interesting that will help stimulate debate. There will always be some unexpected twists to the conversation, but you should have a reasonable idea as to what to expect, so plan ahead and have a view.    
  • Try and anticipate the views of others. Broadcasters like controversy; it makes dull listening/viewing if everyone on a panel agrees. Much better to disagree with at least one of the other guests!    
  • Use body language to engage. Look at the presenter, to indicate you’re ready to speak, just as you might in every day conversation. Nodding in a positive way can also suggest you have something to say. At the risk of sounding like I’m in a classroom, put your hand up.   You don’t have to put it right up, just a slight raising of your lower limb should do it!    Positive body language is so much better than verbal barging – when people talk over the voices of others. 
  • Use verbal language too. Think of some phrases that suggest you want to enter the conversation: “I agree that’s a valid view, but…..That point you just made…..I’d like to interject and….” Verbal barging comes across as plain rude and should be avoided. Polite, firm and confident are the qualities we all need to aspire to!  


To hear Keren on Radio 4’s The Media Show click on the link here:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0001v7p

For more tips on media training have a look at Keren’s other blog: “What Makes Good Broadcast Media Training“.

Or come to one of our free media training taster sessions, which we’re holding on Weds 6th and Thurs 7th of February, 2019.     


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