One of my favorite jokes of all time goes something like this:
A scientist is conducting an experiment to determine whether frogs can follow simple commands. He begins with a healthy, four-legged frog, and says, “Jump, frog, jump!”
Right on command, the frog jumps.
He then cuts off one of the frog’s legs and repeats his command. Although somewhat hobbled, the frog complies and jumps.
The scientist cuts off another leg and instructs the frog to jump again. The frog does as well as it can, but only budges a few inches after belly flopping onto his two remaining legs. After the frog loses its third leg and is instructed to hop yet again, the poor amphibian struggles, but heroically moves a few centimeters forward.
Finally, the scientist cuts off the frog’s final leg. Again, he issues his command: “Jump, frog, jump!”
The frog doesn’t move. The scientist barks his command again: “Jump, frog, jump!” The frog remains motionless.
The scientist finally opens his notebook to record the results of his experiment: “When frog loses fourth leg, frog goes deaf.”
That joke, about incorrect conclusions, occurred to me recently when I worked with one of our clients. After I conducted a practice interview with her, during which she performed admirably, we watched the tape back together. When I asked for her reaction, she could barely muster one phrase: “My hair looks bumpy
I have no idea what “bumpy” hair looks like. But her reaction to her practice interview was far from uncommon. When watching their videos back, our trainees regularly comment on their hair, their looks, their age, their weight, and their makeup. Although those things may occasionally
distract an audience, those occasions are somewhat rare. Extremes aside (for example, morbid obesity, a Mohawk haircut, an obvious comb over, a Tammy Faye-Bakker makeup job), audiences aren’t usually distracted by those matters.
If you conduct a practice interview prior to an actual
media interview, be kind to yourself during the playback. Ask yourself whether you delivered a message in a clear and compelling manner, whether you successfully transitioned away from dangerous areas, and whether you appeared passionate about your topic.
But don’t obsess about your bumpy hair. If you do, you’ll only draw conclusions about yourself as off base as the scientist and his frog.
Brad Phillips is the president of Phillips Media Relations, which specializes in media and presentation training. He blogs at Mr. Media Training, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets @MrMediaTraining.