Today we are interviewing Akash Paun, Fellow of the Institute for Government – a political think tank in London. He has been interviewed extensively in the UK and international media about issues relating to government the upcoming UK election. His latest interview for BBC can be viewed here.
1. You have made a lot of successful appearances on international TV, such as BBC, Singapore TV and others. What did you find most challenging during your preparatory work for these interviews?
The key thing about doing broadcast interviews on TV is the short period of time you have to deliver your messages, which means you can run out of time before you get across your main conclusions. In preparation, it is important to practise communicating complex messages in a concise way for a non-specialised audience. You should also keep extra details, examples and explanations in your head in case you have longer than expected but always try and deliver your key message first of all.
2. How do you recommend to calm the nerves before an important TV or radio interview?
I don’t have any special techniques to calm my nerves before interviews but what I would usually do is practise, ideally with a colleague, write down some bullet point notes of the top points I want to make, and make sure I know roughly what the journalist wants to ask me about to be sure I’m preparing for the right questions. Aside from that, you have to trust yourself that you know enough about the subject to answer the questions in a credible and effective way. If you are not enough of an expert on the topic, then you should consider turning down those particular media requests, which I have done on a number of occasions.
3. What is the most important key to appearing confident and knowledgeable during a media appearance?
To appear knowledgeable, I would say that ultimately there is no alternative to actually having a deep understanding of the subject. Of course you can try to fake expertise by using some common buzzwords or jargon, but viewers can often see through those who are faking it. Confidence is a different thing though. Here what I try to do is just to forget about the audience watching at home and try to treat the interview as a conversation with the journalist or presenter. Try to be friendly and engaging and to show a genuine interest in the subject matter.
4. What is the most exciting part of appearing on TV or radio for you personally?
In my job, a lot of the time even if I’m proud of my work or a report or article I have written, it often feels like fairly few people actually hear anything about it, beyond specialists and others particularly interested in my field and of course my family. Being on TV is a chance to speak to a wider audience. The work I do is about trying to improve the effectiveness and public understanding of government, but sometimes there is a danger of speaking about these issues in quite a complicated or jargon-based way. So I do like the challenge of trying to rethink why the subject is important to the wider world and how to communicate this to a general public audience.
Akash can be reached on Twitter @AkashPaun