Time was in high school that students were forced to stand in class and deliver orations in Latin or Greek following the precept that if they could speak well in these languages public speaking in English would present no problems. By the time I was in high school in the late 1950s, Declamation and One-Act Plays were extra-curricular activities, and the present Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, and I were on the same debate team. Our experiences in a small rural High School in Central Georgia taught us well. He served in the Georgia State Legislature and successfully ran for Governor, and I make a portion of my living writing and speaking.
Skill in public speaking is not as often taught or as easily learned today. With “screen time” taking the place of speech in casual contacts with friends, formal speaking is less and less practiced. Nonetheless, the ability to speak well and provide a good interview to members of the TV or print Media are valuable skills that any potential sports figure needs to have. This was recently illustrated when I did an interview with Chad Wiley, the Grandson of a lady that I know. Chad is now in the 11th grade at Waco High School in Waco, Texas, and is a promising baseball player.
Chad has always been somewhat reluctant to speak and has developed a very soft voice – traits which do not lend themselves to providing good interviews. While doing episodes of my radio show, “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures,” I had run into this problem before. I solved it by turning the interview into comedy where I took on an outrageous persona, carried almost all of the interview and only required the person being interviewed to answer my direct questions, usually with a yes or no.
When Chad was having a one-day break between baseball games, he came down to visit his Grandmother, Sharon Henson, and me in Georgetown. Unknown to him, his mother Karen had been pre-warned that I wanted to do something fun with Chad and produce a video. She concealed a portion of his uniform so that we would be able to dress “in character” for this skit. On arrival, I set the mood by showing some of my 230-odd videos of which a few were in character, and announced that I would like to do one with Chad.
Although it was obvious to Chad by that time that he had been set-up, he agreed, and we proceeded to record a fictional episode where he plays third base and makes a remarkable catch, despite interference with a puking buzzard, slimed glove and a two-person audience who could hardly keep from laughing while the piece was being filmed. This video may be seen at: http://youtu.be/gNCCQ1SwzIE.
Chad quickly picked up on what was going on. Although none of it was rehearsed, he did a good job of playing the part of a somewhat reluctant interviewee. While all of this was done in good fun, the experience did provide some reasonable tips on how sports players should react when they are approached by a reporter for an impromptu interview.
The advice that I would give is to:
1. Speak up firmly so that the media person will have a good voice record of what was said. This will enable him to write or broadcast a better story of the event. Although we media folks can do a lot, we cannot carry the entire burden of providing a story that will result in maximum benefit to the person being interviewed.
2. Answer the questions that are asked. You will be given the opportunity to provide your own comments and insights and should do so. However, the reporter most often already has a strong feeling about how he will write the story and asks questions so that he is sure that he has all of the needed facts. Usually reporters have only one chance to get the material that they need and will always need to know the who, where, what, when, why and how of a story.
3. Be yourself. Don’t try to sound like anybody else. You own personality will ultimately come through, and this is what future fans will remember.
4. Be easy and as helpful to the media people as you can be, even if it is to introduce them to someone else. Such favors are remembered, and the media people will come back to you when you happen to do something noteworthy during a game.