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Nine pointers for women executives appearing in the media

Blog post   •   Mar 12, 2018 10:26 +08

Photo credit: iStockPhoto

In view of International Women's Day last week, I would like to offer some thoughts specially for female business leaders appearing in the media.

Together with my all-female staff and my daughter, I reviewed a random sample of six TV interviews listed below. We arrived at these nine points, which also come up frequently during our media training workshops, and which are usually raised or reinforced by the (usually female) corporate communications directors who accompany them to our studio.

Can you spot these in the interviews below:

  1. Don't be scared to deliver a message – It is a frequent topic of conversation that senior female executives are reluctant to be out there with a message, like their male counterparts. Many women executives have much more scope to tell viewers and readers who they work for, and what they stand for. For example, when you watch the interviews below, see which guests say the names of the organisations they represent and whether this was done in a subtle and credible way. I'm certain you'll find it is possible, without coming across as bragging.
  2. Wear a jacket – Unlike men with their suits, buttoned shirts and ties, women often wear buttonless tops which are inherently difficult to clip microphones to. You can see this in a number of the interviews. Wearing a firm jacket (not a cardigan or scarf) makes this much more practical and avoids black cables showing conspicuously.
  3. Brush long hair back – My daughter spotted this immediately when she watched some of the interview clips, and it's true: if you have long hair, brush it behind your shoulder or tie it up, so that it doesn't rub across the microphone (causing a static noise), and avoids getting caught in the microphone clip.
  4. Drink a little water beforehand – Some lipstick is either too sticky, or it dries out your lips, which prompts the urge to lick them. This doesn't come across terribly well on camera. Either change lipstick, or drink a little water beforehand.

Then there are pointers from these interviews which apply to all interview guests, including – but not just – women:

  1. Let your enthusiasm show – There is a wonderful moment when one of the guests is asked why she feels so strongly about wild tigers. Or another is asked to explain where in ASEAN she sees sales growth opportunities. Watch to witness the palpable lift in energy. Let your enthusiasm show.
  2. Eye contact – some of the guests in the interviews hold eye contact very well, others barely at all. Watch to see the difference this makes to how they come across.
  3. Don't interrupt the anchor – Don't start your answer before the anchor has finished asking the question. 
  4. Avoid credibility sappers – Avoid saying "I think…", and inflecting up at the end of sentences.
  5. Smile – On a continuum ranging from sullen and serious, to toothy grins, pick the congenial, collegiate middle.

When I was at CNBC, my make-up routine lasted at most ten minutes, whereas my female colleagues were in the change room for an hour or two before their shift. Evidence to the unfortunate fact that women are often under more scrutiny than men for how they look and sound in media interviews. Even as we #pressforprogress on equality, I want to recognise that women and men are not the same, and I hope these points are valuable to, and encourage, local female business leaders to agree to appearing on camera.

If you know any local senior business leaders who perform very well in the media, nominate them for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2018 at the link below.

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