First Person Singular

Sunday, November 12, 2006

We can fix a lot: accents, overuse of really bad PowerPoint, how you look on camera. Hon, there's not much you can't fix. Not to sound arrogant, but really -- clothes, makeup, speech, hair, posture . . .

You can't fix whether they're short or tall, but you can fix presentation. You need to use more of your space if you're petite. We love to see people get away from the podium. I'm 5-foot-1. I have to act tall, and it works -- people forget. The more space you take up, the more powerful people perceive you as. A lot of people you meet, you had no idea they were so short. Take Hillary Clinton; she plays big. But she's got to stop rolling her eyes so much if she doesn't agree with what someone else says. It's not gracious. It's sort of passive aggressive.

Bob Dole comes off like, "I'm an honest guy; I know all the answers." That's not the point: By the time you need a media trainer, you should know all the answers -- but you don't want to waste the opportunity. All that studying the issues goes down the drain if you don't use it right. A lot of it is in not letting your guard down. One client did a great press conference; he'd prayed that certain information wouldn't be brought up, and it wasn't. Afterward, he got on the elevator with his staff and some people he didn't know, and said, "Wow, I'm so glad they never got into X subject." Oops. Reporters were on the elevator, and it made news. Loose lips sink ships.

[But] who hasn't made mistakes? I did an interview with CNN and thought I did a pretty good job of it. Then, at the end, I was asked to comment on Bill Clinton's talking to the public about Monica Lewinsky. I got caught in one of the classic interview snags, the "last question." The interviewer said, "Let's close with -- any advice you want to give him?" I relaxed and said, "Never let them see you smirk." Argh! It wasn't what I wanted to be used around the world. And it was. It even aired in Germany. So it's embarrassing, but I tell clients, "Do as I say, not as I did."

Interview by Ellen Ryan

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