Thursday, December 5, 2013

Media Training with Sandi Toksvig

The lovely Sandi Toksvig is the Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth. In her tenure so far she has been a very active Chancellor, meeting many members of the University and really trying to help as much as she can. She decided that one thing she could offer would be a day of media training for six lucky members of the University academic staff.

I had the great privilege of being invited along to attend that day, which happened yesterday. I took my place along with Nick Pamment from the Institute of Criminal Justice who specialised in Youth Crime and Wildlife Crime (no link); Bridget Waller, a Evolutionary Psychologist who specialises in how animals communicate socially; Tamsin Bradly, a Sociologist who studies gender based violence, especially in India and Africa; and Stephen Williams from the Portsmouth Business School who is an expert in workplace rights (and my apologies to any of them if I've mangled their expertise!).

It was a wonderfully diverse group of people, and an amazing day to be part of.

In the morning we each did two radio style interviews with Sandi, followed by two TV interviews (one a talking head style, the other a "conversation on the sofa" style). It was fascinating to see Sandi in action, taking on the role of interviewers with different agendas or personalities (from bored, to combative).

I learned some interesting things about preparing for interviews (take notes, but don't look at them), how to relax (e.g. to sit in an open position, with arms on the table in front of you, or on the arms of your chair), and the games people sometimes play (e.g. how can I drop a reference to Rugby into a conversation about Cricket). It was also a wonderful confidence building exercise.

I also learned that in astronomy/cosmology we really have it easy with media interviews. There's nothing controversial about what I am likely to talk about (except why it's funded, but I've been asked that so much I really have the answer down). The most challenging this is likely to be remembering to mention the name of your University in the interview.

Anyway it was a fantastic day, and I encourage anyone offered a similar experience to invest the time.

A photo the press office Tweeted of Sandi interviewing me on camera.
The whole group in the UoP TV studio (including our technical assistants from CCi). 

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