Adrian Steed gained hands-on experience as a broadcaster in the South African Electronic Media for 40 years. Adrian Steed worked in Radio from 1957, and then, when Television was introduced in 1976, he made the transition to what is currently the most powerful medium in the world.
No sooner had Television started than Adrian began to get requests from public relations practitioners for help with clients who were anxious about making appearances before the cameras. During the past 25 years Adrian has helped hundreds of business people present themselves to advantage in any situation, more particularly when making business presentations or being interviewed on radio or television. Adrian Steed has a wealth of knowledge and experience in this unique training arena and, while he is quick to point out that he can’t change people’s upbringing and education, he can and does achieve remarkable results with people after just a few hours, encouraging them to adopt new skills and techniques. It’s work that he enjoys, and he says that to watch people who seek his help put his advice into practice is extremely gratifying and fulfilling.
The first thing that Adrian Steed does when he’s approached by a new client is to establish what the client’s delegates’ training requirements are. Generally they fall into three categories:
- Media Training and Relations.
- Crisis Communications to the Media.
- Presentation Skills, which apply to radio, television and live presentations to groups of people.
The basic training course for Media Training - many elements of which apply to the other two categories - is as follows:
- An overview of the South African media.
- How the media work and the vital role of public relations.
- Journalism, how journalists work and how to work with the media.
- Presentation of the first part of a training video, which highlights dramatically the perils of speaking to the media when you’re unprepared.
- A review by Adrian and the delegate(s) of the mistakes a company representative makes in the video while talking to members of the media.
- The second part of the training video which shows what the representative should have said and done.
- Delegate(s) hands-on experience before a TV camera, during which they experience, and are taught to handle, different kinds of pressure.
- In-depth discussion and demonstrations of critical body language, during which the delegate is taught how to present himself to best advantage. This part of the course applies to the presentation of one’s self to best advantage in any situation.
- A detailed explanation of how interviewers approach radio and television interviews. This extends to the delegate as the interviewee and how he should conduct himself.
- Hands-on experience of radio and television interviews about the delegate and his business, including what not to say and how to get a core message across inspite of an interviewer’s questions.
The delegate’s progress throughout the course is recorded on video from start to finish so that he can see how he benefits from the instruction and to what extent he has improved.
All too often, in the event of a Crisis or Disaster in their businesses, management are so involved in dealing with the event itself that they give little or no thought to the journalists who will arrive at their gates clamouring for answers to many and varied questions; the more serious the event, the more journalists there will be wanting information.
The training course for Crisis Communications to the Media is different, specialised and more complicated. It’s recommended for management teams in hazardous industries and it covers in detail the requirements associated with the holding of Media Briefings in the event of disasters which involve injuries to employees and the loss of employees’ lives, damage to the environment and, equally important, possible harm to members of the public and their property, etc. The elements of Media Training and Relations are added to and extend into the areas of recognizing a crisis, media needs and requirements, tried and tested procedure formulae, media briefing and handling and the successful management of lengthy and stressful question and answer sessions with a gathering of journalists.
Some teams choose to spread the training over two days. Day One is devoted to Media Training and Presentation Skills. Day Two requires the delegates to form themselves into a Crisis Communications team and handle a pre-prepared crisis scenario, the details of which the team members are unaware. This involves handling media and government queries on the phone, via e-mail and fax and facing interviews by journalists from the press, radio and television. Although the day revolves around a crisis simulation, the pressures the team experiences in having to handle the many requests for information are just the same as they would be if they were handling a real crisis.
Day Two ends with each team member’s role and performance being evaluated with, sometimes, surprising results!
It’s generally acknowledged that people’s greatest fear is the prospect of having to face an audience and make a speech or presentation. The common problems associated with such an ordeal and the questions it raises are manifold: how do I approach writing a script? What shape should it have? For how long should I speak? How can I control my nervousness? What should I do with my hands? Is my voice good enough? What if I’m asked questions? Should I tell jokes? How will I ensure that my audience pays attention? Is it a good idea to use visual aids? How should I design my slides? How do I handle my flip chart falling over? Etc.
All these fundamental questions, and many more, are addressed comprehensively when Adrian imparts to delegates Presentation Skills, essential elements today in any businessman’s or politician’s tool-box.
Ideally, delegates should seek professional advice and help well ahead of the presentation date and before they’ve approached the difficulties of preparing a script. Thereafter, during an intensive hands-on workshop, delegates are given every assistance to acquire all they need to become a totally credible and successful presenter.
Adrian is only too aware of how nervous and apprehensive everybody is when dealing with the media or making presentations, so he gets positive results by conducting the workshops empathetically and tailoring them to delegates’ specific needs with personal and intensive coaching. The courses are comprehensive and informative in every respect. Some of their aspects are surprising and challenging, but delegates never fail to say how much they have learned in a comparatively short space of time and how much they have enjoyed having themselves built up and prepared to handle any presentation eventuality.
SHAPING UP FOR A TELEVISION APPEARANCE
Why do seasoned and tough businessmen, even those with reputations for being “street-fighters” - quake at the prospect of appearing before a TV camera, either for an interview or as a participant in a discussion panel?
One of the reasons is that Television has the well-deserved reputation for being extremely demanding, even ruthless, in that the TV camera seems obvious and simplistic, but you have to have worked long and intimately in the television medium to understand fully the complex reasons attached to why it is “the camera never lies”.
Another reason for people being wary, apprehensive and downright scared of making a television appearance is that television is a medium that affords only one bite of the cherry. It is so immediately, ephemeral and powerful - acknowledged to be the most powerful medium in the world - that if anybody, in whatever capacity, is unresponsive, confused or inept in handling it, their image and the impression they make, for better or worse, is transmitted life-size into the intimacy of millions of homes. The potential for irredeemable and irreparable damage is a daunting and ever present possibility. Once uttered, the tell-tale body language, which is NOT perceived by viewers on a conscious level, despite what pop-psychology text books preach about body language, tells its own story.
These are just some of the many hazards and pitfalls to be encountered by the novice in his\her first encounter with the all-seeing eye of Television.
So, Television being THE communication medium of our time, what to do about it? How do you keep on top of it before it suddenly turns and you find it on top of you? Obviously some kind of preparation for such an ordeal is advisable. But what sort of preparation? Who to turn to for assistance and expert guidance? You don’t need to become an overnight TV star. That is not possible or required of you. But you do need the help of someone who can show you how to present yourself before a TV camera to the best advantage - someone who has worked in Television for a long time and is well equipped to share his experience with you in an empathetic way, and can show you a dramatic improvement in yourself in the space of a few hours.
Some years ago well-known broadcaster Adrian Steed began to get requests from public relations practitioners for confidential TV coaching for some of their clients. At that time Adrian had no idea that the need for such an important service would grow and extend into other areas of communication.
Today he is privileged to coach his professional colleagues of SABC’s CCV and NTV. He conducts TV coaching sessions for business people, either one-on-one or in small groups from the same company and, something he has found, there is a great need for industries with the potential for disaster - eg, chemicals, mining and petrol companies - Crisis Communication to the Media.
Such courses are conducted with the utmost confidentiality as no-nonsense, hands-on workshops and, before they go - taking with them their own personal video tapes reflecting their progress - people attending the courses see an immediate, and often dramatic, improvement in themselves.
Adrian Steed does not claim to be able to make people into something that they are not. He can’t do that. He stresses the importance of people being themselves and of their being made aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Adrian shares with those who attend his courses the ground rules of Television, how to use the medium and how to come to terms with the apprehension and tension attached to appearing before the camera.
It is an intensive course which, depending on how many people are involved, never lasts longer than the best part of a day. It is also said to be extremely entertaining and enjoyable, although some parts of the course - deliberately so - are guaranteed to cause some discomfort, though Adrian hastens to add that to date, while he has made many firm friends, he has never lost anybody who has attended one of his courses!