A masterclass in what not to do on camera.
We get it, going to space is a really big deal.
It’s the stuff childhood dreams are made of, many of which William Shatner played a formative role in shaping for Stark Trek fans across the world. The 90-year-old made history with a crew of 3 Blue Origin employees this last week as he officially became the oldest person to visit space. Or as The New York Times put it, “cross the Kármán line, the widely recognized boundary between the atmosphere and space about 63 miles above the Earth.”
Upon returning to West Texas, Mr. Shatner was understandably very emotional. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Blue Origin and Amazon, on the other hand, greeted the team wide-eyed and ready to celebrate his accomplishment of moving our world one step closer to full-fledged space tourism. These two varying moods only continued to contrast in what can only be described as one of the most awkward television interviews in recent memory.
As media professionals, we can’t help but bring a critical eye to most TV engagements we see but this seems to have set a new bar for un-comfortability on screen, (which late-night comedians were happy to poke fun at).
While Shatner struggled to find words to describe the life-changing experience of coming face-to-face with the vast beauty of space, Bezos stood beside him awkwardly unresponsive, almost statuesque. The problem is, he’s a CEO, not a statue.
“We think ‘oh, that’s blue sky’ and suddenly you shoot through it all of a sudden, like you whip a sheet off you when you’re asleep, and you’re looking into blackness – into black ugliness. And you look down, there’s the blue down there, and the black up there, and there is Mother Earth and comfort and – is there death? Is that the way death is?”William Shatner
To be fair to Bezos, we’re having trouble ourselves piecing together Shatner’s meaning here.
Clearly distracted by the conversation around him and longing to be a part of the fun, Mr. Bezos does his best to awkwardly wrap up the interaction while Shatner is almost in tears. At one point, Bezos diverts his attention to spray the rest of the group with celebratory champagne – all captured on camera and broadcast live on CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and the like.
At Xenophon we offer our expert media training services to executives across a wide range of industries, whether you’re preparing to sit down for an interview on prime-time television or just want a refresher on best practices for engaging with journalists, we’re here to build your confidence and ensure success leaving an engagement.
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With that in mind, here’s what we’d tell the Blue Origin team if given the chance to help them train long and prosper during their time on camera.
- Open body language is key. One reason why Mr. Bezos appears closed off and unavailable in that clip is it’s what his stance is communicating. Instead, we recommend maintaining attentive eye contact with the person you’re speaking with and standing at an appropriate but close distance with open and relaxed arms.
- Know what you’re going to say before you’re asked a question. How is that possible? Before every interview you should identify what the three main points are you want to ensure you communicate clearly. Don’t wait for a reporter to ask you the question, work your messages into every response and you’ll walk away feeling successful instead of fumbling for words like Mr. Shatner.
- Keep it short and sweet. The best interviews are those that allow you to drive home your main points multiple times over. Reporters are looking for sound bites, if you can provide your message clearly in 15 seconds your interview has just become all the more shareable on social media
Interested in trying media training for you and your organization? Our team of professionals is ready to serve you; learn more about our offerings here.