Have you ever heard Melinda Gainsford-Taylor speak? The champion Australian sprinter addressed a roomful of eager ears this morning at an International Women’s Day breakfast in my local council area and she was magnificent – candid, focussed, funny and inspirational.
One thing she said really hit home for me. Throughout her career ups and downs – and there were several downs – she had to work hard on rebuilding her confidence, to allow her to feel worthy enough to take her rightful place at many starting lines. In her simple and powerful words:
“Practice breeds confidence, and confidence brings performance.”
As a media trainer, I regularly coach clients who have big interviews coming up. Though many have already had a training session with me where I’ve gone through the basics, they come back for more practice because they know it’s the best way to prepare.
Just last week, HSBC Australia’s Hamish Kelly handled this panel interview on Sky Business like a pro.
Preparation takes commitment. It’s easy to laugh and feel silly when a media trainer is pretending your office meeting room is a TV studio, a journalist you’ve just met is asking you tough questions and your comms person is watching your every move. It’s a lot harder to take it seriously, focus and ask yourself ‘why have I actually agreed to this interview? What do I want to get out of it?’
But that’s my job – to push you to take it seriously.
Hamish took it seriously and he rocked. Michelle Bray from One Disease appeared on Sunrise and Kylie Sturgess from the Atheist Foundation of Australia was on The Project. Both took their practice sessions seriously and they both killed it. I couldn’t have been more proud.
Practice calms the nerves because you know you’ve done it before and succeeded, therefore it’s easier to believe that you can do it again.
The science backs me up. A 2010 study by the University of Toronto found that self-talk actually works, so reminding yourself of your excellent practice session will boost your confidence and, as Melinda says, “bring performance”.
You don’t even need me! Practice in front of trusted colleagues, those who’ve done lots of interviews before and know what makes a good interviewee. You’d never attempt a driving test without a lot of rehearsal beforehand, so why risk your interview turning into a car crash?
And finally, you’re going to be nervous no matter how much you practice. Melinda confirmed that for us this morning. Try labelling that nervous feeling as “excitement” knowing that your excitement will help your passion for your topic shine through.