Lance Armstrong is one of the most controversial figures in the sporting world. His recent interview on Newstalk’s Off The Ball revealed a fascinating insight into his character, but the 30 minute interview also showcased one incredibly important lesson that has put the fear of god into broadcasters over the years. The fear of silence.
In the clip below listen to an absolute stunning moment (at 11min 40 secs) where interviewer Ger Gilroy asks Armstrong a well researched, smartly constructed, hard hitting question. Armstrong answers, Gilroy not satisfied with the question continues to probe and is greeted by silence.
Now for what feels like an eternity the interviewer could have panicked, broke the tension and tried to approach the question from another angle but didn’t. He was brave enough to use the silence to his advantage and put Armstrong on the back foot. It’s a broadcasting masterclass from Ger Gilroy.
Next time you’re faced with an uncomfortable silence, enjoy it. The world hasn’t stopped, you haven’t committed a broadcasting sin. In fact used sparingly, silence can grab attention and make the listener turn you up. Everyone loves a little bit of tension and in the case of this interview there was only one person who didn’t enjoy the silence and that was Armstrong himself.
Irish stand up comedian Des Bishop has recently started his own podcast and it’s a brilliant listen. One of his most recent guests was comedian John Bishop. During the conversation John revealed how Bruce Springsteen inspires him when it comes to creating a new show.
“I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. I read something once, and it’s brilliant. I hope it’s true, because it sums up a lot of what I think. I always have in my mind now, particularly if I’m developing a new show, you’re considering what you’re going to talk about and where it’s going to fit in, from your life and everyone else’s … He wrote a song called “Can’t Have You”. The words of the song are: “I’ve got Rembrandt’s hanging on the wall, but I can’t have you. I’ve got houses across the country, but I can’t have you.” It has something to do with a split with his wife, or whatever, the reasons for the song, but the song was all about, I’ve got more wealth than any man can stand, but I can’t have you.
He played the song for Little Steve Van Zandt. Steve Van Zandt said, “What’s this shit?” He said, “I’m just saying what I’ve got. I’ve got houses across the country. I’ve got Rembrandts on the wall. I’ve got cars.” He said, “Why are you singing about that?” He said, “That’s what I’ve got. I’ve got this, but I’m splitting up with my wife.” He said, “Why are you telling everyone what you’ve got?” “That’s life replied Springsteen.” Van Zandt then says “They don’t want you to tell them about your life. They want you to tell them about their life”
“That is what you’ve got to have. Sometimes if you’ve never been at that position … For me, if you want to talk about class or life experience, the more experience you’ve got, the more you can relate to a wider audience of people”
That line “they don’t want you to tell them about your life. They want you to tell them about their life” says so much. John’s observation is bang on, it’s not what you share from your life, it’s how you share it. Remember that line next time you’re looking for relatable content to cut through, it will serve you well, time and time again.
To hear the full podcast listen here I highly recommend Des’s conversation with Jason Byrne. An hour of incredible storytelling.
Are you waiting for the phone to ring? Waiting to be chosen for that perfect role?
I just finished a wonderful book called “The Art of Creative Thinking” written by Rod Jenkins. One chapter “Be a generator” tells the story of an actor who hates having to audition because his fate was in other peoples hands. He realised it would be smarter to try and create a role and not wait for a director to pick one for him. The actor discovered an interesting book about a boxer that he thought could be the perfect vehicle for his talents. He believed this story needed to be told and he was the actor that would play him. After carrying the story around for months and showing it to an endless amount of people he eventually convinced a producer to finance the film and get it made. The story was Raging Bull, the actor was Robert De Niro. The rest they say is history.
Jenkins advice is clear.
“To produce anything worthwhile , you have to be proactive and generate it, not sit around and wait”
So if you are waiting for a producer to hand you that presenting role then you may be waiting a while. Here lies the beauty of podcasting. Create the show you would like to present. Get it out there and let the world hear it. Otherwise it will stay in your head and that’s never a great place to live.
James Corden and the executive producers of ‘The Late Late Show’ Ben Winston, Mike Gibbons and Rob Crabbe understand how creative content works. In 17 months his show’s YouTube channel has attracted 7 million subscribers and notched up 1.7bn views worldwide, while his Britney Spears Carpool Karaoke is set to become the 33rd YouTube clip from the show to hit 10m+ views. In other words they understand the workings of a good feature and the needs of the viewer. In a recent interview in the Guardian newspaper Corden revealed a key point that as a content maker you should revisit time and time again.
“There’s a great bit in that Jerry Seinfeld doc where someone asks him if being famous helps with doing standup and trying new material, and he says: ‘I get three minutes of good grace from an audience whereas someone else gets 30 seconds, “We very much felt that we just had 30 seconds. So we knew we had to put a stake in the ground early and go: ‘We are a show where people come and do stuff.’
“I genuinely couldn’t tell you how many people watch our show, because I feel like in this slot we’re not really in the ratings business, we’re just in the relevance business. My major ambition is just to stay relevant.”
Corden’s features always have a simple premise. He always gets straight to the point and he hops on relevant zeitgeist news stories straight away, putting his unique spin on them.
Audiences don’t want to waste time. How much grace have you earned?
Recently I had a lengthily conversation with an experienced broadcaster who was surprised about the amount of attention certain snapchat influencers were getting and what did they had to do to increase their own views.
I politely suggested that why not try and do what worked for them on the radio. Why not be themselves and be completely open with the audience? For that’s why certain Snapchat stars are blazing a trail online.
Snapchat and now Instagram’s ‘Stories’ are truly a platform for authenticity. Just like radio it’s a real personal connection between you and the viewer. You can use cool filters and face changing accompanying apps but it’s real hook is that the content is ‘in the moment’ and then disappears. Listeners can get a real sense of a presenters life, a real relatable view and isn’t that what we strive for on-air?? It also doesn’t waste your time, one tap of the screen and you move to next snap. Like a good link you just get straight to the point.
To cut through on social you must speak in your true voice. Like radio the broadcasters who really stand out are those who put it all on the line. Are you willing to do that? Because if you are, you could be the next great radio star.
Views expressed do not represent the view of RTÉ. Photo by Maurizio Pesce
Recently I watched the most fascinating discussion on the rewards of curiosity with leading author now podcaster Malcolm Gladwell and Oscar winning film producer Brian Grazer.
The conversation uncovers an incredible insight into Gladwell’s approach to interviewing.
“As a journalist you mark the quality of the interview by how little you say, so if you’re constantly having to ask questions the interview is not going well. If you never say anything, it’s perfect.”
In other words don’t forget the power of listening. We can be thinking so far ahead of what the next question is going to be that we miss the potential gold on offer in that very moment.
In my podcast “The Outerview” I explore what it takes to conduct the perfect interview from dissecting classic interviews to discussing techniques with some of the worlds leading journalists, writers & broadcasters.
His recent interview with comedian Dylan Moran really struck a chord with me and revealed a wonderful obeservation of what content makers should be looking for when seeking inspiration on what to talk about, what to write about.
“The universals are indeed the universals. They apply everywhere. What obsesses everyone is the same stuff. You know what? The best guide to … if you’re thinking of … sitting around thinking about what to write about. What can I talk about? I mean the what is a lot less important than the how most of the time anyway, but you know what the stuff that gets people directly? Or what engages nervous people is? It’s everything that someone would go and ask a fortune teller about.
What are they gonna ask an old lady with a crystal ball in a tent? It’s love, family, health, death, illness… They’re all the things that the big engines turning in people”
And it’s true. The primal topics of family, relationships, love, death can provide so much content. It’s a brilliant yet simple observation from Moran. So what would you ask a fortune teller? That question could provide you with the inspiration for your next big piece of content.
Jarlath Regan’s full podcast is available here. I recommend his conversations with writer Louise O’Neill, broadcaster Baz Ashmawy and sportsman Ronan O’Gara.
In the last few weeks I’ve had more and more people get in contact looking for advice on how to start a podcast. Below is some links to tools and apps that are easily available to set you on your way.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Mark Twain
The most important advice I can give to anyone who is looking to start a podcast is very simple. Just do it. You can procrastinate forever but if you have a topic or passion you want to podcast you really have to get your ducks in a row, record and release. From there you can re-edit, review and build on the initial recordings. The list below is short and sweet and will give you tools you need to get started quickly.
On the other hand if you’re looking for advice on producing a more advanced podcast/series or coaching on how to conduct a interview, get in touch by tweeting me @alanswan