There we all were, in Tel Aviv, at the offices of a technology security company. All of the company’s regional directors had been assembled for a week of meetings including this media training session. They were a great bunch. Even though they represented vastly different areas of the world, from the U.S. and Canada to Vietnam, China, Israel, Russia, Turkey and all points between, they got along with each other and with the trainer, just like old pals.
The company’s public relations woman sat, like a Sphinx, watching the proceedings. We arrived at the part of the training when the trainer conducts interviews with the attendees. “Obviously and unfortunately, we don’t have time for an interview with each one of you,” the trainer said. “So we will interview five of you as examples for the rest of the class…”
These interviews went well. As expected, in the first couple of interviews, the interviewees made mistakes. They allowed the trainer to dictate the specific topics of the interviews. They allowed themselves to be interrupted at will. They didn’t have good answers to questions they should have anticipated. The trainer was appreciative because the faux pas gave him the opportunity to correct the errors for the whole group.
At the end of the fifth interview, the PR lady broke her silence. She actually smiled. “Can we do the rest?” she asked in a tone that made the question rhetorical. All 23 of them!
Twenty-eight interviews in total, one after another. The trainer had spent 20 years in media as a mainstream reporter, editor and producer but he had never done so many interviews at one time in his life. It was a marathon that called on the trainer to ask questions somewhat related to each represented region (but thankfully all in English). It became tense, for the trainer, when he had to interview the director from mainland China. But the Chinese student was one of the best interviewees and as open as any of the group. So much for Western prejudice.
The interviewees became better and better as each watched and learned from the person before. In the end, the interviews could have been packaged as perfect promos for the company. The training was a success but it will be a frosty day in the Middle East before we repeat what was probably a world record for multicultural media interviews in one sitting.