Key's recent body language highlights vital media training point

4 April 2013
John Key is usually an expert when it comes to dealing with journalists. But his handling of the GCSB issue over recent days has highlighted a media training weakness that is usually one of his major strengths. We tell our media training clients that 93 percent of what people take away from a TV interview is the body language and tone of voice, not the words spoken. This comes from research conducted a few decades ago. I believe one of the major reasons people identify with Key and don’t with David Shearer is their respective body language. From a media training perspective, Key usually looks totally natural, relaxed and looks as though he would speak the same way whether addressing 1000 people at an official function or a friend at the local coffee shop. But over the last few days, Key has not looked so comfortable or natural. He clearly doesn’t like being given the third degree. Not that there’s anything unusual about that. But from a media training standpoint, two things have changed. Firstly, he has not been expressing himself with his arms as he usually does. People do that when they are uncomfortable. You should come to one of our media training sessions and see how stiff some of our participants are when we do the first interview with them. Anyway, what that does is make the voice box tighten up. If you follow Key’s interviews over the last day or so, you will notice that his voice has been more monotone that usual. This always happens when we fail to use our arms to express ourselves. This often surprises our media training clients, but it’s a fact. Try it yourself. First be natural, and then make a conscious effort not to move your arms when you speak. You will notice a difference. Despite this observation of Key, he is still a master communicator. He just doesn’t do so well under major scrutiny.

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Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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