Media interview tips for Olympic Athletes

9 August 2016

Over the next few weeks, we’ll see some great media interviews with winning athletes. But equally, there will be those that are about as boring as watching grass grow. Journalists can only do so much to get interesting material from their interviewees. It’s up to the athletes to make it interesting.

So what should they do?

Even if they have a matter of minutes before they speak to a reporter after a race, they need to think of something interesting to say. It needs to be something that people would not otherwise know. It’s pretty boring if they just say they are happy, or answer questions with mundane ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.

The best way to do this is to tell us how they feel. Some will make this obvious with their emotions, but others will be reserved and boring. The job of the reporter with these people will be similar to getting blood out of a stone.

Top class athletes should all undertake a media training course. This would show them what the media needs, as well as practice in front of a camera. It would also show them how to have some influence over the interview and get their own points across, rather than treating it as a Q and A.

Another common problem among many athletes is the overuse of Ums and Ahs. There’s no need to eliminate them totally, but they should be limited. Audiences don’t want scripted robots, but overuse of these filler words can drown out the conversation and make the athlete look bad. Practice is the only way to limit these. A good way to help is a simple exercise. This works by picking an object around the room you are in and talking about it for 30 seconds. The only requirement is to avoid Ums and Ahs. The more you do this exercise, the less Ums and Ahs you will use.

It’s important for athletes to come across well in media interviews. It opens up more career opportunities when they retire. It’s also vital for the sport they are representing.  If they show the sport in a good light, more people will either take up that sport or start following it.

It will be interesting to see who flourishes in the media spotlight and who doesn’t. We’ll know in about 14 days time.

If you want to learn the Five Steps to Pain Free Media Interviews, go to and download the free White Page at the top of the page.

Written by

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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