The pros critique Academy Awards acceptance speeches.

Oscar’s winning words:
The pros critique Academy Awards acceptance speeches.

By Tom O’Neil, The Envelope from the LOS ANGELES TIMES.COM
March 2, 2007

“A great Oscar acceptance speech resonates and a bad one leaves a bad odor,” says Barbara Laskin, a top media consultant and communications trainer.

“Do you ever wonder if a bad Oscar acceptance speech can wreck a career? We don’t really know. But we do know that terrific speeches in years past — by Tom Hanks and Jodie Foster — are still remembered today and are part of their stardom.”

Laskin is one of three media pros The Envelope asked to critique the acceptance speeches of five Oscar champs: four actors plus Martin Scorsese as best director.

Laskin, TV veteran Leeza Gibbons and Oscar guru Pete Hammond of Maxim and all gave high marks to Helen Mirren and low-to-midling ones to Alan Arkin.

Other champs got a mix of various views.

But all three judges agreed on how important it is for champs to give a truly winning performance while winning an Oscar.

“There’s a parallel course for success,” notes Gibbons. “One is being intimate and communicating with your peers in that room and the other is serving the television program. They’re two different skill sets. The really smart winners are aware that people watch the show, but more people watch the clips from the show that are replayed over and over on the TV news. They must have a memorable excerpt, that byte-able moment.”

“For most people you get one chance at an Oscar acceptance, one chance to make your 45 seconds count,” adds Hammond.

“The ingredients for a good speech are simple: speak from the heart, don’t list a bunch of names that are meaningless to the audience, and say something that is actually worthy of your status as a winner. The best speeches — Louise Fletcher’s memorable acceptance and thank-you to her deaf parents in 1976 to George Clooney last year — are ABOUT something. Use the moment up there not to stutter around like you have never been in front of a crowd before, but rather to say something that will connect with people watching.”

Entrepreneur Magazine- August 2005
by Gwen Moran

Entrepreneur Magazine
Dan Hoffman had some bad interviews years ago, back when he was heading up operations at an ISP based in Hong Kong. He would read articles in which he was quoted and sometimes find that the published version of the interview had very different information than what he thought he’d discussed with the reporter.

So when Hoffman, now president and CEO of M5 Networks Inc., a $10 million, New York City-based provider of outsourced telephone systems, got a call to appear on Bloomberg Television, he decided he’d better get some help. Hoffman, 36, called his PR agency, Euro RSCG Magnet, to schedule some media training.

“A lot of people think that doing interviews is a piece of cake,” says former broadcast reporter Barbara Laskin, president of Laskin Media Inc., a New York City media-training firm. “But it’s difficult. That’s why I got into media training in the first place. I was a reporter and cared about getting the story right, but with today’s fast deadlines, you can’t always assume that the reporter is going to figure out what you meant to say if you’re not clear about it from the start.”

Being unprepared is just one of a host of mistakes entrepreneurs make when dealing with the media. Whether the result of popular misconceptions, bad media training or simply having no idea what it takes to be a good source, here are some of the most common myths about being media-savvy.
MYTH #1: It’s important to put a positive spin on everything
Not every situation is positive, says David Margulies, who heads up Margulies Communications Group, a strategic PR and crisis communications firm in Dallas. In order to be truthful, you can’t always put a bullish slant on the circumstances.

“The example I use in my speeches is the airline executive who says, ‘Sure, the plane crashed, but it was right on time when it hit the mountain,’ ” he explains. “You need to deliver the information the audience needs to know.” He advises being honest and sharing the information that is necessary and targeted toward your audience. “Stating the factors that contributed to the crash and giving a careful explanation of what will be done to prevent it from happening in the future would be a better response.”
MYTH #2: If you don’t want to answer a reporter’s question, change the subject
A popular media training technique is called “the bridge,” and it works like this: If a reporter asks you a question you don’t want to answer, you say something like, “That’s a great question, but I think the more important point is . . .” That kind of question dodging, says Laskin, is one of the quickest ways to earn a reporter’s ire.
“It’s not a bridge to nowhere,” says Laskin. “Even though the bridge can be an effective technique to insert your key messages, you still need to answer the reporter’s question. If a reporter asks about your bad sales last quarter, you can answer the question and still include the information that’s important to your company by saying something like, ‘Sales were disappointing; however, our new line, which we’re working hard on, is going to give us positive returns,’ and explain how.”
MYTH #3: You should participate in every interview that’s requested of you
Not always, say the experts. “Appropriateness is important,” says Laskin. “Just to see your name in print is not good business judgment. The story should be germane to your business or make your business look good—otherwise, it’s negative and actually undermine your efforts.”
MYTH #4: Reciting how many other media interviews you’ve done impresses journalists, producers and editors
“One word: overexposed,” says Karen Friedman, head of Karen Friedman Enterprises Inc., a media training firm in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. Friedman says that most reporters are looking for fresh voices and ideas. “In many cases, if you rattle off that you’ve been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and on all the major networks recently, the reporter might think that you have nothing new to say on the topic or that your story’s been ‘done.'”
MYTH #5: Mention your company, product or book as often as possible
“This is one of the examples of media training gone haywire,” says Friedman. “It’s annoying when the expert mentions the name of the book in almost every sentence, and I’m convinced that it usually backfires.” Laskin advises clients to mention the book two or three times during an interview and only when appropriate–otherwise, you’ll lose credibility and the reporter won’t call you again for an interview.
MYTH #6: Whenever you don’t want something printed or broadcast, just say it’s “off the record.”
Saying something is “off the record”–usually used when a source gives background information to put something in context and doesn’t want it to be attributed–is risky because a journalist doesn’t have to abide by it, says Laskin. “The truth is that reporters dig. That’s what they do. If you’re naive enough to give them sensitive information that shouldn’t be shared publicly, you can’t be sure they won’t use it. If you say it, it’s fair game.”
MYTH #7: Answer every question so that you look like the expert
Absolutely not, says Laskin. “Don’t answer what you don’t know. Don’t guess or speculate.” It’s OK to say that you don’t know something, adds Friedman. “It’s far better to say, ‘That’s a good question. Let me check on it and get back to you,’ or ‘I don’t have that information right now, but I’d be happy to follow up and get it to you’ than it is to bluff or lie. If a reporter senses that you’re not telling the truth, he or she will just dig deeper to find out.”

NY moves – April 1, 2005
by Barbara Laskin


There’s no doubt that interviewing for a new job can be a nerve-wracking, stomach-turning experience. But I always, remind people that there is not just ONE job out there, but many, and there are lots of opportunities that could be fruitful. I also warn people that there will inevitably be rejection along the road to getting hired, but if they maintain a positive outlook and appear professional and enthusiastic, they will eventually land a satisfying job.

So how do you stack the deck in your favor? One of the ways is to prepare as thoroughly as you can, as if a curious reporter was interviewing you. Since and interview is about communication, it helps if you take a page out of media training. As a former TV anchor and reporter myself, I can assure you that with preparation, a little bit of investigation and a professional appearance and delivery, you too, can ace that job interview.

Employers are looking for many things in a new employee, but the one thing that never fails to impress is when someone does some homework on the company she might work for. A friend of min recently hired and executive assistant and one of the deciding factors in hiring her was her knowledge about the company. My friend was incredibly impressed and thought that if she did that for the interview, imagine what she could do when she’s hired.


What are you’re goals during an interview? Since most employers don’t hire on the spot, but need time to reflect and check on references, your goal is to make yourself memorable. Your primary purpose is to catapult yourself to the top of the heap and make someone believe that “You’re the one.” There are several ways to create a lasting impression. Just like in the media interview, you have to keep your responses brief and focused. While enthusiastic people are always valued, someone who talks too much, especially in a small office, is a nuisance. Additionally, a blabbermouth might eventually say something that will turn off a prospective employer. So, during a job interview, keep your answers brief, and to the point.


It is equally important during and interview to have a confident, animated delivery style. While you don’t want to charge in and overwhelm someone, there’s nothing more appealing than a confident person who has some zip in her delivery. Confident people are those who appear sure of themselves and what they’re doing. They sit up straight. They speak clearly and concisely. They are forthright. They describe their capabilities, but they don’t brag. They are believable, and approachable.

Since phone skills are very important today, it’s imperative that you practice how to speak clearly and distinctly before you head out for that interview. You can do this by speaking into your phone, recording your voice and listening to the result. If you like what you hear, others will too. If you don’t, re-record and keep doing it until you enjoy listening to yourself.

They key to a successful interviewer is to prepare for it as best you can and learn something from each interview experience. We all know that hiring someone is a very personal decision. You may be a terrific candidate, and still not be hired. But if you do your homework, you chances of getting the job will improve immeasurably. Just remember, you need to come prepared, polished and professional. You need to stay positive – no matter what. And since a successful interview might well determine the course of your life can take, it’s essential you take each on seriously and methodically prepare for it.

Train yourself to deliver the right message when
looking for a new job

Metro Careers – March 7, 2005
by Catherine New

If you were preparing to interview your favorite personality on TV, you would do your homework, right? Barbara Laskin, a media trainer and Emmy-award-winning former journalist, says the same things that make an on-air media interview successful can be used in interviewing for a job. “Preparation is the key to success” says Laskin. “Be somebody who’s actually done some research.”

Body Language

In a tight job market where competition is tough, it’s critical to set yourself apart from the pack. “You have to employ top-notch communication skills,” says Laskin. Delivering your message more effectively is as easy as changing your body language. Sit up straight and make eye contact with your interviewer. When you’re interested in something the interviewer is saying, lean forward in your chair slightly. “This signifies importance”, she says.

Train your Voice

Your voice is one of your most important tools to deliver your message, so you want it to be as easy to listen to, and understand, as possible. Listen to an announcer on the radio and TV and you will notice there’s a certain rhythm to the way they speak. Practice on your own voice answering machine, suggests Laskin. An important tip is to stand while you’re recording, and smile. Hear the difference?

“When you smile it’s impossible to have a voice that’s flat”, she states. This is especially helpful during phone interviews, where you can’t gesture to convey your enthusiasm. But what you don’t say is equally important. “Don’t talk forever. Remember to listen, too.”

Expect the Unexpected

Just when everything is going well, something goes wrong. Your coffee spills, or you say something you wish you didn’t. “Just acknowledge it quickly and move on,” she says. “The message is that you’re human.”

Into the Spin Zone

No matter how well prepared you are, something can catch you off guard, in which case, Laskin suggests crafting your answers to reflect you don’t know the answer, but will find out more. If questions veer into the personal, consider that a red flag. Keep perspective, says Laskin, “If they are asking inappropriate questions now, what will happen later on?”

Dress the Part

No matter how great you sound or how prepared you are, if you don’t look the part you probably won’t get the job. “Most people are looking for somebody to fit in” says Laskin. The devil has be in the details—remember to check your nails, wash your hair and make sure there is no dandruff in your collar. Laskin recommends doing a practice run in your interview suit—try it on and make sure it fits well. She adds that for men it’s important to wear knee socks—so your bare ankles won’t show if you cross your legs. Women, she says, shouldn’t wear dangling earrings or fiddle with their hair.

Close the Deal

As the interview is winding down, you want to leave a final, great impression. “Don’t be shy”, says Laskin. “Leave your business card, and if you want the job, say so. Don’t grovel, though. The most important thing, she says, is “Be Positive.”

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