Brilliant but Shy? Media Training Tips Can Get You Out of Your Shell

By Susan Reilly

You know that co-worker who seems to have a magic touch? She walks into a room like royalty. She’s charming. She commands respect without trying. People pipe down and listen when she speaks.

You, however, often recoil into the safety and seclusion of your shell like a startled tortoise in meetings. Maybe you are content to be shy and overlooked, but maybe—just maybe—you are growing dissatisfied and restless because you know that you have the smarts and the substance (if not the social skills) to make good things happen in your office.

Drawing upon my armchair psychology degree and years of hard knocks, your communication skills begin to develop the minute you pop out and start to examine the world with your fresh, beautiful peepers. Everything that happens from this miracle of nature forward formulates how you seek attention and get attention, as well as your disposition which is known to be innate.

For some, it is indisputably easier to communicate clearly and confidently as adults thanks to growing up in an environment that has fostered such skills. If that’s not you, there is hope. 

As a media training expert and trained actor, I can tell you from experience that there isn’t necessarily a direct correlation between powerful communicators, performance, and intellect. To be honest, there is often an inverse relationship. The common denominator is a lack of inhibition and the ability to frame thoughts crisply.

In one of my acting workshops, I had a wonderful coach who advised our troupe to "Go Halloween" in scene run-throughs. In other words, he wanted us to let loose. Following his advice helped pop the cork off our performances, bringing a richness to the scenes that we couldn’t have achieved if we had remained self-conscious and subdued.   

The simple fact is that if you want to make a difference in your workplace, you have to pull that wonderful head of yours out of its shell and force yourself to be heard.

Here are 5 media training techniques that can be the start to your makeover from a tortoise to a titan in the boardroom.

1. Prepare your key points: Upcoming meeting? Think about the purpose beforehand. What do you want to communicate? Write your key messages down before the meeting. Every media training session is based on determining and communicating core messages, or the three or four key bullets that must be stated during an interview. Use this approach to be ready to make your mark in front of your peers and superiors.

2. Anticipate Questions and Prepare Answers: Meetings could be so much shorter and more productive with better prep. Even if you are not the one leading the meeting, do some legwork if you want to be heard. Ask for documents in advance.  Review them and jot down any questions and comments.

3. Flag Phrases: In the hundreds of media training workshops and one-on-one media training sessions we have conducted with celebrities, leading medical experts, and C-suite executives, we work hard to help trainees use flagging. It is one of our favorite techniques to help ensure that the interviewer includes a key message.  Here’s a simple example: "Steve, the single most important thing you need to know about this campaign is ______." Do the same in a meeting and ears will perk up.

4. C=A+B: We live in a fast-paced society, and technology is making the world move faster while attention spans become shorter. This means you need to get to your point first and then substantiate with facts. "C=A+B" is the most effective drill in media training sessions, especially when it comes to helping data-saturated scientific experts get to the point, as their education and training is the polar opposite of this formula. Time is limited, so it is important to make the key point first before adding supportive facts—think television sound bite!

5. Use a Person's Name: This helps the person know you are addressing them, and it is likely they will remember what you said. When your response sounds personal and thoughtful, you make it more difficult for the charming corporate climber who’s strutting her communications stuff about the C-suite to steal the spotlight.


As a Chicago Media Trainer and Presentation Coach, we have been retained worldwide for media training workshops and one-on-one media and presentation prep. Our goal is to help people learn how to command a royal entrance and access the beautiful, unique aspects of their personalities to effectively be heard, loved and respected, whether in the C-suite, boardroom, office cube or in front of a camera. 

Pop your head out of that shell and put these simple tips to test in your next meeting or presentation and you will feel like a "Queen for the Day".

To learn more about how Reilly Connect can help your brand, contact us.