Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hear How to be a Great Guest From a Great Guest

A one-time guest appearance can so impress your hosts that they will invite you back again. And if you wow the hosts again with your quick repartee and depth of knowledge, you could become a regular. That's what happened on my talk show with Dr. Rick Winer. He's a fun guest because as a psychiatrist, he can talk about mental health issues, and as a sports statistician, he can keep us enthralled with amazing facts and stories he's compiled over the years. He took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about being a guest.

Lorri: Dr. Winer, you are a fabulous guest. What do you think it is about your profession or background that prepared you to be articulate and able to handle any question thrown at you?

RW: Lorri, thanks for the kind words. Long before I became a psychiatrist, I had an eighth grade speech class teacher who helped me work on trying to be articulate. When I first had to present a short speech to the class, he stopped me the first time I said "um" and pointed out how important it was to try to speak concisely and clearly. I have never forgotten that bit of advice although I am sure my speech that day was rather forgettable! Each day of my 25 years practicing psychiatry, I go to the office or hospital never knowing what a patient might say during our visit. That sure makes me think on my feet and try to come up with a comment or question that will be appropriate for that patient session. Yet, it is interesting to me that many psychiatrists are so introspective that they have to think things through for a long time before responding. The other experience I have had that probably has helped me be however articulate I might be must be my work in high school and college doing the play-by-play announcing of football, basketball and baseball games. No matter how prepared you might be for a broadcast, the beauty of play-by-play is painting the "word picture" and calling the action as you see it because there is no script for what happens during the game itself. If you'll pardon the sports analogy, it's a little like baseball. It's one thing to be able to hit a fastball right over the plate, but can you hit the curveball?!

Lorri: That's a great analogy! Your depth of knowledge and breadth of topics amazes me. It would be too easy to say that you are a smart man. You must do some preparation. How do you keep up with all the sports and psychiatric current events?

RW: There is no way to keep up with everything, so it is important to hit the highlights. To keep up with the sports, I commonly watch shows like Sportscenter while working out, and it sure helps pass the time more quickly when exercising. I certainly try to keep my eyes and ears open for any information that comes along about what is happening in psychiatry. Maybe more importantly, I learn a great deal from my patients and what they consider to be important. Fortunately, I tend to remember sports and psychiatric information more readily. On the other hand, I don't always remember what I had for breakfast that morning! When it comes time to go on a show like Mornings, I appreciate going over possible topics in advance of air time so I can do some preparation in anticipation of the show.

Lorri: You are gracious and have a terrific sense of humor. For guests who may be a bit nervous, what advice can you give them about remaining calm, but also being quick-witted?

RW: You're very kind. I have been told that I have the makings of a wit, but I am only halfway there! Actually, being a bit nervous is natural. It's human nature. More people are fearful of public speaking than death and that might be because they think are dying while they are speaking. But, being nervous to me represents caring about how things will go and doing a good job. Take a deep breath and be yourself. People want you to do well. It's often helpful to check out the setting before going on the show because, in this case, familiairity breeds comfort, not contempt. I would say to first work on being calm and then see where your sense of humor takes you. It's not so easy to tell a joke with the proper delivery, timing and punchline. We all have to be very careful in our attempts at humor and not be offensive. You can be humorous without doing stand-up comedy. If there is a funny story to tell, you might want to tell it to someone before ever going on air. That way, you have it in mind and can probably tell it more quickly and to the point.

Lorri: In your work as a statistician, you have worked with some of the best sports announcers and commentators in the world. What do these professionals do that we can all learn from?

RW: Lorri, you are right. I have been very fortunate since I was a 15 year old working at my first NFL game to be around some of the top sportscasters. As a kid, I would listen to as many baseball games on the radio as I could find on a summer night and came to appreciate and, in a sense, study the announcers. Then, to have the opportunity to work with not just the play-by-play announcers, but also the analysts, many of whom I watched during their playing days is indeed a real thrill. The really good ones all do their homework before the game by viewing game film, interviewing players and coaches, and reading up on the game at hand. What the top announcers do that I also try to do in my own practice is take the specialized language of our chosen fields and then explain themselves in language that the layman can understand and appreciate. Too many X's and O's without talking in plain English will just confuse the viewer or listener. In doing the stats, I particularly appreciate those broadcasters who trust the people working with them and providing information to enhance the broadcast. We need to be team players both on and off the field. Lastly, I think we can learn from those who have a sense of wonderment about the game and the broadcast. I try to follow that example of being enthusiastic and excited while trying to have fun doing the work before me. Don't take things for granted and enjoy what you do.

Lorri: What great advice for every aspect of life. Another action you take that I would recommend to people who want to become regular guests is that you are responsive to requests. As busy as you are, you always manage to accept or reject a possible interview time within 24 hours. How do you do it?

RW: That goes along with my own policy in my practice of trying to make return calls to patients in a timely manner. It is very flattering to be asked to participate in various speaking engagements and it is important to respond to the invitation as quickly as possible. There have been numerous times over the years when I have been quoted in stories or given talks of some kind simply because I returned a phone call or an email with little delay. I also welcome the opportunity to talk sports for sure, but any time I can talk about psychiatric issues, it is a great way to help educate, dispel myths, and provide a greater comfort zone for people.

Lorri: What other tips do you have for people who want to be great talk show guests?

RW: First of all, you have to do it for the right reasons and enjoy it. Lorri, this goes right along with your website because it is worth working on being able to speak in soundbites. That is useful for both electronic and print media. If our responses are too long, our answers will not be quoted and anyone watching or listening will tune us out in a heartbeat. Also, we have to remind ourselves that we are talking with people, not at people. I often say there is the message and there is the massage. Many people know their material, but have a hard time conveying it. Practice can go a long ways to making us more comfortable and at ease in front of the camera and the microphone.

Lorri: You are so right. Thanks so much for your time and insight!

No comments: