The lights are on and the cameras rolling, so how do you swing into action on TV? The first thing to remember when being interviewed for the nightly news is to be concise because you will probably get only five to 10 seconds airtime.

While the TV reporter will contextualise the issue, paraphrasing some of your comments, your on-air quote will most likely be only one or two sentences long.

Body language guru Allan Pease says there are many non-verbal queues that are equally responsible for creating an impression.

Pease, who conducts media training across the globe, says most people base initial impressions of someone’s confidence, trustworthiness and likability on how they appear.

One of his earlier clients in the-then USSR in 1992 was the little known deputy mayor of St Petersberg, a young Vladimir Putin, who was fresh out of the KGB at the time. Pease counselled him, among a group of Russian businesspeople and leaders needing media training.

In those days, smiling was seen as a sign of frivolity and a lack of discipline. Pease explained a smile conveyed confidence and friendliness in the West. He has to remind westerners too.

Pease recommends using the steeple gesture to show self-belief, in which hands rest in a triangle shape with the fingertips lightly touching. The gesture is known as the “Merkel Diamond” because it is a trademark of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.


The "Merkel Diamond".

She says presenting one’s palms upwards shows openness, while downward illustrates control. Tilting one’s head at 15 degrees, as animals do when listening, is a non-threatening behaviour, with the exposed neck conveying vulnerability.

As an image consultant to Lindy Chamberlain in 1981, during her murder trial, Pease told her to remove her dark glasses, soften her hair and make-up, and show emotion.

Public opinion was swayed when she did, though Chamberlain was found guilty.

Business owners will want to appear professional and well-groomed on TV, but Pease says looking different can help cut through the traffic to grab the public’s attention.

In the late 1990s he suggested Bob Geldof change his “bland” face by growing a goatee, giving himself a point of difference.

He says spud king Tony Galati is a good local example of someone who’s eye-catching look helps his media profile.

“He has a big head, hair and eyebrows, ” he says. “Everything is oversized in an almost cartoonish way, and his look is completely in sync with what he is doing. He gives the impression of a salt-of-the-earth farmer, who thinks ‘if you don’t like me, that’s your problem’.”


© The West Australian