What if everything you’ve been taught about executive media interviews was actually making the public distrust your business leaders and spokespeople? Politicians and CEOs are some of the least trusted public figures, says a study published by Ryerson University which found that only 13 per cent of Canadians trust politicians and 22 per cent trust CEOs.

Another paper published by researchers who summarized the findings of the past 30 years of research in lie detection from New York State University and the University of San Francisco has some answers to why.

In television interviews poor preparation and bad habits can make an honest spokesperson look or sound like a liar. Simple things like pauses in speech can come off as signs of deception.

The average person performs about as well as a coin flip when attempting to detect a lie. The same can be said for people identifying when someone is telling the truth with is a problem when trying to convey a message to the public. Knowing the signs of lying, and avoiding them, can improve someone’s chance of appearing honest; here are a few big ones.

noun_84311. Avoid verbal pauses and repetition.

When someone speaks normally, like when telling a story, a habitual cadence flows from a speaker. Elongated pauses or irregular interruptions in speech indicate that someone is thinking harder than normal which is an indicator of lying.  Avoiding this comes down to preparation. Take time to think through more than just canned responses to facts, or talking points. Instead, craft stories that support your claims.

Another way the brain acts when processing deception is to reuse the same language. In addition to narratives, support talking points by working through multiple ways to say the same thing.

Drumming a point home with the same language over and over again shows an intentional narrowing of the facts and an unnatural thought process.

2. Feel free to move your head or hands but don’t fidget irregularly.

We all talk with our hands and move our heads when we speak. Stiffening up is a physiological sign that says we’re lying. Nervousness translates in many ways on camera, but it is better to move naturally than intentionally avoid movements and appear uncomfortable.

Emoting with your hands is acceptable, but shrugging or shaking your head is considered a negatively toned movement. If you aren’t sure about something or disagree, just say so.

3. Be self-referential and try to avoid outbursts of anger.

The more details you can bring to a topic the more likely listeners will believe what’s being said. At the same time, if you suddenly stop referring to yourself or your company and speak in abstract terms it can be viewed as evasive. This can be compounded by rash displays of anger to a question or aggressively challenging your interviewer.

Even when someone is disputing the facts at hand, answer questions politely to better persuade the audience of your points.

Talking points can be valuable, but when used as a shield they may erode a speaker’s credibility.


Follow Cision Canada on Twitter to learn more tips on public speaking and in media preparation.

About James Rubec

James Rubec is a data geek, a former public relations lead and journalist with a love of content and advocacy. Ask him anything @JamesRRubec and be sure to follow @Cision_Canada

Read previous post:
Top 10 African Travel Blogs

Siergiej Miloczkin and Hanna Oksanen contributed to this post. This week’s Top 10 has gone international! Using Cision’s media database and...