In December 2021, two media trainings were given to female mathematicians, sponsored by EWM-NL. The training could take place live at the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica in Amsterdam and was organised by board member Francien Bossema.
The aim was to train female mathematicians how best to interact with the media and to present their research in a possible interview. The goal was that the participants will feel more comfortable in taking part in interviews and increase to the visibility of female mathematicians in the Netherlands. We engaged trainer Michel van Baal, who has experience with giving over 500 media and interview trainings to scientists. A rocket scientist by training, he continued as press officer and head of internal and external communication at TU Delft and is head of Communication and Public Affairs at the federation of doctors KNMG.
The participants were thrown in at the deep end, as they were asked to be interviewed on camera straight away. The trainer then gave an introduction and background information about journalists and interviews, what to expect and how to prepare. After this, the interview videos were analysed together and tips and tops pointed out. The training continued with more hands-on exercises to teach the participants how to tackle off-topic questions and lead the conversation back to their research. The training was concluded by an interview in which all of the participants were more able to take control over the interview process, leading to clear and concise interviews in which their research played the main role. The participants of the workshops were very enthusiastic about the learning curve of the course and reported to be more confident about appearing in the media and accepting interview requests. On average they rated the course with an 8.6 (out of 10). They all stated they would certainly recommend the training to other scientists, as the training gave them valuable experience.
*On March 9, 12.45 media trainer Michel van Baal will give an online lunch lecture, open to all, read more here!*
Read about the participants experiences of the media training in their reviews below.
The training had a good explanation of the basics of doing an interview. A good amount of time was used to do practise interviews and analyse them together. This was valuable, as we could immediately apply what we learned and learn from each other. Therefore I think I will be able to use what I’ve learned, also in the distant future. Besides that, the training was very effective, as everybody improved their interviewing skills in just an afternoon!
I definitely recommend this course. The course provided me with tips to handle difficult questions, such that I now feel more confident to answer these correctly. Moreover, general tips are provided in how to prepare for an interview, which can be of the utmost importance in order to make the interview to a succes!
“I’ve been thinking about the following: Does a workshop about the question “”do I even want to be on radio/television”” need a very intense role-playing session that also teaches “”how do I (not) want to be on radio/television””? Now that I’ve done this intense workshop, I believe it is a good thing to combine the two. Only after you’ve experienced the role-playing, you can imagine what a journalist would and would not ask. That journalists can be annoying, yes. But also that very nice journalists might end up asking questions that, if you address them as best as possible, end up being very off-point and boring. In many cases you might be doing the nice journalist a favor if you, instead of them, are the one that brings the opening question to the main topic you want to talk about (your research). “Interview questions are not at all like exam questions, or questions a PhD committee might ask at a defense ceremony. This insight means a lot for the question “do I even want to be on radio/television” in a way that I might not have appreciated if the workshop did not also cover “”how do I (not) want to be on radio/television”.
The course was incredibly helpful in understanding our role in getting interviews. I particularly liked the emphasis on practice, which helped understand first-hand how to feel more empowered in getting interviewed, how to react in difficult situations, and how to feel prepared. Media training is extremely important and I think the course helped tremendously in understanding how to best use interviews to convey our message.
I think the course gives useful hands-on workshop about interviews with media. The teacher provides practical sentences and gestures to implement in order to handle challenging media interviewers and get away properly from uncomfortable questions. I highly recommend this course for those who would like to widen their media outreach: we, as researchers, often think that just talking about our research with appealing words to the general audience is good enough, but through this course you discover how to engage more with the audience and what are the dos and don’ts before, during, and after an interview.
I was always very hesitant in accepting invitations for interviews, because I didn’t really know wat to expect and was afraid that I would get questions that I wouldn’t want to answer. This course has taught me that a) I don’t have to answer every question, and b) you can usually change the topic after briefly answering a question. Michel also gave a good overview of how to prepare for an interview; what to ask from the journalist, and how to prepare your story. Hence, after this course I feel more confident in accepting an invitation for an interview.
It is great course to learn how to approach contact with media. You not only learn useful tricks you can use during an interview but also get helpful tips on how to prepare an interview. At the moment I would feel way more comfortable giving an interview then before the training. In addition, I learned that during an interview there is someone who has the control over the interview and someone who gets the most empathy by the listeners. During the training we learned how to both have the empathy factor and the control during the interview. In this way the interview will go about what you want to tell or explain and won’t be steered to much by the interviewer.
The training has made me less naive about doing an interview with the media. It has made me more aware of the fact that the control should belong to me, and has made me ready to tackle difficult questions from journalists, especially as a woman in mathematics. I would like to encourage people who are interested in the course to go for it, to be brave and open up and push themselves out of their comfort zone, because that is how they will grow, even if they are not yet researchers.
My problem with interviewing was freezing when not knowing what the questions will be, and in that the workshop was great because it put us in the worst case scenario and showed us how to direct the interview so we can express what we wanted to tell. Although this is theoretically easy, practice is not that simple and the multiple exercises were very helpful.
The media training has taught me valuable skills for conducting an interview and to not be dependend on the journalist but take control myself. I have a better understanding of the ways in which journalists work and how I can prepare for an interview. The training was very hands-on and practical, including a lot of active exercises. I enjoyed the practise interviews and rewatching them with personal analysis and feedback on things that went well and things that could be done better was very useful. It was a nice atmosphere in which we could also learn from the other participants. I would recommend the training to other scientists, as it will give more pleasure in possible contact with the media.