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During the 2011 AAOS Annual Meeting, media coach Kathy Kerchner gave orthopaedic surgeons tips on how to handle interviews.


Published 4/1/2011
Lauren Pearson

Making the most of media interviews and presentations

Orthopaedic surgeons learned the tricks of the trade in San Diego

Some doctors—like the Today show’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman or Good Morning America’s Dr. Timothy Johnson—are experienced media personalities. But what do you do when your local station calls to ask if you’ll appear in a segment on sports after hip replacements?

During the 2011 AAOS Annual Meeting, dozens of orthopaedic surgeons participated in four hands-on, interactive communications sessions where they practiced mock-interviews with reporters and rehearsed short presentations.

The two separate sessions—presentation skills and media training—were each led by expert media training and speaking coach, Kathy Kerchner. Ms. Kerchner spent 15 years in the media trenches as an on-air journalist asking tough questions—and she brought that experience and toughness to San Diego.

Participants learned how to answer tough questions and keep a room engaged when speaking. They also got insights into how the news media works, the keys to a successful interview, how to deliver a PowerPoint® presentation without using bullets on the slides, and how to engage the audience.

“One of the main ways to reach the public, dispel wrong information, and promote your expertise is through the media,” said Ms. Kerchner. “These hands-on courses help physicians talk about complicated medical subjects in a way that lay people understand.”

With a limit of 25 attendees, the sessions were quickly filled. But you don’t have to wait until next year to learn key concepts—just keep reading.

Media training
What does an orthopaedic surgeon speaking to the media need to know? The “Master your Message, Master the Media” course outline suggests the following:

  • Build relationships with the media. Offer to help them as much as possible. Lead the reporter to other resources if you are unsure of something, and never say “no comment.”
  • Be prepared. Find out as much as you can about the reporter and what he or she would like to cover before you start talking.
  • Make transitions from the reporter’s question to the message you want to deliver. There’s no such thing as the “perfect” question. It’s your job as a spokesperson to “bridge” from the reporter’s question to your message. Possible bridges can include “There is another way to look at it …” or “You may also want to know …”
  • Don’t bury the bottom line. When answering a question, don’t lead up to the main point. Give the most important point first. You may not get an opportunity to speak again.
  • Think the five Cs: Clear, Concise, Conversational, Catchy, and Colorful.
  • Remember the three Vs: Verbal (what you say), Vocal (how you sound), and Visual (how you look). Try to gesture with your hands. Convey warmth and smile when appropriate.
  • Watch your tone. When you lose your temper or get defensive with a reporter, you lose an opportunity to set the record straight and may come off as rude or arrogant.

Presentation skills training
When it comes to talking before groups—whether to your colleagues at the hospital or to seniors at a local library—PowerPoint software can be helpful. But according to Ms. Kerchner, “the biggest challenge for those who use PowerPoint software to make presentations is the bullets. Major research is now saying that bulleted phrases in presentations are not the best way to learn. The visual needs to reinforce the verbal message, because you cannot read and listen at the same time.”

Edward McDevitt, MD, a member of the Communications Cabinet, found the presentation skills training session incredibly valuable. “As an orthopaedic surgeon who has practiced medicine for 20 years, I have given my fair share of presentations—whether it’s been to my hospital administrator to secure more budget dollars, or during the local health fair to educate patients on common youth sports injuries. This training session still taught me useful skills, like organizing my slides without overdoing it.”

Dr. McDevitt and other attendees also brushed up on overcoming jitters, managing body language and vocal techniques, and using humor to ensure the audience remembers what was said.

Lauren Pearson is media relations manager for the AAOS. She can be reached at

More opportunities to shine
AAOS-sponsored media and presentation skills training sessions will be scheduled during the 2012 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Watch for more information later this fall.

Can’t wait that long? Don’t worry! AAOS offers a free Public Relations and Media Training Manual for members. Media representatives will often call local doctors, so you should know how to control the content, tone, and accuracy of the messages.

This manual includes information on how to develop and deliver orthopaedic messages in your community and advice on how to conduct effective media interviews. It can be downloaded (PDF format) from the AAOS Web site at (password protected).