Expertise

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I found the following quote to be so appropriate:

“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field” — Physicist Niels Bohr.

I feel as if I am well on the way to making as many as I can, as quickly as I can!

The thing about making mistakes is that they are instructive, and teach us how not to approach certain issues and problems. In my line of work in assisting Caribbean companies, for example, it’s easy to think that what works elsewhere in the world should work here.

This remains one of the easiest mistakes to make.

Interviewing Douglas Orane at HRMAJ 2007

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On Friday night, at the just concluded HRMAJ conference, I had the opportunity to interview Douglas Orane — CEO of Grace Kennedy. His company, with almost US$900m in revenues, is Jamaica’s largest private sector company.

That I did so in front of some 200+ participants, with my first experience of make-up, under hot lights and for a live video recording only made it a little nerve-racking.

Once again I had the good fortune to have an expert in my corner. Elaine Wint (see elainewint.com) is an expert in the art of interviewing, and one of the very best professionals in the Caribbean in performing a skill that I now realize is much, much harder than it looks. I learned a lot from the entire experience, but the most important thing I learned is that when people are skillful, they make things look easy.

The night before the event, I sat down with Elaine and went through the list of questions I had been sent to work with. She taught me how to phrase them in a way that invited conversation rather than closed it down, using open questions rather than closed questions.

She also asked me about the goals I had for the interview, and what I wanted to accomplish.

While these might sound like simple questions, I found that the greatest value I got from the evening was in noticing who she was being as she asked the questions. She was incisive, and sharp, yet ensuring that she was not the centre of attention. I could see that the interview was all about him, and not too much about me.

Luckily, I had also gone to her a few weeks ago when I had a television interview to give. This time, I was the subject of the interview.

While her advice then was completely different — it was altogether mind-blowing — it made all the difference in how well it went. The time I spent with her in each instance was short, but her professionalism and broadcast experience, plus her ability to coach are gifts that are not combined effectively very often.

Thankfully, Douglas Orane was not only talkative, but insightful, and he said quite a few things that were simply enthralling. I was relieved, to be frank, that he made my job such an easy one, and I was sorry to have to bring the 60 minutes we spent together to a close.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be in the same position again (to be on the other side of the microphone,) but I now have an idea of how much I can improve what I do in this arena with the help of an expert like Elaine.

Help from Elaine

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The other day I found out that I was scheduled to appear on a combined TV/Radio interview and I started looking for help.

First I consulted the internet. I discovered that there was a science to the art of giving a live interview, and also that I had no clue about the basics.

I decided to go for more serious help, and called a friend – Elaine Wint – who just happens to be “the Barbara Walters of Jamaica.”

After a couple of hours I was fully reminded of the difference that a trained coach can make.

She expertly looked with me at what I wanted to accomplish. Then she gave me some basic coaching on the dynamics of an interview.

Last, she helped me to craft the messages I wanted to deliver, showing me how to ensure that every opportunity to speak was a chance to deliver a part of my message.

When I arrived in Trinidad I found that the time had been extended from 30 to 60 minutes, and that I was part of a 2-person panel rather than 3. This all meant more time – good thing.

Sure enough, the preparation paid off.

I was able to deliver each of the key messages as planned, and could focus on enjoying myself, rather than on trying to think up something good to say in the spur of the moment.

Thanks to Elaine.

Here is a link to the audio portions of the interview: Part 1 and Part 2

And here is a link to Elaine’s new website.