An in-depth look at how to handle off-topic or aggressive questions


You’re in the middle of an interview, one being broadcasted out live to hundreds of thousands or even millions of people and suddenly you get thrown a curve ball, a question straight out of left field.

It’s aggressive, it’s pushy, it’s off topic and you don’t have any time to waste, so how do you answer the question without wasting time that you could be using to showcase yourself? Don't panic! Follow these dos and don'ts, keep your cool, and make the best of your media opportunity.

Tip #1 – Don’t

Feel obligated to answer.  Deflect, say you don’t know or that the information that they are asking about is confidential or proprietary. It’s not necessary to answer questions that will create problems for you or your firm. Instead use the opportunity and bridge the conversation back to where you want it.

Tip #2 – Do

Take a moment. Take a sip of water, breathe, even ask the reporter to repeat the question so that you can formulate your response. Don’t feel like you need to rush to answer the question, take your time to formulate a clear concise response and then steer the conversation back to where you want it.

Tip #3 – Don’t

Sound unsure. Saying umm, sounding unsure and contradicting yourself are all ways to look like you don’t know what you are talking about. Sounding confused is a sure way to inspire doubt in a potential investor, avoid it at all costs. Instead use your answer to project confidence and showcase your knowledge.  

Tip #4 – Do

Keep it short and sweet. Use simple language that anyone could understand.  Don’t let answering the question take too long, every second you spend answering the question is a second that you could be using to discuss yourself. Use a steady, confident tone and answer the question concisely and then use the opportunity to bridge back to your key message.

Tip #5 – Don’t  

Let it take over the conversation. Redirect, answer the question quickly and use it to bridge back to yourself. Use any chance you can to redirect the conversation toward your investment philosophy, your firm and your key messages. This way you can use a reporter’s attempts to shake you or throw you off your game in your favor by using it to reinforce your key message.

As horrible as off topic questions can be, they’re an opportunity for you to take over and steer the conversation to the most important part of any interview: your key messages. Use any opportunity to bridge the conversation back to your bread and butter.

A little overwhelmed?

SunStar Strategic is known for having a slew of talented professionals who are great at training you to answer the most aggressive questions without breaking a sweat. SunStar's media training has helped our clients prepare for and maximize their media interviews for over 25 years.

View our free slide-share to get even more tips to help you prepare for your next media interview.


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