Speaking in Sound Bites

10MM Speaking in Sound Bites

By Jack Winders.

The 10 minute multitask visited with West Hollywood based freelance director, Uri Gal-Ed for his insights and experiences on a tool he believes every representative of a brand, team or company should know and practice: Speaking in sound bites.

You may have heard the term “sound bite”, but its meaning and the art of practicing it, are ideas worth visiting. According to Uri, a sound bite is “An idea that you can convey, in a very short amount of time, and with very few words, but still have a beginning, middle and end so your audience gets to know your point of view, how you feel about something or something they didn’t know before.”

With past roles such as Staff Director (Fox News) and the Associate Director for Good Morning America on his resume, Uri has extensive experience in television and has seen first-hand the importance of speaking in sound bites.

Whether you are a famous CEO about to be interviewed on a national broadcast or a small business owner who has been invited to be featured in the local television or print news, it is necessary to know what you wish to get out of the interview before you begin. Uri stresses the importance of addressing “What you would like to say, what are the ideas you would like to convey, what is your exact, specific point of view and how do you want the audience to perceive you once you’re done?” By answering these questions, you identify a framework for how the interview should go, and are more likely to have effective responses. “Basically, when you start the sentence you really need to know the full arch of your sentence and where you’re going to end up,” Uri continues.

As someone who has decades of experience in live television, Uri discusses how critical time management is in the context of interviewing. In the United States, a typical news segment spans between 3.5 and 4.5 minutes. Between the introduction and the time it takes for the host to ask questions, there is not a lot of time left for answers. Even in the “best case scenario where you are the only guest,” you are still only left with about 20 seconds per answer. That said, getting to the point as fast as possible is imperative.

Uri offers his framework for training and practicing speaking sound bites.  Gal-Ed’s framework is built with two rules to know, follow and practice:

  1. Keep it under 20 seconds.

The typical time allowance for an answer is around 20 seconds. By practicing your answers so they stay under 20 seconds, you will be able to give your full thoughts without being cut off, and will stay on track so the segment covers all intended areas.

Additionally, Uri adds a shorter (and quality) sound bite may gain you more traction and exposure.   “My first job in television was going through every interview on Bloomberg Television.  I had to cut two sound bites from every interview.  If it was longer than 20 seconds, it wasn’t eligible,” tells Uri. If you are able to say something interesting or captivating in under 20 seconds, you are far more likely to be replayed. “Say something that the TV station will be able to use in different ways. While they’re using it for their own benefit of ‘breaking news’, you’re using it for your benefit because you had something to say,” Uri explains.

  1. A good sound bite is independently clear (“Beginning.  Middle.  End.”)

In an earlier episode of the 10MM, we learned about storytelling from Dr. Michael Burns.

One idea Burns highlighted was the idea of narrative probability – i.e. the story makes sense and includes a beginning, middle and end. The same concept applies to a good sound bite, and is the second rule outlined by Uri in this episode. Uri explains how, in addition to being under 20 seconds, a sound bite is only useful if it has a clear beginning, middle and end so it can be understood without context. “When you play it independently outside of the interview where the audience usually doesn’t hear the questions… it should be independently clear what is going on,” the television expert says.

Learning to speak in sound bites can benefit anyone who may find themselves in an interview, whether it be on a global scale with ABC World News or on a local scale with your area’s newspaper. Every person has a story. Every brand has a story. Being able to tell those stories in a manner capable of being reproduced is only going to help grow your story and your brand. Give them something useful. Give them “Beginning. Middle. End. Under 20 seconds.”