Being present doesn't mean some transcendental state. What it does mean is that you are fully tuned in to all that is happening when you're talking to a reporter. So if you are preoccupied with simply answering questions and trying to figure out what the reporter wants you to say, you won't recognize the wealth of information that is there for the taking.
If you are fully present and invested in your interview you will begin to hear and sense things in the reporter's behavior that you might otherwise miss. We're talking about valuable clues reporters give when they:
- circle back every now and then on competitive questions, starting out broadly and then moving in for the side-by-side comparison with your Number One Darth Vader
- stretch out a word that tells you their true state of mind as in "isn't this the second time you've tried to launch a similar product?"
- shuffle papers and perfunctorily say "uh huh" while you're answering away on a phone interview
- ignore everything you've said and ask no follow-up questions.
Your gameplan must include knowing your messages like you know your own name, being buttoned up on as many issues as you're able to identify and being fully confident that you know what you want the final outcome of your interview to be. Without all of those pieces of information comfortably at your disposal, you simply can't devote the level of attention to the interview that you really need to marshall.
Obviously, you can't know every question that's going to come your way, but if you are fully prepared you can be fully present. The glimmers of insight and clarity you additionally glean can make a difference in how satisfied you will be with the story that results from your media moment.