Hecate has another excellent post up about media relations: in short, look into the camera. Not off to the side, not at the person holding the camera, but into the camera itself, because that’s where the eyes of the people you’re talking to will be. As she says, this kind of thing is easy to miss unless it’s pointed out to you, which is why practice – even just a few sessions of practice with some friends and a computer or smartphone – will help.

I’d like to add to that by saying that using dictation software is an excellent way to see how you will come across when your words are quoted in print. Dragon Dictation is available for free for iPhone and iPad (making it another great iPad resource for Pagans). If you’re trying to get ready to present yourself in public, spend a few mock interviews with the dictation software turned on. No, it won’t capture what you say perfectly, but it probably will get all those “ums,” “ers,” “likes,” and “y’knows,” along with half-completed sentences that spill into three others and sort of wander around like Siamese zombies looking for more fragments to eat in hopes of getting themselves an actual brain until the questioner interrupts you again. See if the way you come across in print is going to help or hurt your case.

Take Sarah Palin, for example. She almost, sort of, makes sense when you see her televised or hear her speak on radio. But when she’s quoted in text, she looks like a complete idiot, because it becomes obvious that she isn’t using complete sentences. She isn’t even trying to use complete sentences in any way similar to print communication; she relies almost entirely on tone of voice and subtle gestures to punctuate and provide relational information about her word salad. This also makes her hard to refute, since it’s almost impossible to quote her accurately, especially when trying to reassemble her words into an argument or even a sentence. (I don’t recommend using this defensive tactic, though; mostly, you’ll look like an idiot, and that will backfire faster than you can say “polytheism.”)

I’m not saying that you have to sound like you’re reading from a perfectly-prepared script. Speaking is different from writing. But you should know, ahead of time, that you can speak clearly enough to be represented accurately in print and to make the kind of impression you want on audiences who encounter you first through the written word.

The ability to put together sentences on the fly, to remember where you are in your sentence (this sentence no verb!) even as you’re developing your argument, and most of all, the ability to end a thought and a sentence coherently and accurately are not easy abilities to master. If you develop some skill with them, though, that will put you head-and-shoulders above other amateurs and make a much more positive impression on your audience, both readers and viewers.