How to prepare for being on Newsnight

Posted on October 10, 2014

Last week I received a phone call at 8pm asking me if I’d like to appear on Newsnight at 10.45pm. I was invited to respond to Teresa May’s speech on Banning Orders for extremist and other counterterrorism measures.  Our social enterprise ConnectJustice often deals with issues of extremism and counterterrorism, particularly its impact on communities. I had a few internal conversations as to whether I was prepared to speak in front of an audience of 600,000, but despite my nervousness I said yes. .

I had an hour to prepare my angle and share it with the producer before going live on air with Evan Davis.

So, how did I plan it all? Well, here was my plan for those 5 minutes:
1. Write down my top three points and ensure they were succinct and on point;
2. Mentally prepare to listen and respond in a measured way to questioning, including from the other panelist;
3. Rehearse, listen, and rehearse!

I was conscious that I didn't want to give a shouty interview, nor give off an ‘I'm right and you're wrong’ vibe. Influence comes through measured discussion, not point scoring.  I knew that being interrupted when I spoke was going to be par for the course. Taking these into consideration I focused trying to keep my voice firm and clear and not angry and aggressive.

This was all useful preparation, as when the other panelist talked about ‘sending people back to the country of their parental origin’ I was ready to challenge.

I focused on the need for long term solutions based on dialogue rather than short-sighted measures to ban people or ideas. Censorship is ineffective and often counter-productive, creating a dangerous scenario in which grievances and hateful ideas are pushed underground, further increasing levels of vulnerability.

On reflection, I was happy with my performance and it’s been great to receive positive comments about my calm composure.

More practically, ConnectJustice received a big spike in the hits on our website, and my appearance helped raise our profile and the work we carry out, especially our focus on state-community engagement and dialogue. Finally, it also made me reflect further on the ways in which we can project ourselves effectively, especially the difference and connections between being aggressive, assertive and confident on a media platform – particularly if you're a woman talking about security issues. Food for thought… and hopefully not the last time you'll see me on the small screen!

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Zubeda Limbada

Zubeda Limbada

Community justice campaigner

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