I’ve been writing opinion columns about technology for more than 20 years. The act of opinion writing takes place almost entirely inside your own head. To over-simplify the craft, it essentially involves the over-consumption of information from carefully curated resources and sources, followed by a maniacal obsession to find things that are wrong in the world. The actual column is an attempt to set things right.
At their best, opinion columns bust myths, correct gaps in the public’s understanding of something, or divine trends from disparate scraps of data. An opinion columnist’s job is to be a shark in the water, devouring weak ideas, weak products and weak points of conventional wisdom—and, in the end, to improve the ecosystem.
More than a year ago, I added an entirely different role to my work: I started anchoring Tech News Today (TNT), a major Internet technology news show from the TWiT network. Though I still write opinion columns, the first half of every weekday is devoted to doing the show.
I’ve appeared as a guest on countless broadcast shows—including mainstream shows on CNN, Fox News and CNBC—as well as on podcasts. But anchoring a show is an entirely different thing, and it required a learning curve.
I believe the things I’ve learned as a news anchor are applicable to success in just about any business area. So I’m offering Baseline readers these six best practices:
1. Embrace rejection.
Tech News Today is an interview show with a unique twist: Everyone I interview is a leading journalist, and our topic of conversation is always the article he or she just wrote. We have talented bookers on staff, but I do my own booking because I consider it a core part of the editorial process.
My objective is to invite only the best journalists, the ones who have written exceptional articles. They either have produced scoops or exclusives or they bring a singular context or perspective to the news.
Because of the journalists’ prominence, every day I face rejection by the peers I respect the most. In truth, the rejection is softened by the fact that nearly every invited guest genuinely wants to do the show. But often they’re traveling, in a meeting, in the wrong time zone or, for some other legitimate reason, they can’t do the show.
However, the willingness to face rejection enables me to get great interview guests.
The only way to overcome fear of rejection is to actively and deliberately take actions that you know could result in rejection. And killing the fear of rejection is a powerful thing in all aspects of life.
2. Let people own their own ideas and information.
I’ve often appeared as a guest on TV shows where the host didn’t understand the story and tried to make themselves seem knowledgeable by spouting off the facts and opinions they read in my column and passed them off as their own. That kind of approach comes from a place of insecurity, and it’s no way to serve a guest or an audience.
That’s why when I invite a guest on TNT, I fully educate myself on the topic at hand, but pretend that I don’t know the answers when I ask my questions. My research enables me to ask great questions, but then I give full credit to my guests, which enables them to give great answers.
That, I believe, is how you serve the audience’s interests. It’s also a great way to manage people.
Nothing erodes trust like a boss who takes credit for a subordinate’s ideas. And nothing builds trust like a boss who gives full credit to the person who deserves it.
And, by doing that, you’ll always end up with better information, better ideas and more motivated participants.
3. Never stop evolving.
The show I anchor now is completely different from the first show I did at the beginning of 2014. It has gotten better by constant small experiments. Some ideas work well and are built into the show permanently. Others don’t work, and we discard them.
The result is that the show never stops improving—and that’s magic. No matter where you start out, if you never stop improving, you will eventually lap everyone.