Outstanding communicators have one thing in common: they know how to deliver their messages in the face of tough or unexpected questions. They understand how to bridge from a question they can’t or don’t want to answer to a key message without hesitation. We teach this concept in our seminars with the help of a 2012 video From the Archives.

A fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California led to a live television telephone interview with company spokesperson Walt Gill. He was asked several questions that he didn’t have answers for and did not want to speculate on. So, Gill briefly addressed the questions with phrases such as “I’m not aware of that” and “We’re still working to assess the magnitude of this event.” He then went on to bridge to his key messages that there were no known injuries and Chevron was working hard to extinguish the fire. Take a look at this video:

Did you notice that once Gill briefly addressed a question, he immediately bridged to a key message without waiting for another question? He wanted viewers to know that Chevron’s priorities were the safety of its employees and putting out the flames.

When asked a difficult question during an interview or news briefing, it’s best to address or acknowledge the question, then quickly bridge to something you want to talk about. Don’t skip the addressing part. That’s what politicians do and that’s why we often don’t trust them. And you want to be careful not to sound robotic and programmed by bridging to the identical message with the same words after every question.

Bridging is an invaluable skill you should add to your communications tool kit. Master the art of the bridge and you will build your confidence and effectiveness during interviews and news briefings.