Two bloggers covering the red carpet at the recent Daytime Emmy Awards embarrassed themselves and the network, a genuine televised debacle. They clearly were not camera-ready, an example of the importance of being prepared for a TV appearance.
When new personalities are tapped to be on television for the first time, being camera-ready is crucial. If you get the opportunity to be on television, here’s cheat sheet of what you should and shouldn’t do on-air to make the most of your TV moment.
1. Be authentic, don’t fake your expertise. Faking your expertise is not going to get you very far, and will certainly guarantee that you’ll never get on air again.
In the case of inexperienced TV personality Brittany Furlan, one of the bloggers who covered the 2014 Daytime Emmy Awards red carpet, "faking it" was a big television #FAIL. Furlan asked bad questions and made inappropriate comments to guests during the pre-show event. After the event, Furlan admitted on her Youtube channel that she did not recognize a single celebrity face on the red carpet.
While not every instance of faked expertise will have such a widespread backlash, trying to fit in a producer’s mold for a segment is never a good idea. The camera will see right through you. You risk embarassing yourself, the producer and the show.
Faking your expertise guarantees you won't be invited back. If you don't know something, say so. Better yet, recommend someone who might be a better fit. The producer will remember your honesty and help, and you will get another chance to be on-air.
2. Relax, don’t stress. If you want the camera to love you, you have to love it right back! If it is your first time on television it is natural to be nervous. To reduce your nervousness before an appearance, rehearse with a friend or relative or, at least, practice talking and smiling before a mirror while answering your questions.
You should have your pre-interview questions handy, so set up a mock interview ahead of time. It's a great way to hear yourself and feel comfortable in your seat. Practice talking with a full voice. Articulate your words and breathe, so you speak from your chest, not your nose. Rehearse how you will sit and where you will place your hands. Prior to your interview, ask for a glass of water and clear your throat.
It’s very important that you don’t show up overdressed, with too much jewelry. The audience is more interested in what you have to say than what you have to show.
3. Don't memorize questions and answers, listen. When you are booked for a segment you will be contacted and pre-interviewed by a producer. It's best not to memorize those questions for your interview. They are just a road map for the segment.
There is a good chance your host will change the order of the questions or ask a variation. The best thing for you to do is listen to the interviewer. You were booked for the interview because of your expertise. If you listen to the question, you should be able to answer it in a concise and informative way. Avoid giving “yes” and “no” answers. Be conversational. Pretend you are talking to that friend from your mock session.
4. Be classy, don’t over promote. If you land a television appearance, it’s most probably because the producer is impressed with your credentials and your personality.
When you get in front of the camera, there is no reason to change the way you talk, become theatrical or overly funny. Speak as you would to a friend. Be lively without overdoing it. That includes over-promoting yourself. If you've written a book, or have a website or any other product to promote, let the interviewer mention it. The worst thing you can do is plug your product every chance you get. It's tacky.
A good producer will include your information in your lower third identifier, which will flash on the screen under your name during the interview. It's fine for you to ask the producer beforehand if that has been taken care of. You can even ask the producer to include the information in your introduction to the segment and again at the close of the segment. At least you are guaranteed two promotional mentions.
5. Be concise, don’t talk aimlessly. During your interview, you want to make sure your message gets through loud and clear. Television time goes quickly, so for any three-to-four minute interview determine your three top talking points in advance.
When your interview starts, follow the interviewer's lead but remember to go through each point at the beginning of the segment. If there is time at the end of the interview you can circle back and elaborate on each one of the talking points. Again, when you’re preparing for your appearance, don’t memorize your lines like a speech. Think in soundbites and concise nuggets of information. Many times those turn into tweetable moments that your audience will remember and share on social media.
A television appearance is not an opportunity that comes by everyday. If you get it right the first time, producers and the audience alike will want to hear more from you. Be yourself, be credible, be focused. That is the fool-proof way to be successful on-air and, most likely, be invited back.