For most business owners, the chance to appear on TV and share their insights is a huge opportunity to add credibility to their brand and publicize their work.
But getting the booking for a television segment is not the end of the challenge. It's just the beginning.
Some producers will prep a guest beforehand. But television moves quickly and producers are used to working with people who already know what to do. And it's easy for a producer to gloss over details yet still have high expectations for a guest.
Here are some behind-the-scenes tips gleaned from my vantage point of having done media training for clients to prep them for television as well as having received feedback from decision makers in broadcasting:
1. Select the right on-camera attire.
Decide the message you want to convey to the audience. A suit might work best if your topic is finance because it reflects the industry.
But for those who work in the more relaxed environments of tech firms, startups or nonprofits, appearing in casual attire (jeans, khakis without a jacket) is perfectly reasonable. If a woman can’t remember the last time she wore a skirt or dress, the day of a TV appearance is not the best time to try to resurrect the look.
Avoid any patterns, as in houndstooth or tweed weaves, that might distract an audience. The viewers’ attention should be focused on what the guest is saying not wearing.
Jeff Carrion, a digital media specialist and producer and a former co-worker of mine, tells me he recommends wearing solid, complementary colors and steering clear of plain white or all black. Eggplant purple, navy, burgundy and forest green shades are all safe bets.
Women should accessorize with small earrings and necklaces. Large, dangly jewelry can be noisy and interfere with the sound of microphones, which are typically clipped onto the neckline of clothing.
The structure and fabric of the material matters. Flimsy fabrics like silk can cause a microphone to flop around and distort the sound. A suit jacket, sweater, cardigan or a button-down shirt with a collar provide the best option for mike placement.
2. Approach a segment as a conversation.
To calm the nerves, remember that the core of the TV interaction is two people having a conversation. Know the three most important points you'd like to make, prepare for all types of questions and let the dialogue flow. A rookie mistake is wanting to script the conversation, which eliminates any spontaneous synergy between a guest and a host.
3. Make eye contact.
Unless told otherwise, a guest should always look at the person conducting the interview not the cameras. Television studios often have multiple cameras and it can be dizzying to viewers if a speaker’s eyes are moving from camera to camera and then to the interviewer.
4. Eliminate filler words.
In everyday conversation people frequently use words like uh huh and yeah to voice agreement. On television, actively listen and express sentiments in complete sentences. Avoid creating an experience whereby two people talk over one another.
5. Speak passionately.
Most producers are willing to book a guest without prior on-camera experience. But the best way to make them regret that decision is for a guest to not be dynamic on camera, a sentiment shared by Emerald-Jane Hunter, a booker for ABC Chicago’s Windy City Live, whom I've collaborated with.
There should be emotion in a guest's voice. If a speaker isn't excited, why should anyone else be?
6. Avoid sounding self-serving.
During a first-time TV appearance, a guest might be slightly nervous about how and when to promote his or her business. An anchor or host might ask a guest how viewers can obtain more information, providing a natural way to mention the company. Typically that information might be also included in text posted with the video link on the show's website.
7. Publicize an appearance on social media.
Take time to promote an appearance before and after the show through social media. If a guest does not help draw an audience, then he or she is indirectly telling a producer there's not a whole lot of interest in the topic involved, making it difficult to justify to a TV team why it should cover this matter in the future.
A guest should help a producer do his or her job by promoting the appearance among social-media contacts and helping to bring in viewers.
8. Offer thanks.
Send the booking producer a thank-you note and refer to any impact the television appearance had. Perhaps it led to a spike in sales, new business or grant funding. Take the time to say thank you for granting an opportunity to reach a larger audience.
The best approach to a television appearance is to see it as an opportunity for two people to help each other do their jobs well. Focus on the other person, instead of trying to sell something, and there's no way it can go wrong.