How to go on TV in 5 steps
The sixth step is keeping your kids out of the shot
This is a post about how to go on TV.
That’s a different question from “whether to go on TV” (only if the tactic makes sense for you and you’re good on the spot) or “how to get on TV” (get to know producers and have a current events hook).
Assuming you’ve decided it’s useful to be on TV and you’ve landed an interview slot, you probably won’t have much time to get ready. Most TV segments are tied to what’s in the news and therefore get booked within a couple days out, or even same day. So you should be pretty comfortable with your material and your “stage presence” before you even pitch or accept an interview. The good news is that once these pieces are in place, you can prepare quickly.
These are the 5 steps for making sure you have a great TV hit.
1. Prepare your ONE headline message and your FIRST answer
Before even accepting the interview, you should already have decided (1) what you’re trying to get out of doing this, (2) the audience you’re speaking to, (3) how to frame your message in a way that will resonate with them.
Use that information to distill the ONE big thing you want viewers to take away from your interview, and start conveying that message in your FIRST answer. TV interviews end abruptly, sometimes after five, or even three, questions. I once had a founder doing an interview on one of the biggest shows on TV and he was cut off after the first question because of “breaking news.” So, get your headline message in right away.
Use anecdotes and stats to make your point, instead of adjectives. No one will remember or care about the fact that you think your company is great/disruptive/innovative/etc. “I saw on TV today that 85% of unused restaurant food gets thrown out” is more likely to be recounted at the dinner table than “I saw on TV today that a lot of food gets wasted.”
2. Negotiate with the producer in advance
Make sure the producer has (1) the full context for the topic you want to discuss; (2) a few brief bullets about yourself for the hosts to use for introducing you, including name pronunciation, preferred title, and anything you want to plug; (3) any images or B-roll video you want them to have on the screen while you’re talking.
Of course a producer can get any of these things without your help, but why leave it up to chance and Google? Here’s your opportunity to set the scene correctly, and if you can make their jobs easier in the process then you’re more likely to get invited back.
I also suggest always trying to negotiate the chyron, i.e., the lower third of the screen, the banner that sits below your face while you’re talking. It’s important because it sits below your face while you’re talking, and also because it often affects how the segment is described when it gets posted online, which in turn affects your Google and YouTube results. The producer is under no obligation to take your request, but it doesn’t hurt to at least offer.
3. Study the tape
Watch some clips of the show to get familiar with the hosts and their style, and to build comfort. You should already have researched the hosts before committing to go on, in case there’s something about their interview style or views that could lead to a clash (unless you’re seeking a confrontation on purpose, but that should be very rare and TV probably isn’t the right medium for it).
You might also want to watch your own past interviews to look for things to improve on (I know this is excruciating, sorry).
4. Remember these things during the interview
Body language is king.
Get one clear message across, starting with the first answer you give.
Use anecdotes and stories, not adjectives.
Don’t get sidetracked by irrelevant topics; stay on track and don’t get sucked into someone else’s agenda.
End your answers cleanly, with a period instead of an ellipsis or question mark. Get comfortable with a half beat of silence after you’re done talking.
Never memorize a script; it shows.
5. Complete your follow through
Right after the interview (unless it really went sideways), thank the host and the producer. To open doors for more opportunities in the future — and for the sake of courtesy in a world that has too little of it — I suggest that the guest sends a brief personal note to the host, referencing a specific topic they might want to discuss more in the future, while the comms lead thanks the producer.
Then make sure to share clips with employees and investors, amplify content on your own channels, and use the clips to build new relationships (e.g., “Hey Prospect X, a while back we had discussed Y topic, so I thought you’d like this clip from Z”).
That’s it. Break a leg.
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Great tips. Solid fundamentals. And without fundamentals, you'll never hit the home run. Thank you.
What would we do without your wisdom on this subject? I've known WAY too many people who have bombed more than three of these steps in one interview.