What to Expect When You Go on TV
If you (or your talented PR person) secured your very first TV interview, you probably got through half a victory lap before the pre-appearance jitters set in. What will you wear? What will you say? How much time will you have?
Needless to say, TV appearances are a fantastic and hugely impactful way to reach a mass audience with your brand and message. But, they can also be pretty nerve-wracking. Want to know what to expect from the second you walk into the newsroom to the minute you scamper off set (fist pumping!)? Here, we take the mystery out of your 15 minutes of fame.
It’s Going to Be Hot
Those blaring lights are what make the anchors and sets look so dang pretty. So, plan accordingly. Pack tissues, dress light (without looking inappropriate), and mentally steel yourself for a few sweaty minutes.
If you’re appearing on live TV for the first time, brace yourself for a bit of chaos. There will be producers putting in your earpiece and giving you instructions on where to look, cameramen framing your shots, and a sound technician testing your mic. Roll with it. Use the time to collect your thoughts and practice your key points.
You’re Going to Have to Wear Make-Up
Guys, this is for you. I’ve seen plenty of wide-eyed men try to swat away powder brushes 20 seconds before going on-air. But just let it happen. It’ll help take away pre-appearance sweat and shininess, and let’s face it: They make everyone wear it for a reason.
You’re Going to Get Nervous
Even if you love the spotlight and aren’t easily fazed by situations that stress out 99% of the human race, if you’re appearing on TV for the first time, you’re probably going to get nervous.
The best way to combat those nerves? Prepare. Get your talking points together, pick out your outfit ahead of time, and watch the show a few times to familiarize yourself with the anchors, the set, and the pace. And take care of yourself! If you need to wake up at 4 AM to sneak in a yoga session, drink a vat of chamomile tea the night before, or stick a secret barf bag in your back pocket to keep calm, go right ahead.
You’re Going to Have Less Time Than You Think
Unless you’re appearing on a long-form, taped show—like Ellen or 60 Minutes—you’ll likely have 2-3 minutes of air time. And those minutes are going to go by fast!
So how can you prepare? First, prioritize your messaging. What are your five key points? And of those five, which two are the most important? Then, make a list of all of the questions—good and bad!—that you think you might be asked, and practice integrating those key points into your answers. To give you a sense of what 2-3 minutes of talking feels like, get out that iPhone stopwatch and start blabbing. Not as much time as you thought, huh?
You Might Get Cut Off
The anchors are going to want to get through as many questions as they can in the short time allotted, so if you take too long answering a question, they’re going to cut you off. If there’s a crucial point you’re about to make—make it quickly! And then let them move on.
It’s Not Going to go 100% According to Plan
Especially if it’s live TV. You might get asked a question you’d prefer not answer. Or, you might not get asked a question you practiced and perfected. The interview might get bumped by 20 minutes. The anchor that was originally going to interview you might get switched out for another one. (Who you’ve never seen before. Who might mispronounce your name.)
So, expect the unexpected. Figure out your measure of success—like delivering two key messages and pointing viewers to your website—and focus on that. The rest is just noise.
It’s All About You
Finally, keep in mind that when it comes to TV appearances, viewers are not only judging your brand or company based on how compelling you make it sound—they’re also judging it based on how much they like you.
When preparing, practice being your most polite, personable, relatable self as much as you practice the key points you want to get across. Have you ever seen a TV guest talk over the other anchors, looking mad and scrunch-faced? Didn’t like him much, did you? If you find yourself stumbling through your messaging or having a hard time keeping a smile on your face, remember that this is what media training professionals specialize in! If there’s ever a time to splurge on one, it would be now.
Beyond that—have fun! Being on TV is a not-many-times-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so enjoy it.
Alex Honeysett is a Brand & Marketing Strategist and the creator of The Pitch Course, an in-depth, self-paced online course that teaches entrepreneurs how to find, pitch, and land speaking gigs, guest blogs, and podcast interviews. After spending nearly a decade leading communications strategies for multimillion dollar brands and startups in NYC and London, Alex now teaches entrepreneurs how to message and promote their own businesses, human-to-human. Alex's articles have been featured in the Daily Muse, Forbes, Inc., Mashable, DailyWorth, TIME, and Newsweek.More from this Author