You don’t have to be a celebrity to appear as a guest on radio and television shows. Really, there aren’t enough celebrities to fill the thousands of slots available daily. Producers and hosts need the rest of us.
When Dr. Wayne Dyer toured the country as an unknown writer to promote his first book, Your Erroneous Zones, he guested on interview shows from one coast to the other. Anonymous as he was, he still found slots almost anywhere. He concluded, “You’ll get air time if you offer something rather elementary. . .such as a new recipe for avocado dip.”
First-time appearances strike fear into the hearts of typical guests. It’s amazing how the most talkative folks go blank when confronted by a microphone.
Having hosted shows, and having been a guest hundreds of times, I’ll share a few pointers.
Prior to the show, send the host your list of “sample questions.” The majority of hosts will welcome your preparation. They reserve the freedom to deviate from the list, and will. Even so, they are likely to pose several questions you provide.
Use your “natural” voice. Guests tend to increase volume, try to project more forcefully, often as imitations of incredible voices they hear on radio and TV. This is not necessary. The equipment will magnify your ordinary speaking level. In fact, bombastic, boisterous speaking dims your voice quality. The receiving equipment gears down, to keep the speaker within an acceptable decibel range.
Granted, you want to avoid mumbling. Be assured, though, when your interviewer hears you plainly, listeners and viewers will, too, assuming you’re sitting the right distance from the microphone (or your lapel mic is placed properly).
Most of the time, you’ll have a sound check before air time. Those controlling the audio are looking for the volume you’ll use during the program. Stay close to what you use for testing, and you’re fine.
Remember, we are describing interviews, not speeches. Our goal is to answer in sentences, avoiding long pararaph or full-page answers. Monologues drive listeners away. People stay tuned for interaction.
At the other extreme, one-word answers are taboo. The guest who responds with “yes,” “no,” “probably,” “uh huh” turns the show back to the host too abruptly. The host is looking for, “Yes, and here are my reasons for endorsing the proposal.”
In normal conversations, people fear pauses. Our anxiety about pauses magnifies when we go on the air. We picture thousands of people muttering, “Has this guest forgotten the question, or gone blank?” Luckily, we’re allowed a couple of seconds to ponder the question. Use the interval when you must to find the right words. I say “when you must” because pausing after every question could reduce the desired vitality.
As with other public speaking, talk–and don’t read. Reading will sound like reading, unless you have extraordinary skills. Confine your reading to verbatim quotations, facts you haven’t memorizes, and position statements where the wrong word damages the material’s integrity.
In using notes, avoid turning pages loudly. Yes, you can even bring notes to your TV interview, as long as you place them inconspicuously–on your lap or a nearby table. Obviously, use large print to prevent squinting and searching.
Should you gesture on TV? That depends on what you do in daily conversation. Talkers who gesture in bridge table chitchat will feel comfortable gesturing on the show. Facing the television camera, make your gestures close to the body to stay within camera range.
Clothing matters little with radio. Television guests have wide latitude, depending upon the show’s format, which of course you’d check. Do not wear red (it bleeds on the screen), iridescent clothing whose images flutter, mismatched colors, gaudy material. A general rule: this is no style show. You want viewers to remember your content, not the package.
My final suggestion: demonstrate vigor, zest, and commitment to your topic. Before you appear as a guest, tune into TV and talk radio for a few days. You’ll gain increased respect for guests who transmit energy. Listeners keep the stations and channels fixed on those programs.
Try my recommendations, and your guest shots will be fascinating, fun, and professionally beneficial.
Bill Lampton, Ph.D.–author of The Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication, Change Your Life!–helps individuals “Learn More. . .Earn More,” through his expertise in communication, motivation, customer service, and sales. His speeches, seminars, and communication coaching have benefited top-tier clients, including the Ritz-Carlton Cancun, Gillette, Duracell, Procter & Gamble, Missouri Bar, CenturyTel, British Columbia Legal Management Association, and the Environmental Protection Agency.