Joel Roberts, the media trainer, reports that many executives who are invited to be on TV think it is better to be taped, rather than live. They are wrong, he says: if you misspeak, you can correct yourself immediately or address the issue in some other way after the program. But when a show is taped, it will be edited and you have no control over what will be used. In the case of expert comments on news, you might talk for five or ten minutes and they use only one sentence.
“Do not be hasty to praise or blame; speak always as though you were giving testimony before the judgment seat of the gods,” advised Seneca the Younger in “De moribus.”
Ask if you can bring some small cue cards to put on the desk during the interview, which will help you overcome nerves and remember important points. If this is not allowed, practice visualizing the key words.
Do not assume that because you can speak well from a podium that you will be fine on television. If you expect to be appearing even occasionally on regional or national TV, you definitely need professional training. Look in the Yellow Pages under “Coaches and Communications Consultants” and online for “media training” or “media coaching” to get help. You can learn a lot in a single day or weekend, but more extended work will make you much smoother and more relaxed. Coaches will teach you how to gesture and use facial expressions so that you do not seem so wooden. They can help you boil down your message into thirty-second bursts. And they will make you look better in ways you will not notice if you critique your own video rehearsals.
Do not drink coffee before you go on camera because it will make you seem too excited. And do not drink alcohol or take a pill to relax or you will not be able to think quickly enough. Instead, exercise, take deep breaths, or meditate.
Some pointers from T. J. Walker of Media Training Worldwide include the following:
Do not look at the camera unless there is no host.
Lean slightly forward or you will look stiff — and it is okay to move a little.
Nod and tilt your head.
Smile slightly, even when you are talking.
Keep your hands above your waist and gesture occasionally, but not above your face, below your chest, or wider than your shoulders.
Vice President Richard Nixon, running against John F. Kennedy, refused makeup before the first televised presidential debate in history in 1960. What he did not know is that makeup would have closed his pores; instead, he sweated profusely under the camera lights, while JFK appeared cool. He also looked pale, having just gotten over an illness. Radio listeners thought Nixon won, while those who watched the debate believed he lost and the result contributed to his very narrow loss in the election.
Do not rely on makeup professionals to do the work you need before going on. There may not be any at the station or they may not have the right makeup or the time to work on you adequately.
Apply pancake makeup that matches your skin in advance or bring some with you for a professional to use (but do not use too much or you will look chalky).
A light blush below the eyes can mitigate bags or dark circles.
Do not use lipstick so bright it will draw too much attention. Ditto for nail polish (but be sure your nails are well groomed, of course; men tend to forget about this).
If you arrive late for a live broadcast, you are DOA. Assume traffic will be terrible. If you get there early, you will have an opportunity to review your notes right before you go on, build rapport with the interviewer, go over the format, have a sound check, and get made up.
As for clothing, the experts say:
Blues, grays, brown, camel, and khaki are the best colors for TV. Avoid stripes and patterns that will distract viewers (a striped tie is okay). Do not wear bright white shirts. Too much cleavage will attract viewer attention away from your message.
Men need to wear long socks if viewers will see their legs, while women should not wear dark hosiery.
Keep jewelry to a minimum, nothing too gaudy or jangling.
Contact lenses are best, although glasses can be worn. Get glare-proof lenses or tilt the glasses slightly forward to keep them from reflecting.
Study how guests appear on any program and you will get a better idea how to dress for TV success.