This blog post on media coaching is for you if the thought of being on TV keeps you awake at night. As a former reporter with a Pulitzer Prize and many TV appearances (Good Morning America, NBC LA, and ABC Money Matters) under my belt–I’m here to demystify the art of appearing on TV. I have picked up quite a few tips and I’m telling you, it’s not brain science. It takes a little practice, but you totally got this. And after your successful TV appearance, you’ll dread the next one just a little bit less.
This blog post was updated September 2019.
9 Media Coaching Tips to Ace Your TV Appearance
1. Smile more than you think you need to
If you don’t smile, on TV it looks like you’re really pissed off or having a terrible, horrible, really bad day. If you smile normally, on TV it looks like you’re *almost* in a good mood. If you plaster a 1,000-megawatt smile on your face the entire interview, on TV it looks like you’re a happy, confident person.
Everything is toned down on TV, so smile more than you think you need to, even when you’re not talking.
2. Stay on message
The best way to stay on message is to think ahead about what you want to say, sketch out a few bullet points (experts agree three is plenty), practice them, and then stick to those talking points. TV segments, as they call them, are often very brief, perhaps a few minutes. So your 10- or 15-minute on-camera interview may be cut down in the editing room to one single sentence–or part of a sentence.
And if you are so lucky as to give multiple interviews on the same topic, I encourage you to repeat ourself. You can safely assume that not everyone will have seen, read, or heard your first interview, so remember that subsequent interviews (even if they are with the same station) will reach a new audience that needs to hear the same basic messages. Like a veteran politician, staying on message ensures you get your message across.
It is possible the host will ask you a question you’ve answered dozens of times. Instead of letting your well-practiced answer fall flat, deliver it with passion. Give weight and emphasis to your answer, make viewers care about what you are saying by showing how much you care.
If you’re appearing on live TV, or a segment that is taped in the studio, ask ahead of time who else will be on the show with you, how long your segment will be, and what questions they will be asking you.
3. Stay positive
I had a client once decline media coaching, telling me he was comfortable talking to reporters, then went on live streaming TV to say that an associate of his was in jail. You can imagine how well that went over. So if you realize you’ve strayed off message (hey, it happens!) at all costs, stay positive. There are exceptions here, depending on the circumstances that connect you to the story, but often there is a way to frame a negative event into something positive.
For example, if a patron got sick at a restaurant, one way to approach the story could be to share what new training or practices have been put in place since the incident. This shows how much the restaurant cares about its patrons and its reputation while acknowledging mistakes.
4. You are the expert
Why are they interviewing me? Do I really have something to say? If you suffer from self-doubt–and we ALL do–this bit of media coaching advice may calm your fears. Media is there to talk to you precisely because you DO have something to say. They are interviewing you because you are an expert in your field or have a unique perspective to share. If you’re terrified the reporter will ask you something you don’t know the answer to, pause and remember that media (for the vast majority of stories) wants you to do well because it makes them look good. Good, interesting conversation makes for good TV. Awkward pauses? Not so much.
5. Nod your head
If you don’t move your head at all, or if you move it very little, on TV you come off as very awkward or frozen with fear. Instead, practice nodding every few words and especially to make a point. Feels super strange, right? But on TV, nodding makes you seem comfortably engaged. As in, “I was (mod) mowing the (nod) lawn, when I said to myself, (nod) what is for (nod) dinner?”
Practice dipping your chin down as you talk, using the down movement for emphasis, much as you would at the end of a sentence.
If you think I’m crazy, turn on the TV right now and watch how much a newscaster moves their head. And you never noticed before!!!
6. Wear jewel tones
Jewel tones look good on camera, especially for women. By jewel tones, I mean the colors of naturally occurring gems. Think pinks, reds, greens, and blues.
Crazy prints are straight out, too. DON’T do it. They will jump around on the camera and completely distract from what you are saying. Keep your outfits simple and limit patterns as much as possible. Avoid low cut blouses or dresses.
7. Keep jewelry minimal and basic
Flashy jewelry grabs the viewer’s attention away from you and your brand or business or message. Similar to how a crazy print top or dress distracts viewers away from you. Stick to studs, small hanging earrings, simple necklaces, and skip the bracelets. You want people to focus on your face.
8. Look your best
If you have an on-screen interview coming up, why not get that long-overdue haircut or take a bit of time to style your hair? You only have one chance to make a good–or bad–impression, and if you intend to capitalize on the media coverage by sharing the TV clip widely, you have even more incentive to polish your appearance.
9. Enjoy the conversation
Forget who is watching at home. Focus on enjoying the conversation with the host(s). The TV station wants to interview you on because they know you’re going to be a great guest. It bears repeating that they want you to look good because it makes them look good.
National TV shows do an especially good job at vetting their guests, usually requiring them to already have been on national television. A tricky catch-22 there. Move your way up the ladder rung by rung, and save your best clips.
Your TV appearance will be over before you know it. I hope this blog post on media coaching helps you ace your next TV appearance.