Several Tips To Being A Guest On The Top Television Talk Shows

October 14, 2010
By Jon Miller

Okay the telephone rings. You hear an authoritative voice say, Hello, I'm the producer of...Good Morning America or Oprah, or Larry King Live or other top talk show, you name it. Here's your big moment, the break you have been awaiting. After you catch your breath what now?

Producers make an immediate assessment of individuals in thirty seconds--or less. When you are getting that coveted call from the producer, you aren't just talking to him: you're auditioning. You're being screened to become accepted or eliminated as a guest on their show. How could you pass the audition?

1. Ask Before you decide to Speak. Before you even open your mouth to start pitching yourself as well as your story towards the producer, ask them a simple question: Can you tell me a little bit about the kind of show you envision? In other words, ask the producer the angle he's likely to take.

Doing this has two advantages. First, it provides you with a moment to overcome the shock and also to collect your thoughts.

Second, once you hear the producer's reply, you are able to gear your pitch to the type of information he is seeking. Listen closely towards the angle that he's interested in and tailor your points to it. Publicists often use this technique to have their clients booked on shows. They get before they give - so that they are in a great position to tell just the most pertinent details about their client.

2. Wow the Producers with Brevity. Follow the advice of jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie: It's not how much you play. It's just how much you leave out. Keep the list of talking points by the phone when you call a producer (or perhaps a producer calls you), so you will be succinct. You will already have rehearsed your points to ensure that they are going to sound natural and inviting. Be prepared with several different angles or pitches, different ways to slant your information. Nobody gets on these shows without a pre- interview, says publicist Leslie Rossman. Be a great interview but don't worry concerning the product you need to sell them if you are a great guest and you make great TV, they'll want you.

And also keep in mind the words of Robert Frost: Half the world consists of those who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.

3. Prove You aren't a Nutcase. If you are a nutcase on the air, the producer will lose their job. What is really a nutcase? You may think it is a positive trait to be enthusiastic (which it is), but anyone who is overly zealous about his passion is recognized as a nut. Best-selling author and screenwriter Richard Price discusses this phenomenon as The dangerous thrill of goodness. He admits that, What happens is you can get very excited by your own power to do good. Do not get carried away by this thrill.

One method to tell if you are being too zealous is that you're hammering your point at top speed with the energy of a locomotive pulling that toot lever non-stop. I remember a guy calling me up about how he was single-handedly taking on Starbucks - who, he felt, had done him wrong. He wanted me to advertise his cause. Although this might have been an excellent David versus Goliath type story, he was long on emotion and short on facts. Some statistics or figures would have tempered his mania.

Nevertheless he also never checked along with me to determine if he had my interest. By talking loudly and barely pausing for any breath, he seemed to be a man who would not take direction well. His single-mindedness was off- putting, not engaging.

When you're talking to a producer speak for a few seconds or so and then sign in by asking, Is this the type of information you are considering? Listen for other verbal cues, such as encouraging grunts, or uh huhs.

4. Can you Mark The Big Point? Contributors to the popular radio show This American Life, hosted by Ira Glass, have taken to calling the wrap-up epiphany at the end of a story, The Big Point. This is the moment that the narrator gives his perspective about the story so that they can elevate it from the mundane towards the universal.

An additional radio personality, Garrison Keillor, is a master at it. He tells long, rambling stories (not good advice for you personally), then ties up all the story strands inside a coherent and satisfying way. Like a great guest, you want to illuminate your story having a big standout point that can help the crowd see value of your story within their world and the planet at large. Rather than hitting them over the head with a two-by-four, you need to share your insights with a feather-like touch. By framing your story you alert the producer to the truth that you are a thinker and can contribute great insights and clarity to a story thus increasing its appeal.

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