What it Takes to be a Good On-Air Television Guest

NBCU Academy recently shared a seminar on what it takes to become a good on-air television guest. If your faculty and research partners are searching for new outlets to share their expertise, consider these tips from the pros at NBC.

When you’re speaking to producers about a potential booking:

  • Subject line is king. When emailing producers to pitch yourself as an expert guest, make sure you have a compelling, attention-grabbing subject line.
  • Know the audience of the show you’re pitching. Most news programs change areas of focus, such as general news to the economy, hour-to-hour. Be sure you’re pitching yourself to the correct segment of the show.
  • Do you have any previous on-air experience? If so, share clips with producers! They’re much more likely to book a guest with a strong on-camera presence.

Preparing for a television appearance:

  • Keep in close contact with your producer. Make sure you know exactly when you need to arrive at the studio, dial into a phone line, or start a Zoom call. If you can, it’s always best practice to arrive a few minutes early, especially for online interviews to ensure there is adequate time to test video and audio connections
  • Ask your producer how long you’ll be on-air. If you only have two minutes with the host, plan your key talking points to fit that allotted time. If you speak for too long, it can disrupt the entire rest of the broadcast.
  • For virtual appearances, take a moment to set up optimal lighting and a clean, professional background.
  • Anticipate what the viewers and hosts want to know from you, and back up your thesis with solid evidence. Be prepared to  break down complex topics into layman’s terms for everyday viewers at home.
  • Practice your key messages so you can speak in 30-second sound bites. It can feel sticky at first, but practice makes perfect.
  • Be flexible as sometimes breaking news can alter the program’s rundown.

How to get called back for future appearances:

  • Follow up with the production team after your initial appearance to thank them for the opportunity.
  • Share a list of subjects that you can speak on, and let them know your typical availability. The easier it is for a producer to book you on short notice and for a variety of topics, the more likely you are to continue getting called back.
  • Leave a good impression by arriving on-time and being prepared for your interview.

We hope these tips help you book and prepare for television interviews. For more information, and any additional questions, please contact University Relations at unews@umn.edu.