When you prepare to appear on broadcast television, it can sometimes feel like there’s a thin line between big opportunities and sheer terror. For example, one of our clients, let’s call him David, was waiting patiently in the green room for his segment when the CNBC producer walked back in the room she said, “You’re on next. Jon is in San Francisco today. Kayla will be at the desk with you, and Jon will be in your ear. Oh, and one more thing. The guest that was booked to go on after you got delayed into LaGuardia…can you stay on for the next segment, too?”

David, an executive with decades of industry experience, looked at me a little wide-eyed, but then he turned and responded to the producer, “ready when you are”.  

True story. Everything worked out. Nothing went as planned, but the interview was great — flawless, really — but ONLY because David took the time to prepare for these unexpected changes.

Executives must prepare very differently when engaging with broadcast media. The pace is faster, the topics are more general, and the conversation may go in a completely different direction than you anticipated.  

Below are some tips to review to make sure your 45 seconds in front of the camera makes an impact. Some may seem a little obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many busy executives skip these steps because they don’t prioritize preparation, or they procrastinate until a day or two before they go on the air.

It’s Go Time: Accompanying a client on the set of CNBC at the New York Stock Exchange

  1. Tune in: Watch past episodes of the show. Each show has a priority (news, analysis, trend commentary, etc). Understand the flow of the show (longer format or hard-hitting questions) and take some mental notes. Just as you’d prepare for an in-person meeting, doing this basic prep will yield better results.
  2. Understand your audience: Generally speaking, TV attracts an audience with a wide range of familiarity regarding you, your company, and the commentary you’re delivering.  Streamlining your messages and keeping them crisp and dead simple (while still addressing the question that was asked) will insure your commentary is easily understood by your audience.
  3. You have to want it to win it: All forms of public speaking are not created equal — broadcast interview opportunities are not for the faint of heart. You have to emotionally commit to prep and your performance because it’s very hard to hide poor preparation or ambivalence when you’re on the air!    
  4. Repetition drives results! The best broadcast guests aren’t born overnight. At Tenor, we’ve built a series of broadcast interview practice sessions — the three-part program builds to perfect your delivery, confidence and provides practical dos and don’ts — all while refining your message. We put first timers in a broadcast studio setting to practice tone, volume and get comfortable before the bright lights.  
  5. Be you. Broadcast media is the best medium to inject your personality into the conversation. Be authoritative, yet conversational. While preparing your thoughts and refining your message is important, adding your personality to the discussion makes the interview! And one last thing…don’t worry about being funny if comedy is not your thing.  You can demonstrate a sense of humor through positive responses without having to carry the burden of cracking jokes.
  6. Understand the different types of interviewer questions:  Practice answering different types of questions. Sometimes the most simple questions can throw you for a loop if you’re not prepared.  
    1. The quirky icebreaker question: These “small-talk” questions are asked to inject personality into the conversation. You may be asked about your outfit, your background, etc. Bottom line, keep your answer short.
    2. The Curveball: This is a whole category onto itself. Typically broadcasters need to interject breaking news into the discussion and bring up topics outside the scope of what was agreed upon. Such news could include a timely event, negative press from the past, or sensational news about an industry exec (ie, an exec returning to run a failing company, an exec fire, etc). When you’re fielding a curveball – or any question really – your point must be made quickly. As a general rule, lead with the soundbite (the main point) and the follow with supporting messages.
    3. The Prior Segment Follow-On Question:  Pay attention to segments leading up to yours. You may be asked to comment on what just transpired.  
    4. Responding to Criticism: So-and-so just said this about you or your company, how would you like to respond?
  7. Act the part! Your appearance is important and should reflect your title and purpose. If you’re a CEO speaking about company earnings, a suit and tie is a must. If you’re promoting the latest surfboard, board shorts are relevant.
  8. Be the early bird:  Show up for your segment early. This allows you to get in the makeup chair (yes, men also need makeup on TV!), get your bearings, and watch the segments leading up to yours. Use this time to review your talking points and speak with the segment producer.  As mentioned above, changes to your segment could have been approved in the last few hours, and you’ll need time to adjust.  

Most serious broadcast journalists share your same goal — to engage in a quality, informative discussion that will keep viewers tuned in. Showing your willingness to prepare, to be available, and to be flexibility are critical to callbacks for future segments. In fact, our client David (story at the top), was asked back 4+ times after his stellar “two-segment” performance!