4 Tips to becoming a Guest on Talk Shows

Photo by Arthur Osipyan on Unsplash
January 10, 2019
Article By: Jesse Watrous

The telephone rings. You hear a voice say, "Hello, I'm the Producer of… (Good Morning America, Oprah, or Larry King Live)" or some other best-syndicated program. This is your pivotal turning point, the break you've been hanging tight for. How do you respond?

Producer's make an evaluation of you in thirty seconds or less. When you get that call from a Producer, you're not only just talking to him/her; you're actually auditioning. You're being screened to see if will they invite you to be on their show. Will you pass their test?


Tip #1: Ask Before You Speak

Before you even open your mouth to begin pitching yourself and your story to the Producer, make a basic inquiry: "Can you tell me about your show?" Ask the Producer what they're looking for or what content they're seeking.

Doing this has two advantages. To begin with, it gives you a minute to overcome the shock and then to gather your thoughts.

Second, when you hear the Producer's answer, you can then adapt your pitch. Listen carefully to what the Producer is looking for and you can tailor your points to it. Publicists regularly utilize this technique in order to set up their clients for shows. They "get" before they "give" so Publicists would be in a good position to tell only the most pertinent information about their client.

Tip #2: Wow the Producers with Brevity

Advice from Dizzy Gillespie (jazz musician)  "It’s not how much you play. It’s how much you leave out." Keep a list of talking points with you when you talk to the Producer (use an app on your phone or computer to keep notes) so you can be brief.  You should have already rehearsed your points so your pitch sounds natural. Be prepared with several different angles or pitches. Publicist Leslie Rossman says "Nobody gets on these shows without a pre-interview. Be a great interview but don’t worry about the product you want to sell them because if you’re a great guest and you make great TV, they’ll want you."

Tip #3: Prove You're Not a Nutcase

If you area nutcase on air, the Producer will most likely lose their job. So what defines a nutcase? It’s a positive trait to be enthusiastic but anyone who is overly passionate is considered a nut. Richard Price (Best-selling author and screenwriter) says "The dangerous thrill of goodness. What happens is you can get very excited by your own power to do good." Don’t get carried away by your excitement. One way you can tell if you’re being overly zealous is that you keep hammering your point at top speed and you don't take a breath.

When you’re talking to a Producer, speak for about 30 seconds and then check in by asking, "Am I giving you the information that you’re looking for?" Also listen for other verbal cues, such as encouraging grunts.

Tip #4: Can You Mark "The Big Point?"

The tv show "This American Life" and was hosted by Ira Glass, had the wrap-up epiphany at the end of a story, "The Big Point". This is when the narrator gives his/her perspective on the story to elevate it from boring to something more interesting.

Garrison Keillor (radio personality), tells long, drifting stories (not a word of wisdom), and then ties up the story in a fulfilling way. As a valued guest, you want to highlight your story with major points that help the audience see the importance of your story. By framing your story, you're showing the Producer that you can contribute great information to their audience.

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