How to be great on TV.
Back when I started doing TV for Fox, it used to be kind of a special thing to be on TV. Now, I see a lot of people on TV, commenting about a wide range of topics. I’m fine with that: we’re all experts on one thing or another, and our expertise eventually has its 15 minutes of fame.
What I’m not fine with, however, is how awful some people are once they get in front of the camera. In fact, the catch-phrase is “they’re not good TV.”
So, if you have an opportunity to be a star — even if only for a moment — let me share with you a few simple tips I’ve gathered over the years.
1. Smile. I can’t emphasize this enough. No matter how ludicrous your comments. No matter how badly you look. No matter how lame you sound, everything you say will come across much better if you smile. Trust me.
2. Don’t take yourself so damn seriously. You’re on TV. Fine. But, you’re not G*d. So, while you are the subject matter expert, at least appear to be humble. Viewers hate know-it-alls.
3. Remember, you’re on TV. That means your segment might last 5 minutes if you’re lucky. And if you’re on with other guests, your specific time will be a lot shorter. So, think in terms of 30 second answers, not monologues.
4. Come armed with an interesting fact or two. Viewers are dying to learn something interesting. Something they haven’t thought of. Something relevent. Surprise them.
5. Be gracious. It’s easy to play the zero-sum game, tearing down the other guests so you look better. And believe me, it’s fine to take the opposite side of a debate. (that’s “good TV.”) But there’s no need to make it personal by making fun of the other person. Then you come across as a bully. And viewers don’t like bullies.
Now, if you can keep in mind all 5 items above, you’ll be superb. But, if you screw up, at least remember #1. It’s always tough to find fault with someone who gives a genuine smile.