How to Prepare for Your Television Appearance

A strange thing happened during the 1960 presidential debates between candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. People who saw the debates on TV thought that the young and handsome Kennedy won, while people who heard the same debates on the radio thought that Nixon had won. Why?

Microphones At Press ConferenceBecause on television, Nixon appeared nervous and sweaty, unconsciously biasing the television audience against him.  As history tells, Kennedy went on to win at the ballot box that year, while Nixon’s life ended in ignominy. You don’t want to be like Nixon do you? Then take a lesson from his election-blowing mistake and prepare, prepare, prepare before making a television appearance. Here’s how:

1.)   Watch Other Interviewees – Even if you have not yet been booked for a television appearance, you can start preparing for when that day comes. Watch a mixture of national and local shows that feature guests from your industry, and observe what they do right and wrong. Local talk shows often feature guests with little media training, and are a great source for “what not to do” during a television appearance.

2.)   Do Your Research – When you have been booked for a television appearance, learn everything you can about the show. Who will be interviewing you and what are her interests and biases? Who is the show’s target audience? What is the topic of the interview? What types of questions will be asked? Where will it be conducted? How long will the interview last?

3.)   Know Your Talking Points – What message do you want to convey in the interview? Conversely, what message do you want to avoid? Once you have figured out these key issues, concentrate your message into 10-30 second sound bites.  It’s key here to know how long the interview will last. You will have time to expand on your points in a 20 minute interview, but in a three minute interview, you must get your message out there as quickly and concisely as possible. Also be prepared with examples or analogies. Stories people can relate to help your message resonate with the audience.

4.)   Perform a Mock Interview – Come up with an exhaustive list of questions that the interviewer might ask and then have a friend or colleague pretend to interview you. Be sure to include any tricky questions the interviewer might slip in. Don’t stop practicing until you can convey your intended message when answering any question.

5.)   Dress for TV – Wear rich, solid colors. Avoid wearing red, white, pastels, or clothes with bold patterns or lines, as they tend to skew when on camera. While some shows will have a hair and makeup department to help you prepare, many won’t. Women should apply their makeup more heavily than usual, because it will wash out on the screen. Avoid scarves near the face, and large, flashy jewelry as it may pick up the light or distract from your face. Try to view yourself in the monitor before the interview begins.

Follow these pre-television appearance tips and you will come away from your interview with a clip that you can leverage in your PR efforts for years to come.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Grab your free 160-page copy of the Big Press Release Book – Press Releases for Every Occasion and Industry here:

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