Befriend Your Host -Media Training

For years I have stressed that you should be friendly to your on-air hosts. After all, these hosts have been invited guests in people’s living rooms, bedrooms and offices, sometimes on a daily basis for years. The audience has a bond with the host, not with you.

For that reason it is a good idea to address the host by name occasionally (but don’t start every sentence using the host’s name – that gets annoying). Similarly, I always used to advocate shaking hands with your host at the end of an interview segment. This visually demonstrates a link between the host and you. Ideally, some of the goodwill the audience has toward the host will rub off on you. Plus, this is the last impression the audience will have of you, being gracious and acting friendly with the host.

Alas, this advice is no longer applicable on all TV interview formats. Recently, I was being profiled on Bloomberg TV, the business network, in a taped interview. At the conclusion of the interview, I reached over to shake the hand of the interviewer and he reluctantly shook it. Then the host said, “Cut, we will have to do that over. Sorry, TJ, but our corporate policies forbid us from shaking hands with guests on the air. After all of the conflict-of-interest scandals in the financial world in recent years, our policy makers have decided it looks too much like hosts and guests are buddy-buddy insiders. Not what we want our viewers to think.”

I had to admit I had never thought of it that way. “I’m sorry,” was all I could muster.

Fortunately, the host had to re-tape only the final five seconds of the show, so there was no big waste of time or damage to the interview due to my faux pas.
The new rule of thumb is NOT to shake hands on financial news programs on any of the networks, unless the host shakes hands with you first. For local TV interview programs that are live, or recorded as if they were live, I would still err on the side of shaking hands with the host.

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