How to be a Talk Show Host? (Part-1)

talk show host

There are a lot of different types of talk shows and hosting styles in the world. You can be anyone from Jerry Springer having fights on your show to Charlie Rose having detailed in-depth intellectual conversations with major thought leaders and everything in between.  Your talk show could involve sports, entertainment, public policy, or total fluff. But at the heart of it, it has to involve talking.

The talk show is not just an entertainment show of dancing and singing. It’s not scripted entertainment or fiction. It’s you talking with guests, being comfortable talking, and being interesting for your particular audience. If you’re on broadcast TV, you might be going for an audience of fifty-eight venture capitalists. If your focus is just on venture capital, reaching the right audience is more important than a mass audience. There are lots of things you need to learn and be aware of.

This article is going to teach you the basics and skills you must possess in order to become a talk show host. Let’s start!

Decide Show Format and Style

The first thing you have to decide is what sort of talk show you want to have and who you want your audience to be. Is it going to be a big-time talk show with two hundred people in the audience? Is it going to be a cable access show? Or you are simply interviewing a local fire chief or a local head of charities in your community and have no audience?

You need to decide the style, format, and focus of the show. There are host-focused shows like, for example, Bill O’Reilly. He has guests, but the show is primarily about him and his worldview. Such shows can be quite popular, but it’s a hard show to do if you don’t have a tremendous amount of broadcast experience and a lot of interesting things to say. The more typical scenario is a guest-focused show where you’re putting a spotlight on the guest and trying to know their views and opinions.

It’s a good idea to create a business plan for your talk show. To begin the process, you must ask yourself several questions like what will be the format and subject matter. Is it a current event or news? Who is your audience? What is it you’re going to talk about? What is the focus if you’re going to have guests? What sort of guests are you going to have? Write down answers to these questions right now so you can have a sense of a plan.

Find Your Inspiration

While you’re in the planning stages, you need to figure out who your role model is. Think about what talk shows you actually enjoy. You look at almost any successful talk show host and they can point to someone who is an inspiration to them. For example, Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show grew up watching Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. Oprah Winfrey watched Phil Donahue and enjoyed his show. Each one made their own shows a little bit different. Charlie Rose worked for many years for Bill Moyers, and a lot of his shows are similar to what Bill Moyers shows used to be like. So, figure out who it is you admire and learn from their shows.

These days, they’re all on YouTube. You can go back and watch every kind of Dick Cavett Show interviewing William F. Buckley from 1971 if you want. But what sort of show do you want to have? What host do you admire? I would urge you to go back and watch those hosts on YouTube and try to study what they’re doing. Note how long their questions are. Notice how they decide when to sit back and let the guest talk and when they interject and dominate.

It’s not that you’re going to copy them, but you’ll have a sense of style. So, think about it, write their names down, and watch at least three or four videos of them on YouTube to find your role models.

Decide Technical Format

Next, you need to decide what’s going to be the technical format of your talk show. These days, you have so many choices and a lot of them are extremely inexpensive.

The simplest way you can do a talk show is just to interview people through Skype video. You don’t have to go anywhere, you don’t need a big fancy studio, the person you’re interviewing doesn’t have to go anywhere, and there’s no travel expense. You can do it all from home. Now it’s unlikely you’re going to make millions from a show like that or even generate millions of views, but that’s OK. You’ve got to decide what works for you. If you don’t want to do live, go for one-on-one recorded interviews and you can even do that with a cell phone.

If you have your heart set on being on broadcast TV, you may have to spend a lot of money on a big, fancy pilot. I wouldn’t recommend that because it’s very hard to break into hosting these days by just creating a pilot. Instead, you could have a simple studio with one camera or a little fancier one with three cameras. You could do it on a cable access place, or you could just do it in your own living room.

You also need to decide if you’re going to do it live or not. Is it going to be an internet-based show? Or are you trying to have sort of the bigger, fancier production values of traditional broadcast TV? And I realize those lines are changing all the time with things like Netflix. You can get away with simpler production values if you’re going to launch this on YouTube first or your own corporate website.

Decide what the set is going to be. Is it just going to be the same place each time where you’re in a chair and you’re just sitting next to your guest? Or are you going to be on location interviewing people in different offices and different places out in the field?

These are fundamental decisions you have to make. Are you going to interview people through Skype? Is it going to be in person? Are you going to shoot this on your cell phone camera or is it going to be a webcam? Figure this out right now, come up with a plan, and write it down.

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