Practice with Video
No one was born a talk show host. No one was naturally good at it their first time. One gets better at it by doing it and you can do the same. Simply get a guest and just do your first show right away. It’s not necessary to have the most famous guest, just have someone you can interview. It could simply be a quarterly show interviewing executives at your company about the latest product developments. You could interview one of your family members. Let it be anyone. It will give you a sample of what you’re actually trying to do and how you’re coming across it.
So, record your first show, watch it, and review it. See what you like and what you don’t. Come up with a list of everything you like about how you’re coming across and a list of everything you don’t like.
Review the Video and Rehearse Again
It’s not easy to look natural, relaxed, comfortable, confident, fun, and being in the moment the whole time. It is a skill that you can learn if you’re willing to put the time and effort into it. So, the first thing you have to do is to look at that list of things you liked. Did you seem natural? Did you seem like a real person who’s just talking? Or did you seem like you are reading off of a cue card and you’re stiff and unnatural? Did you look expressive or did your face just go flat the whole time? Did you sound interesting or were you boring?
Looking at these things will help you understand what your strengths and weakness are. Write them down. Keep your strengths and work on your weakness. Remember that you don’t have to worry about your voice or physical appearance. But you do have to work on things like making it sound like a real conversation and looking natural and confident.
So, record a segment of yourself doing an interview, watch it, improve it, and repeat. Ideally, it’s better to focus on just one thing at a time. For example, if you feel that your questions are way too long, then just focus on shortening the questions. If you’re talking too softly the whole time and you seem bored, then work on that.
Focus on the Guest
If people who are watching you think that you’re brilliant, but the guests are awful, that’s a poor reflection on you. So, it’s your job to make your guests look good.
You can do that by having nice introductions about them and by asking interesting questions that allow them to share their expertise. Make sure you don’t ask questions that are just designed to make you look smart. Make it look like a real conversation and let the spotlight shine on the guest. Likewise, carefully listen to what they’re saying because when they say something interesting, you should follow up and pull more out. That’s what makes an excellent host.
Good Guest versus Good Host
One of the traps I want to warn you against is figuring out the difference between being a good guest and a good host. Some people are great guests, but awful hosts. For example, Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota, is a great guest. When he was governor, every time he was on CNN or any other show, ratings went through the roof. But when he hosted shows, nobody wanted to watch them. It seemed a bit weird.
It’s similar to being a host or a guest of a good dinner party. If you’re a guest, you just have to show up on time, have a few amusing anecdotes at dinner, and you’re fine. But if you’re a host, you’ve got to send out the invitations. You have to make sure the food is right, the drinks are right, people are talking to each other, and they are sitting next to each other the right way. It’s more complex being a host of a dinner party than simply coming and being an amusing guest.
It’s the same with hosting a talk show. In some ways, it’s easier to be a good guest. You just have to be yourself and spout off interesting things. But, it’s not that easy to be a good host because you have to say interesting things and ask questions. You have to know when to stay quiet, when to wait, and when to probe for more. So, if you want to be a good host, you must possess the qualities of a good host.
Learn to Use a Teleprompter
If you are going to use a teleprompter, you need to be good at it because nothing makes a host look worse than not being able to read a teleprompter. The problem most people have when they start to use a teleprompter is they speak at the same speed, the same tone, the same volume. They don’t pause and their head stops moving.
So, the key to the teleprompter is you occasionally have to speak a little faster and occasionally a little slower. You have to occasionally speak a little louder and sometimes a little softer. There has to be variation in the speed and volume. You have to pause occasionally and move your head, your body, and even your hands a little. Do this and you’ll be fine with the teleprompter.
Regular Schedule and Feedback
Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey, and David Letterman, all became great talk show hosts. Part of the reason they became good hosts is that they hosted TV shows every single day, five days a week for weeks, years, and decades. It means that the more you do it, the better you get. Figure out a regular schedule and try to do the show as often as possible. Pick a time period and stick with it because many of the most successful shows took years to find an audience.
Likewise, you need to listen to feedback. If you’re on YouTube, pay heed to what people say. They will tell you exactly what they think. If they think you have an interesting guest, but that you’re a horrible standup comedian and your opening monologue is so wretched that they just aren’t going to watch anymore, listen to that.
The hard part is filtering. Some critics are just nasty and vicious, and you aren’t really going to learn anything to help your show. But every once in a while, you’ll get some true, interesting nuggets that are insightful. So, my advice is read all of the criticism. Even when it hurts, it will make you a better host.
To Wrap it Up
I hope these tips help you take the plunge and actually start your show. A lot of people dream about hosting shows for years and never do anything. You’ve at least taken the step of trying to learn more about how to do it.
So, let’s get the process started because too many people can’t get over that initial hump of looking at themselves and saying, I don’t have what it takes. You do have what it takes. Good luck with your talk show host and career. Please post links to your show in the comments below, I would love to see it.