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10 Tips on How to Be a Great Spokesperson on TV

By Marsha Friedman 

With the increasingly rapid pace of our business world, the importance of getting the name of your book, product or service regularly in front of your target market is a very real situation that all professionals face. Even more difficult: actually being remembered by consumers.  

Every month hundreds of thousands of new books, products and services flood media channels – so it’s imperative to find new ways to be noticed and stand out in such a crowded marketplace.

Besides the obvious methods of direct mail and display advertising, many choose to be featured as a guest on talk radio shows around the country or distribute press releases to national magazines and newspapers. These are, of course, fabulous ways to gain exposure, but there is another important vehicle to help you harness the power of publicity – appearances on local and national television!  

TV is one of the most tangible forms of media for promoting your message to the masses. As it is a visual medium, it enables your target market to actually see and hear why your book, product or service is of value to them. Let’s face it - the visual create by your appearance leaves the audience with a lasting impression you just can’t make on radio or in print.  

But just because you’ve been invited on as a guest, and you’re an expert on your book, product or service does not necessarily make for good TV. In addition to being knowledgeable about your subject and being a really good looking man or woman – there’s something called a “likeability factor” that involves a variety of tools you need to have, for the masses to really sit up, pay attention and buy into your message.  

With this in mind, here are a few tips that will help you become the kind of guest every host wants to have on his or her show and will enable you to capitalize on  this very valuable air-time.  

1) Be energetic. Hosts and producers don’t want duds on their show!  You need to create some positive energy and show your enthusiasm – regardless of how you may really feel that day!. The more engaging you appear the more interested and involved the audience will feel.

2) Be mindful of body language. When on-the-air be aware if you are notorious for tapping your feet, squirming in your chair and clenching your fists - these send the wrong message. If you always ‘talk’ with your hands, that’s okay; just don’t over-exaggerate your movements and make sure you don’t make loud sounds that could interfere with your microphone as all of these gestures will distract the audience from hearing your “real” message.  

3) Research current news topics. Become well-versed in current affairs that relate to your topic. If the anchor asks you a question about a timely news story and you don’t know what he’s talking about it erodes your credibility, and “likeability factor” to their audience. So it’s a good idea to do a quick online news search for any stories related to your topic right before your scheduled interview. On the off chance that you are asked a question that you don’t know how to answer, be honest about it. It’s better to admit you’re not sure about something than to give out incorrect information.

4) Don’t sound rehearsed.  You don’t want to sound like you’re reading from a telemarketing script. That’s a cue for viewers to simply tune out – they want to be entertained and informed, not sold to.   Instead, jot down the key points you want to convey ahead of time. It’s okay to think about what your answers will be, but don’t feel as though you have to ‘learn your lines.’ Then when it’s time for the interview, focus on those talking points and always bring your answers back to your key message.

5) Don’t be wordy. Don’t try to look smarter by using words only a few will understand. No one likes listening to a pompous lecturer. People respond better when you talk like they do. So keep your message simple and easy to understand so viewers can relate to you better. Also avoid insider jargon or technical terms that the general public may not be familiar with. Keep in mind, your goal is to achieve broad appeal to a wide audience; you can’t do that if they can’t understand you.

6) Pace yourself!  Remember that what you’re really doing is having a conversation. Talk at a normal pace—many people talk too fast when they feel nervous and this can be extremely distracting for viewers. Think about it, who wants to sit down with their morning coffee and tuning into their favorite morning show to watch (and listen to) an annoying motor-mouth!  The best way to combat this? Actually listen to the interviewer’s questions. The host will appreciate your attentiveness and your engagement in a lively dialogue.  

7) Be descriptive. Pepper your answers with descriptive words and concepts. Don’t forget that a good portion of the TV audience may not be actually watching their TV; they could be getting ready for work, watching their kids or making dinner. So appeal to their senses and paint a picture they can visualize with your words.

8) If you stumble, stutter, or slip-up during an interview, forget about it and move on. Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Don’t get flustered. Even the most experienced news anchors flub a line from time to time. It’s best to just move on instead of drawing attention to it. However, if you’ve said something that is factually incorrect, address it immediately and say something such as, “what I meant to say was…”  The bottom line is stay on message and you’ll be fine – the audience understands that everybody makes mistakes.

9) Get to the point. Don’t ramble endlessly. You’ll lose your audience with long-winded answers that go on and on. We’ve all struggled to stay awake during speeches or lectures that seemed to last forever. But, in this case, viewers will simply change the channel – at which point you’ve lost a great opportunity to promote your book, product or service!

10) Convey appropriate emotions. If you’re talking about a serious topic such as cancer, terrorism or mortgage foreclosures, you shouldn’t be grinning. Likewise, if your topic is light-hearted, smile and don’t be afraid to share a chuckle with the host. Haven’t we all seen someone on TV whose facial expressions don’t match the nature of the subject? It’s disconcerting for viewers and it makes you look insincere. This is key for the “likeability factor”!

The list goes on, but this is a great start!  Always remember that your intention for every interview is to enlighten the listening audience about your book, product or service and interest them in purchasing it. And, what happens if you’re successful? Well you may not only be invited back as an “expert” guest, but you could also drive demand into the stores where, let’s be honest, you would rather your customers be parked instead of in front of the tube!

Read other articles and learn more about Marsha Friedman.

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