Television – some people look good, others look fantastic, and now and again, you wonder if people look at themselves before leaving the house.
I’ve certainly had my good days and bad days – but I’ve been given a lot of advice over the years, and so here’s a potted guide to how to get yourself together for your TV appearance.
This guide is for anyone who is going to appear on TV for interview purposes or otherwise – read on if you’d like to know a few ideas about how to make the most of what you’ve got on air. Please remember this is not a legal document, and I’m not liable for any consequences arising from advice you might take from this article – it’s free advice, which means it’s worth exactly how much you paid for it 🙂
So here it is, a quick guide to what to do when you’re on telly.
Section 1: Appearance – Get Ready
If possible watch the programme beforehand, and choose colours to wear that will contrast with the set. Also look at the style of clothing the presenters are wearing, which might give you clues as to what the dress code is.
If the set appears to be virtual, i.e. could involve blue screen/chroma key stuff, make sure not to wear blue as your body will blend into the scenery and you’ll just be a pair of hands and a head.
Take a few different coloured smartish tops along, just in case you get there and your co-presenter is wearing the same colour / a clashing colour.
Good colours for TV are anything that isn’t white, black, or thin-stripes. Sometimes red looks strange too. Thin stripes or patterns cause strobing, which looks very weird indeed!
Make sure to have a matte finish on your face as the lights will be hot hot hot. As a rule, matte looks better than shiny. Wear make up even if you don’t usually do so – go and get some translucent pressed powder from a chemist/beauty store and dab just enough powder on to take the shine off. If you are using make-up, put just a little more on than usual, and remember that matte looks better than shiny.
Bear in mind that when the lights are on, you’ll be boiling, and when the lights are off, the studio air con might kick in. You may not notice because of the adrenaline rush of being on telly though – but bring something warm for when you’re not on camera, just in case – I have a zip fleece which means I can wear it without messing up my hair and makeup (how girly).
Don’t wear anything that’s uncomfortable, otherwise you may fidget with your clothes, and fidgeting on camera can make you look suspicious! Try not to wear any noisy or shiny jewellery, noise will be picked up by sound, and reflections from the jewellery can muck up the cameras, giving you the X-files shiny torch in vision look. Actually Star Trek TNG is also guilty of the old “shine something right down the lens” trick.
Make sure you have something that a small mic can easily be clipped to i.e. no polar necks (not that you would wear a polar neck in a tv studio) – you might find it easier to have trousers rather than a dress as you may have to have a mic pack tucked at the back, although at the BBC they will sometimes use wired mics.
If you wear lipstick, check that there’s none on your teeth just before going on air.
Don’t forget to check your back as well as your front before entering the studio!
Smart heels look better than flats – but if you’re behind a desk, you can keep the trainers on.
Studio Tips: Know what you’re doing on Air
Your mic pack will ALWAYS be on, and the radio range is bigger than you think. Remember this if you go to the loo, they will hear you in there, ask someone to turn the mic off for you – especially if it’s a poo. Ideally you’ll be able to visit the lavatory before you get mic’d up., so you won’t have to get into this situation. I remember another presenter getting caught out by this one. The sound from their mic was fed to the foldback speakers on the studio floor, which is why I remember it.
The same thing applies to Vision – act as if you are ALWAYS on camera as soon as you step into the studio – cameras may cut to you suddenly and with no advance notice. No need to be nervous, just be yourself, which is why you’ve been asked to talk on the TV. Imagine you’re going round to a friend’s parents’ house for dinner – you’d still be you, but you probably wouldn’t swear in front of them (unless you burned yourself getting the food out of the oven, for example) – you get the idea.
You’ll probably be spending a lot of time waiting around, so bring something to ease that endless wait in the green room if it’s going to be a long time. I’d also suggest going through what you’re going to say about half an hour beforehand, and disengaging from anything too involving (like a good book, or a gossipy phone conversation) so that you’re more focussed for your on-air appearance.
Be nice to people on set! Not that you needed to be told that, you’d probably do so anyway, but it’s always a good thing to say hello to the floor manager, producers, and other backstage staff. Remember that the crew behind the camera make the people in front of the camera look like they know what they’re doing. It’s backbreaking hard work and long hours, and a smile goes a long way in a dark studio.
Presenting Tips- Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Work out a 30 sec intro for just in case someone says the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” sentence. Name and Title are always a good place to start.
Have a few statistics/ interesting tidbits ready such as “x million ys are played weekly” etc, and also maybe a funny anecdotal story (unless it’s a serious interview).
Bear in mind the tone of the programme you’re on when you’re answering questions.
The presenter is there to talk to you and make you feel calm. You don’t have to look at the cameras, just look back at your co-presenter and be your fabulous confident self.
If you are holding anything in your hand, keep it nice and still. The camera operators are excellent at getting close up shots for you when the director asks them, and if you hold something steady, it will be easier to get the cutaway shot.
Other Useful Sites
Lots of the above points are well known – look at this US public speaking website and also What not to wear doing a TV interview for more tips on TV stuff.
Real life TV behind the scenes – the excellent Working Lunch on BBC UK gives a look behind the scenes of Working Lunch http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/working_lunch/5317760.stm – great if you want to see what goes on behind a news/current affairs programme.
For more TV stories, feel free to visit my website for TV stories, although it definitely needs updating as I’m doing quite a bit more these days, including the odd appearance on BBC Click – more on that later.
get ready – 3….2….1… and Cue!
6 thoughts on “How to look good on TV”
Back in university days, I attended a college where there were a lot of divinity students. In one conversation, we were discussing the use of THE VOICE. It was funny, because this person would be speaking normally amongst friends, but then would have THE VOICE for when he was up in the pulpit.
He said that it was a choice whether to use THE VOICE or not. My personal style is pretty much the same all of the time, except when I’m speaking to an audience in which English is not their first language. I … don’t … speak … slower … as … much … as … I … leave … bigger … spaces … between … words.
At one international event in Hong Kong, I was honoured to get the compliment of being “the most understandable speaker” for the conference. With simultaneous translators in the back of the room, I remember the strange sensation of hearing murmurs that would stop a second after I would speak. This was a reminder of the effort it takes just to keep up with the flow of speech.
WOW, what a great insight into life on TV, and infront of the cameras, in my previous job I was more so behind them in photo industry and actually still am in medical diganosis and imaging.
I can also guess that wearing clothes that under studio lights makes them kinda see through is a fashion faux pas!?
“Your mic pack will ALWAYS be on, and the radio range is bigger than you think. Remember this if you go to the loo, they will hear you in there, ask someone to turn the mic off for you – especially if it’s a poo”
LMAO… nearly choaked on my glass of wine!
While TV life seems glamourous to the outsider I can imagine that the long hours waiting around for filming, the travel and long days plus the freebies and free food and drink can become tiresome, WHO the hell am I kidding, sounds great but damm hard work.
So thanks for the insight into your daily life on TV.
Nice post – I think it also helps massively if you are passionate about the item you are reviewing, being good looking and have a nice clear voice (as you do).
ps your plug for your blog on QVC today didn’t work it got cut out by the QVC video being shown – try again!
Thanks for comments!
Simon – D’oh! I mainly just say my site for the camcorder in case people want to see video footage I uploaded on my youtube site – I may have missed the plug on QVC, but here’s the site in case you want to see it too 🙂
Great tips. Especially the one about having a 30 second intro prepared. Thanks, LJ.