A couple of weeks ago Daily Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson pulled out of a live Channel 4 discussion show on the controversial ‘Benefits Street’ series, during an ad break early in the programme. She apparently rowed with the production team, having not expected to receive a sharp challenge from a fellow panellist on the accuracy of her use of benefit claimant statistics in one of her articles. Pearson is a practised television performer and perhaps should have known better, even though that kind of programme is the exception—most people booked for a typical interview on Sky News, the BBC News Channel or CNBC won’t be expecting a shouty brawl. But what should you expect in a live studio? Even an apparently routine appearance can catch out those who are not ‘regulars’. Here are some insider tips from someone who has recently been a frequent news channel guest.
“Beforehand, you should clarify with the production team whether it will be a one-on-one interview or a panel discussion—how long have you got, and what will be the expected line of questioning (although you should be prepared for this to change)? On arrival, you will be greeted by a researcher or runner who may not necessarily know much about the show, but it is still worth asking if there have been any changes to the item in which you will appear.
The producer may speak to you before the show; again, seek guidance on what is expected from you. Don’t refuse hair and make-up. Under studio lighting you will look very strange and washed out particularly next to the perfectly made-up presenter; men as well as women are covered with foundation on live TV. Women guests should pack some make up just in case there is a hold-up on the way to the building. Do not expect to meet the presenter until you are in studio. Before the start of the interview, you will be escorted to the set, shown to a seat and be miked up. When the item is about to go on air, do not let your eyes swivel about in case you are in shot. If in doubt, keep looking at the presenter. Do not let yourself be distracted by robot cameras or by the monitor. Be friendly to fellow guests: good interaction with them during the show will make you look more confident and at ease. Then, take a moment before answering the question; this gives you time to think and makes your answer seem more considered.”