SpeakerNet News Compilations

Satellite TV Media Tours

Rebecca Morgan

Page Sponsors
How to sponsor this page

Have you done a satellite TV media tour, where you are interviewed by numerous TV shows sequentially in the same day? If so, what tips can you share with me?

-- Bill Stainton

I've never been in your position, but I've been in the director's booth plenty of times during satellite interviews with celebrities and experts. I'm assuming that you're doing a bunch of, say, 5- or 10-minute windows with about 2 or 3 minutes down time between interviews. One thing to keep in mind is that during the down time, YOU'RE STILL ON CAMERA. The feed is still going on, and anybody with the proper satellite coordinates (which will be all of the stations interviewing you) have access to it. So no belching, nose picking, personal scratching, etc.! And no comments on what an idiot the last interviewer was, because SOMEBODY will hear it (and possibly be recording). So, basic rule: assume you are on camera AT ALL TIMES, because you are!

Also, make sure you're comfortable with the volume in your IFB (assuming you'll be using one -- that's the earpiece you'll probably be wearing). Don't hesitate to let the tech people know if you want more or less volume. And, of course, pretend the camera is the interviewer, and look into the lens at all times.

-- Lisa Marie Coffey

I've done dozens of satellite media tours, and one time I did 30 stations in 3 hours. Here are my tips:

  1. Have water, lipstick, powder handy right near you. You will be miked and won't be able to get up and move around freely. You may also not have much time for bathroom breaks so go right before you start!
  2. Have the stage manager or a production assistant write the names of the hosts who are interviewing you on a poster board right near the camera. You will be talking to so many different people that it's hard to keep them all straight. And you do want to use their names -- it makes it so much more personal.
  3. Bring a couple of different jackets just in case the one you want to wear clashes with the backdrop they have for you.
  4. Remember, they can see you even when you can't see them. Stay smiling and "on" until you hear "we're out." Even before you're on air, you're on their monitor and they can see you.
  5. Use sound bites, be concise. If you talk too long the hosts will interrupt you.
  6. You drive. It's your segment. If the host asks you an unrelated question, stick to your agenda and steer back to the topic. You can always think of a good segue. Most hosts won't have prepared for the interview and most interviews will be live, or shot as if they are live. They're just winging it -- you are in the driver's seat!
  7. Have the 3-4 points you want to make each time outlined with simple key words on a poster board near the camera. It will help keep you on track when the hosts go off on a tangent.

Have fun, relax, and act like you do this all the time! After the first 2 or 3 interviews, you'll be in the groove and you'll breeze through it!

-- Maye Musk

  • Look into the camera as if it's your best friend.
  • With every station, repeat your message with the same enthusiasm as the first interview. Remember, the audience is different.
  • Have your hair professionally done. You don't see fly-away hair, but the camera does.
  • Of course, just be yourself and you'll bowl them over.

-- Stephanie Denton

I have done a number of satellite media tours -- and I had a lot of training on how to do them. I'm happy to share whatever I can. However, not knowing exactly what your media experience is, I'm not sure what information will be most helpful to you. So what I share below might be too basic, or not basic enough.

Here are the first thoughts that come to my mind:

  • Doing this many interviews in a row takes a lot of energy. Make sure you eat three things at breakfast: a fruit, a protein (egg?), and a bread. This was recommended to me once before an SMT, along with the promise that these would "burn off" at different rates and I would therefore always have an energy source. It worked for me -- I didn't lose energy and focus by the end -- so I've always continued to do this.
  • You'll be talking right into a camera. This is different from talking to a reporter in person. Have you ever done this? If not, you may want to practice by talking to a black computer screen or tv screen.
  • Will you be sitting down or moving around a set? They're definitely different experiences. If you're sitting behind a table, keep both forearms on the table with your palms down and hands apart. (Watch your local television news to see how the anchors do it.) This makes you look relaxed and gives you a sense of authority. If you'll be moving around a set, practice this ahead of time and pick out not more than three places you'll stop and/or point to during the interview.
  • Keep a bottle of water nearby, but hidden. There probably won't be time to get up between interviews to get a drink.
  • Figure out your three main points ahead of time and practice communicating those points in one to two sentences. Work those three points into the conversation in the same order, and as soon as you can in the conversation. A good interviewee can answer *whatever* question is asked with one of her three points, all while making it seem like she is answering exactly what was asked.
  • I don't know how your SMT will be booked. I've done as many as 25 or 30 interviews in a row with 20 to 30 seconds in between most of them. You'll start to feel like you're repeating yourself, which, of course, you are. This is why it pays to use your same points in the same order -- it's less confusing to remember if you've made a certain point.
  • You might get cut off sooner than you thought you would -- this the reason I said you should work your points in as early as possible in the interview (while still sounding natural). You also might have to cut an anchor off so that you can link up to your next interview. Be prepared to graciously wind them down and thank them for having you.
  • You should have a director speaking to you into your earpiece from the control room. This is the person who will let you know if you have to cut off an interview quickly. This is also the person who will let you know when you're up live on the satellite for each scheduled interview. Once you're up on the satellite, you'll want to smile into the camera. (Best to practice doing a lot of smiling before you go 'cause your cheeks can get tired.)
  • Sometimes there can be audio feedback or an echo. Hopefully you won't have any of this. If you do -- keep going as best you can, and then let the director know as soon as the interview ends.
  • It's good to be able to call the anchors by name, at least at the beginning when you say hello and at the end when you thank them for having you. This makes you look like you're really part of the program. Yet it's hard to remember to whom you're speaking at the moment. You can have someone hold up cue cards, right under the camera, with the first name(s) of the anchor(s). Be sure your cue-card-person has a marker so he can make last-minute changes to the names, because sometimes anchors switch off or are out sick that day, etc.

-- Larry Kutner, Ph.D.

I've done more than a dozen SMTs, along with a lot of other satellite interviews, and have learned a few practical things along the way that might help.

  • Use the bathroom before you start. Schedules change at the last minute, and that much needed 10-minute break on the rundown sheet may disappear!
  • Eat a light breakfast. There will be food (usually juice, coffee, fruit and pastries) in the green room at the production studio. Stay away from the pastries.
  • Be very nice to the crew. Many of the people who do on-camera talent treat technical people as if they're little more than extensions of the equipment. This is a mistake, not only because it's rude but because the crew can help you out tremendously. Ask for their advice (within reason).
  • Before you start, ask the representatives from the PR firm and the client what you can do that will make the SMT a success. (Ideally, they will have shared this with you during your media training session, but it sometimes helps to check it again.) Sometimes your focus will be on the client's name; other times it might be a few key points or the name of a program they've sponsored. Make sure that you have the same behavioral goals for the tour.
  • Ask for a rundown sheet that you can keep near you (but out of the shot) so that you have a sense of your progress.
  • Ask the people in the control room to put up the following information on the prompter for each interview: Call letters of the station, its city and state, the name(s) of the interviewer(s). Remember to use those names and, if possible, allude to at least the state they're in.
  • If you're not used to on-camera work, try to think of the camera as a person. It may even help to name it. Practice speaking to it as if it were a person before you have to go on the air.
  • Get to your point quickly. Satellite interviews are more likely to run shorter than scheduled than longer. Keep any stories and examples you use VERY brief.
  • Treat each interview as if it's live, even though many will be taped for later broadcast. This keeps your energy up.
  • Keep a bottle of water next to you but out of sight so that you can take swigs from it as the morning progresses. I've found that bottles with a "sports top" work better and have less potential for disaster than those with screw-on caps. Of course, bear in mind the first tip on this list.
  • Feel free to repeat yourself. After about the 15th interview, you won't remember whether you've already made a particular point to a particular journalist. Just go ahead and make it.
  • If you get a break of more than 5 minutes, stand up and stretch.
  • Be aware of your posture while you're sitting down. There's a tendency to start slumping into the chair after you've done a few interviews. One old TV anchor's trick, if you're wearing a jacket, is to sit on the tail of it so that it pulls your shoulders back a little. That also improves the "line" of the clothing.
  • If part of your task is to refer people to a website (and my guess is that's true for you in this case), ask the director at each station (or have your producer ask the director at each station) whether they'll be putting up a link on their station's website to drive traffic through it. It's always better for the local talent to plug a site than for the guest (you) to do so. Ideally, you want the anchor to say something like, "And you can find out more by going to our website, KCBS.com." That's something the audience can remember easily. On that site, they'll find a link to yours.
  • Have fun with it. Your mother would be so proud to have a daughter who's a TV star, if only for a day or two.

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions