If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ve seen me mention my television appearances. You may have even caught one live. It’s always fun to get a phone call or an e-mail from one of you when you see me on television.
There’s quite a bit that goes into an appearance. And, if I’m being completely honest, I’m always nervous when I get ready to go on air. After all, if I say something really stupid, it’ll live on the internet forever, right? After a recent television appearance, I thought it might be fun/interesting for people to get an idea of what happens behind the scenes leading up to an appearance.
A few days before an appearance, I’ll get an e-mail from someone asking me if I’m available at a specific date and time. The majority of my recent appearances have been on Fox News. That generally means I’m headed to their Washington, DC bureau to do a “remote” appearance. More on that in a bit.
The folks that take care of scheduling me always ask if they can arrange a car service for me to get to the studio. I’ve heard from others that’s a way they can ensure you’ll arrive on time. Honestly, I’m always so nervous I’ll be late that I show up over an hour early. And, once I arrive there are still things to take care of before coming on the air.
The drive to the studio is about an hour from my house with no traffic. DC traffic can add anywhere from ten minutes to a few days to the actual commute time. The station is literally right across the street from the Capitol. After clearing security and walking through the Hall of States, it’s a quick elevator ride to the studio.
But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There’s still….
Once I have my topic, I’m tasked with writing talking points for the network. They’ll usually give me a few articles that they’re referencing on the topic. I’ll write anywhere from a half dozen to dozen points that I intend to discuss during my time on the air. I rarely get through all of them, usually a bit less than half. But, I feel like this gives the host/anchor a few different directions to take the interview. They’re running the show, but I hope my preparation means they’ve got good material from me to run with. That way, there’s less surprises for me when they’re asking questions.
Once I’ve written my talking points, I prepare my notes. These are highlights on my topic that I write out on index cards. Some of these are my talking points, while others are general facts. These are all facts I “know”. But, writing them and reviewing them helps me keep them top of mind.
The Green Room
Yes, there’s a green room. During my various appearances, I’ve encountered columnists, retired generals, political spokespeople and a host of other folks you might expect in a town like DC. It’s interesting to see them in the green room, then look up 10 or 15 minutes later and see them on the television screen while they’re down the hall being interviewed. As a general rule, my appearances tend to fall near the end of the news hour. This makes sense when you think that I’m discussing travel and the other guests are discussing politics, war, breaking news, etc.
You Want Me To Do What?
Yes, there’s makeup. And, yes, my kids get a big laugh out of it when I come home with makeup on. This ritual starts the same for me each time. I sit in the chair and comment about how this is my favorite part. Whoever is responsible for painting me to look presentable chuckles and notes that all the male guests say the same thing. I reply that my kids love it and that usually leads to a fun conversation about families and why I’m appearing on television that day. Most of the folks I meet are curious where the travel expert fits amongst global conflict, crime and other important news of the day. A few of them have even asked for travel tips (HINT: I’m always happy to give travel advice).
During my most recent visit, the woman tasked with making me look presentable was happy to take a bunch of pictures of me in the makeup chair. She’s been there for a handful of my appearances. I’d thank her by name but I didn’t ask her for permission to use her name or likeness in the post.
Suffice it to say that they get their fair share of “regulars”, people who appear frequently on the network. And, I’m sure they get a bunch of people who don’t do much talking while they’re getting makeup. I used to bring index cards in to review while I was sitting in the chair. After a few appearances I’ve found that taking a break from reading my talking points helps relax me a bit.
Because I’m so early, I’ll usually have time in the green room after makeup before I go on air. I’ve gotten better at timing it so that I only have a few minutes after makeup before it’s time to go. I find if I have a long time to sit in the green room I end up getting distracted. One of the Fox News folks will come down to retrieve me and walk me to the studio.
Getting Ready To Be On The Air
It’s a short walk to where I’ll sit for my interview. Every one of my television appearances except for one has been “remote”. See, I told you I’d get back to that term. We’re almost there. One of my most recent appearances was actually live on set, which meant I was sitting across from one of the anchors, Leland Vittert.
Honestly, I found it much easier to be sitting across from the anchor. If you’re not familiar with a remote interview, it’ll make a bit more sense in a minute. Here’s what sitting in the studio for an interview looked like:
There are a few different areas where I’ve been setup for a remote interview at the DC bureau. Some of the rooms are about the size of a hotel bathroom. In other words, not a lot of space. Today’s interview would have me in one of the main broadcast studios. That’s both good and bad.
It’s a big space, and it’s pretty cool to be sitting on a real television set. But, with any remote, there are two choices. First, you can have them leave the television monitor on. Since the shows I’ve been on run on a delay, that means you’ll be looking at a version of yourself that’s delayed by a handful of seconds. I got good advice from Ben of One Mile at a Time during my first remote television appearance with him and I asked them to shut the monitor off. Since then, I had one appearance where the monitor got left on inadvertently. I’m definitely a fan of leaving it off.
I said I was a fan of leaving the monitor off, but it comes with its own set of complications for me. I’m being interviewed by an anchor each time I’m on the air. We can see each other, right? Uh, no. Once the monitor is shut off, the only connection I have to them is the earpiece in my ear (which popped out during my most recent interview).
There’s a camera in front of you, and you’re instructed to look straight at it. See it right there in the middle of the picture? No? That’s because it’s really not easy to see amongst the other dark screens on that wall. If you ever notice my eyes flicker around during an interview, it’s because my brain is having a hard time processing the fact that I’m talking to a black screen.
You might laugh, but I’m actually thinking about bringing a poster or a bullseye to put up on the black screen below the camera to give me a place to focus.
Time To Talk Travel!
I get some help from the team to get my earpiece in and my microphone on. After that, they leave and I’m alone in the studio. I take one last run through my index cards, take a swig of water and then stare at the clock. I know what my hit time is, and I can hear the lead-in on my earpiece. It’s time:
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