How To Get On TV and How To Be On TV

dennis yu on cnn

When you get five minutes of fame when you’re on TV, how do you not look like a buffoon? How do you prepare? What are the kinds of things you can prepare in advance so that when that moment happens, you’re not caught off-guard?

Get the requests

Whether they’re inbound or outbound, meaning the best ones are gonna be inbound, where you get a referral and people say, “Hey, you really should talk to Maria on this particular topic, cuz she’s the woman for this.

Make sure you got the right time zone

When you get invited, the first thing you want to do is to know the time zone. You want to know what the topic is. You want to make sure you’re properly prepared.

Wear your signature color

You want to make sure you are wearing your signature color so that people recognize you.

Set up the video studio

Don’t log in five minutes before as you want to test your setup. Also, sometimes, they send you the wrong login, and sometimes, they have you slotted at say 3:00 PM Pacific but because of something that happened, they need to move you later, especially on news as news always changes.

There could be like a car bomb or an earthquake so that shifts all the news. Just be ready. You want to make sure that you have a buffer time before and after the schedule so that if they move the time, you can still make it. 

Another thing you also need to consider is getting proper lighting.

We have a course on how this can be done for people that suck at doing videos. Whether it’s with your laptop or just your phone or an actual video studio, how do you set up the video properly?

Enroll in the Video Studio Setup course if you want to learn how to do this the right way.

Check the format of the show

It’s going to be different, whether you’re on NPR versus the local Fox affiliate, so make sure you check on the format of the show so you know what you need to do to make sure that you’re saying the right thing.

Do this so you don’t say something that’s ridiculous that could get you in trouble.  Will you do it in person or via Zoom? Those are different considerations as in-person interviews are more powerful, but in some ways, more difficult.

Let’s go back to CNN. When I got the call, “Hey, we need you in Atlanta tomorrow to talk about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook and whatnot.” Of course, I had to fly in there and make sure I got there with as much time as possible because it took two hours just to get through security because they have three levels or four levels of security.

The CNN buildings are some of the most bomb-threatened places on the planet so there are many levels of security. They run you through hair and makeup. I don’t have any hair to work on, but they put makeup on me.

It’s interesting when you’re sitting next to these other famous people and you’re in a barber chair and they’re getting their hair done and they’re putting some stuff on you. I like to bring other people because they can document some of the behind-the-scenes.

When you’re on TV, it’s really awesome to get these behind-the-scenes moments, because otherwise, you’re just not going to see what is really happening behind those powerful interviews. I think that the behind-the-scenes moments are actually more powerful than the media segments themselves. 

And so when you see these moments, this builds a level of trust. The key point of social is you’re creating a parasocial relationship. You’re not trying to say, “I’m so important and so much better than you.” You’re trying to show, “Hey, let’s come along.

You can see George and I were hanging out. Even though this guy’s a big deal on TV, he and I are hanging out as friends. You can see the vibe there. This is the kind of thing you wanna be able to capture. Then you can chop this up. You can share it. You can put B-roll over– put other voices or other videos.

Know what to do during the segment 

In most TV shows, you’re there for three and a half minutes. Sometimes there are ones that are a little bit longer, but being able to speak on TV, you have to speak in sound bites, which most people that are not public speakers won’t know how to do. 

One of the things that George taught me was how to behave on TV. And he said that “Dennis, no offense. I know you’ve done a lot of public speaking. You’ve done keynotes, which are typically 45 minutes. You know what you’re talking about, you’ve done it hundreds of times. Clearly, you’re an expert, but let me tell you something about TV. The segments are typically three and a half minutes, so your answers have to be 15 seconds.

And it’s hard for most people to do that because they’re used to rambling on and on for a whole hour. When they’re giving a speech, how do you speak in 15 to maybe even 30 seconds? And he said, “the key is you have to have your exit as soon as you begin or within the first sentence of when you begin.

There are three parts in a 15-second story or in a one-minute video:

  1. Beginning which is the hook
  2. Middle which is the body. The meat of what you’re saying
  3. The end or the exit or the call to action. 


You want to learn when you’re doing public speaking that before you’re done with that initial hook or intro sentence, you already have to have the exit. If you don’t have the exit, you will end up rambling and rambling. 

Obviously, you should be an expert on something to be on TV. But think about pre-framing what your exit’s gonna be. 

Don’t take the power away from the host by asking them what they think about the topic themselves. Make it relatively open, and lead without being too aggressive.

Don’t just wing it. Don’t make it sound plastic. Don’t make it sound rehearsed. The key is to be able to drop in a few interesting tidbits while not going into a ton of detail.

You have to have a few punchy points which are called sound bites. That’s literally what a sound bite is– how do you say something in a catchy, snappy sort of way? Try to get people interested in a particular topic so that they can go on and do the research later. 

Another thing about TV news is they’ll give you the general questions or the general topic, but they might not tell you the exact questions so you better come prepared.

Do you want to learn how to speak better in 15 seconds? Our 15-second video course will teach you just that.

Know how you can repurpose the fame 

You can use it to build your personal brand, which is part of the personal brand manager. 

When you have these media mentions, you want to put them in here, and this is what gets you more and more media mentions. A lot of people don’t realize this very simple rule. The more media mentions you have, the more likely the press is going to invite you to whatever it might be.

You have to take this, put it on your website, put it on your Twitter, and share it on Facebook.

You can run Dollar-a-Day against it. 

This is the beauty when you have a piece of authority. You want to leverage the heck out of it by sharing it on social media and collecting those video snippets. Put it in your personal brand guide and then run Dollar a Day against it so you can get more media mentions and more media opportunities. 

Do you want to learn how to grow your online presence and turn yourself into a thought leader? Here is our Personal Branding Course created just for that purpose.

Think about it this way. If you run a TV station, radio station, or newspaper, and you’re looking at someone, but you don’t see any media from him, how likely are you gonna bring him on TV or onto the radio station?

The folks who run the stations, they’re looking for people who have already been on TV. They’re not looking for the expert. They’re not looking for the people who know the very best. What they’re looking for are people who are safe–people who have proven themselves either on video or other appearances.

When you put your video out there, when you have your speaker reel, when you have a course, when you have other things that show authority, know that people that run the media, in general, are looking for the safe choice, not the best choice. 

What do you think? Does this article feel like walking through the steps that will make you reasonably prepared the next time you get asked to be on TV? 

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Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is co-author of the #1 best-selling book on Amazon in social media, The Definitive Guide to TikTok Ads.  He has spent a billion dollars on Facebook ads across his agencies and agencies he advises. Mr. Yu is the "million jobs" guy-- on a mission to create one million jobs via hands-on social media training, partnering with universities and professional organizations.You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.