Most locally produced television talk shows are put together by small staffs with limited budgets.
Small-market stations provide little support for the host. You likely will spend the first several years of your career as a atlk-show host at a station with limited reousrces. Some small stations lack even a floor crew and instead may have two cameras locked in fixed positions and a director sitting at the switcher, cutting from one camera to another as appropriate. Working at such a station will allow you to learn every aspect of talk-show performance and production and prepare you for a move to a station in a larger market. Medium-market stations offer more support, but still work with somewhat limited resources. Program quality need not suffer because of modest support, but interview programs require great effort and adaptability from all memebers of the team.
To make sure the guest is comfortable in a situation where microphones or other equipment are between you and the guest, take a few moments to talk casually before beginning the interview. Asking about the weather, the guest's trip to the studio, or some other insignificant topic can settle the person down if he or she is nervous. An audio engineer or the host (announcer), who may be operating the equipment (if for radio), will ask for sound levels. Each person who talks on the program will have to speak so that the volume can be adjusted for correct technical sound. Encourage your guests to speak in their normal voice. Briefly explain the operation of the studio, especially if this is your guest's first visit to a television studio. Equipment can be intimidating, so explain what you will be doing and what will happen. This helps to relax the guest, and you will end up with a better interview. One way to help guests relax is to maintain eye contact with them while they are answering your questions. Try not to read or keep your head down, but look the guest right in the eyes.
The usual television studio interview set consists of chairs, or a desk with chairs on either side. Occasionally they will be set up in a more face-to-face manner. This may be part of an elaborate living room set or merely positioned in front of a curtain. In television, the right side of the screen is considered dominant, and if the host is put there, he or she becomes as important as the guest. Both Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman use this configuration because the comments they interject during the interview are as important to the program as whatever the guest says. Likewise, if the guest is on the right side of the screen, he or she becomes dominant. Larry King uses this approach because the emphasis of his program is more on the guest and topic. Both guest and host in a television interview usually wear small, inconspicuous microphones that the floor director or other crew member will help attach properly. Depending on the actual interview set, a boom or desk mic may also be used.
Television studios are very busy places and can be distracting to your guests. Be sure to orient them to the studio setting, explain the role of the floor manager and other crew, but ask them to look at you and not at all the activity around the studio. As in the radio studio, the host can help the guest by maintaining direct eye contact. In the television studio, working with the floor manager and director can be key to your success. Make sure you've reviewed the hand signals with the floor manager and be sure the director understands your organization and any special shots you might need, such as a close-up on an item the guest has brought in.
Camera shots are important in the television studio. The host often looks directly at the camera for the opening, the close, and any breaks, but during the interview a variety of shots may be used. One common perspective is the over-the-shoulder shot, in which the guest appears in a full front view and the host "frames" the side of the shot with his or her back to the camera. With this angle, the camera seems to participate in the conversation.
Another approach is the profile shot in which the guest and the host look at each other and the camera seems to be listening in on the conversation. The host should be aware of various camera positions and also rely on directions from the studio crew or the director speaking through an IFB to communicate camera changes. (As noted in another article, an IFB is the earpiece that television performers wear so the director can communicate directly to them during a performance.) Another way in which the host keeps track of the camera positions is the tally light. One other thing to keep in mind is that camera angles can accent poor posture. If you slouch or lean sharply to one side, this can be very noticeable.
Some interviewing skills can be practiced but others can't, because it really comes down to how well you put it all together during a live or prer-recorded interview. Many interviews are recorded, but ultimately aired as if they were live, with little or no editing. Successful interviews begin with research and preparation, knowing the purpose of the interview, knowing how it will be used (for example, sound bites, information), and understanding the intended audience and the goal (entertainment, information, persuasion) for the interview.