April 21, 2009

Being A TV Medical Expert: Tips to get asked back

Being asked to appear as a guest medical expert for the first time is an exciting experience. How do you ensure you will be asked to come back on the show again? The following are a few tips I have picked up along the way:

1) Arrive early. The last thing the producer wants to do is worry about whether you are going to make it to a live appearance. It's better for you stroll around the neighborhood and collect your thoughts on the topic for a few minutes, rather than run the risk of receiving panicked phone calls from a producer.

2) Be courteous from the moment you enter the building. Smile at the security guard, be friendly to the intern or page who escorts you in the building, and make small talk with the people in the green room. Not only will it make good impressions, but you will appear relaxed and confident. Often times, the make-up artist or others in the green room will ask what you are about to talk about…it's great practice to speak your thoughts aloud, so be sure to use the opportunity. Just remember that what's spoken in the green room may be repeated in public.

3) Ask ahead of time if you need to arrive camera-ready. Some shows will have a stylist on set to do hair and make-up, others will expect you to arrive camera-ready, and some will have someone ready to touch up what you have applied ahead of time. It pays to ask before you arrive. Additionally, I recommend that the ladies always carry some make-up and hairspray, in case you get stuck in traffic and don't have time for the full stylist treatment. Gentlemen, I encourage you to accept the offer of face powder. Distracting shine can take attention away from your good messages.

4) Discuss the segment with the producer ahead of time. Some producers will want to pre-interview you on the telephone, while others will want you to email 'talking points' in advance of the show. Either way, make sure you have some contact with the producer ahead of time, so you know what to expect and aren’t faced with any surprises on camera.

The producer will ask you about the topic you will be discussing so before you speak with the producer take a few minutes to do a quick internet search, even if you are well-versed on the topic. One great resource is the AAP "children's health topics" page on your topic at www.aap.org. A small bit of mental organization goes a long way in making you sound like an expert who can convey a lot of valuable information in a short period of time.

While on the phone, ask the producer if he or she would like you to email formal ‘talking points’ for the show. If so, send these in Q&A form. Even if the producer does not desire ‘talking points’ from you, creating some for your own personal use is a fantastic way to prepare for the segment.

Issues to ask the producer about include duration of the segment, who will be interviewing you, what to expect when you arrive at the studio, and whether hair and make up touch up are provided.

5) Be flexible. Things frequently change in the broadcast world, and they can change last minute. I have had a topic change upon arrival at the studio, leaving me only 10 minutes to review the topic on my i-phone. Though this would fluster almost anyone, try not to let the producers know you are uncomfortable about a last minute switch. The more easygoing you are, the more likely they are to have you back. And, unfortunately, we all get cancelled. Sometimes it's the day before, sometimes it's the morning of, and sometimes it's even after sitting on the set. I personally have been sitting next to the interviewer with my microphone on, only to have my medical segment bumped by someone talking about vegetarian turkeys for Thanksgiving! But don't give away your annoyance, even if you (ahem) changed around your whole schedule, only to have the segment be canceled at the last second.

6) Be reachable. Immediate access to email is a must. Often you will receive an appearance request in the form of an email. If your response time isn't quick enough, you risk losing the opportunity. A blackberry or i-phone really comes in handy if you plan to appear on air often.

7) Send a quick thank you email. It's always nice to send a brief "thank you for having me" email, and it gives you an opportunity to say that you would love to come on again if the need should arise. Many times this has opened the door for me to send pitches back to the producer.

By: Alanna Levine, MD, FAAP