Helpful Hints for Appearing on TV:

  • Create verbal pictures or bring graphics or other visuals.
  • Look at the interviewer but speak to the viewers (It takes much skill and practice to talk to the camera. Don’t try it.)
  • Try to appear and act like a trusted friend.
  • Expect a distracting atmosphere (TV studios are a mass of cables, lights, scenery and equipment).
  • Men – wear over-the-calf sox.
  • Women – avoid extremely bright colors and too much jewelry.
  • Avoid embarrassment by considering the camera as always on and the microphone always hot.


There are nearly 1000 television interview shows in the U.S. The typical addiction researchers may feel they lack the reputation, appeal, or skill to appear on one of the network interview shows, but that still leaves hundreds of locally-produced programs. Just as in radio, producers are always looking for interesting guests.


As a visual media, television producers are looking for stories and interviews that are visual events. There are obviously plenty of “talking head” interview shows, but the best way to gain interest in your research work is to create a visual event: an exciting new piece of equipment, the opening of a new facility, research work that can be shown visually (brain scans, motion graphics, important professional gatherings, etc.)

In Front of the Camera

The secret to coming across well before the television camera is to be yourself… only a bit more so. The eye of the camera and its associated microphone seems to eat up the sensory data they collects. So to look “natural” you need to speak just a bit louder, make your gestures and facial expressions a little more pronounced, and raise your energy level slightly above “normal”. No need to overact, change your usual conversational style, or be “professional”. Just ratcheting-up a notch the way you usually communicate will do fine. The viewer doesn’t expect interview guests to be polished TV personalities. In fact, too much smoothness can detract from your image as a practicing scientist. The idea is to project yourself at a high enough energy level for your message to carry though the camera and microphone and capture the attention of the viewer. Just be yourself…only a bit more so.

And some facts you probably didn’t know about the media:

  • Our communications are received through 38% voice, 55% body, and 7% content. (Radio and telephone, 78% voice and 22% content)
  • Advertisers say it takes 17 repetitons before a new term is remembered.
  • Radio is primarily a headline media, TV is an event media, and print is the media that provides the most detail.
  • Magazines do the best job of reporting science to the lay public.

Next Page: General Guidelines for Lay-Language Scientific Presentations