By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA
I always get excited when I see or hear a nurse on television or radio. It’s probably because we’re hardly ever there! But it’s also because TV and radio appearances offer nurses the opportunity to show the world how bright, articulate, and knowledgeable we are. And while it’s a scary prospect to be on TV or radio — especially the first time —learning the basics and getting a little experience goes a long way to becoming comfortable in front of the camera or microphone. Here are some tips and advice.
Do your homework: Watch or listen to the program ahead of time to become familiar with the format and the host’s style. It’s also helpful to watch and listen to other guests to see how they answer questions. Talk to the host, producer, or studio assistant beforehand when possible. Ask if the program will be taped or broadcast live and how much time you’ll be on camera. Find out what questions you’ll be asked and who else will be a guest on the show or part of the panel, if applicable. While some talk shows have a discussion format, most news shows have a more structured, prearranged format.
Be armed with facts: Even if you’re an expert on a particular topic, it’s a good idea to do some research so you’re up on the latest news, information, and research. You never know what questions will come up, even in a prearranged format. Do an Internet search, check the relevant literature, and talk to those in the know. Practice answering questions, and time your answers. Time is at a premium on TV and radio, so you’ll usually have much less time to make your point or deliver your message than you anticipate.
Dress to impress: If you’re appearing on TV, what you wear will make an impact. In most cases, it’s appropriate for both men and women to wear business suits or other tailored professional attire. Avoid wearing white or black, which tends to make you look washed out. Avoid bright reds or oranges and small patterns, stripes, and plaids, which have a tendency to “move” on camera.
Be aware of your body language: Your body “speaks” as loudly as your words. Maintain an active and engaged posture by leaning slightly forward and sitting up straight. Don’t slouch back in your seat or sink into a soft chair. Use hand gestures that are low and close to the body. Facial expressions add interest and texture to your message. An occasional smile conveys confidence and warmth as long as it isn’t plastered on your face.
Get focused: Once the camera is rolling, look directly at the host unless otherwise directed. There is more than one camera in every studio, so even if the host is talking directly into one of them, there is likely another one focused on you. Try to forget about the cameras and just focus on the conversation. Ignore distractions both on and off the set. Assume the camera is always rolling and the microphone is always on. When the segment is finished, stay seated. Don’t forget you’re hooked up to a microphone and the cameras will likely still be rolling for a few moments. Some-one will come to take your mike off and let you know when it’s time to get up.
Keep it simple: Regardless of the host’s credentials, consider who the audience is and speak in language that is understandable to them. Use plain English devoid of jargon and acronyms. Speak in sound bites — short, concise statements that make a point or provide information. In addition —
• Radio interviews are done either in a studio or by telephone. They might be live or taped and edited.
• Larger TV stations have “hair and makeup,” but smaller ones do not. Men and women can benefit from some foundation makeup and powder. Don’t forget you’ll be under bright, hot lights.
• You do not get paid to appear as a guest on TV or radio.
TV and radio appearances keep nurses in the public eye and provide an opportunity to showcase what we do and what we know. Look for opportunities to appear on the airwaves. Not only will you become more comfortable being on camera and on mike with experience, but you’ll also get more accustomed to talking about what you do. Next time you have the chance to be on TV or radio, consider the bigger opportunity to promote the nursing profession … and take it!
• Talk About What You Do, by Donna Cardillo,
• From Silence to Voice — What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public, by Bernice Buresh and Suzanne Gordon
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