The 7 Attributes Of Great TV Hosts

tv hosting-the 7 attributes of great TV hosts


I think that my biggest attribute to any success that I have had is hard work. There really is no substitute for working hard. – Maria Bartiromo

In my teens, I had this strange fascination for “entertainment” television. Now that I look back, maybe I wasn’t so strange for watching E! News Live, Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood as much as I did. Somehow these programs resonated with me in a way that nothing else on TV could. It wasn’t until my college years that I learned the reason why. You see, I was never a good student in school and struggled in most of my classes. Even though my grades didn’t reflect it, I always knew I was an intelligent person with a strong work ethic and deep passion, but it drove me nuts that I never could do as well on tests as I thought I should have. Ironically, this led me to research and study the 7 human learning styles and how they affect our ability to obtain and retain knowledge:

· Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
· Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
· Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
· Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
· Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
· Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
· Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

As I looked this list over, I began to break down the areas of my life that I enjoyed and those I didn’t. Not surprisingly, what I found is that my “likes” were audiences, TV, music and as much as I didn’t want to admit it, being the center of attention. My guess is many of you can relate to this feeling. The type of attention I attract is something that’s wired into my natural personality. In social situations, I always seemed to draw people in and frequently found myself in the middle of the action. As I looked at the learning styles, I began to see that I wasn’t abnormal; I just had a different learning style. The truth is we all have a mix of learning styles and mine heavily favored the visual, aural, physical and social styles. It’s really no surprise that my learning styles were never quenched by textbooks and homework assignments. That type of learning heavily favors the verbal, logical and solitary styles. What I did find out about myself is that I love visual learning more than any other. You can show me a video, show or documentary on a subject and I can pick up in an hour what would have taken 2 or 3 weeks via the traditional textbook or “class.”

When I learned this information, it was a real moment of healing and relief for me. To now know the personality I was born with, the same one that made me into the person I am today was never “below average,” it simply wasn’t being utilized correctly.

If you’re reading this, my guess is your learning styles may be somewhat similar to mine. That’s not to say if you have one of the other learning styles that you can’t be a host. All I’m saying is it’s likely that one of, if not all four styles are part of your personal learning repertoire. The good news is, that puts your personality in a category that will likely thrive and succeed in the hosting biz. As you will find throughout this book, “personality” is what a host MUST have. Without it, you’ll be fighting tremendous uphill battles each and every day trying to succeed.

Think about when you watch a host-driven TV show. You begin to understand why personality is not only important, but vital to the success of a show and the audiences ability to watch it. We all have our favorite hosts to watch. For some it’s Ryan Seacrest, for others it’s Ellen Degeneres or Oprah Winfrey or maybe it’s one of the many cable TV hosts out there. Whoever it is for you, there’s a reason you love to watch that person. Something about their personality resonates with you, and it’s likely who you’ve begun to model your own style and personality after. For me, it’s a combination of 3 hosts. I love Ty Pennington’s energy, Mike Rowe’s dry humor and quick wit, and the poise and professionalism of my former co-worker and mentor Nancy O’ Dell.

Don’t be afraid to mimic other hosts out there. They’ve likely taken years to mold their presentation into what it is today and also probably mimicked others to do so. Using others abilities as a guide to developing your style is perfectly normal. Understand that everything about the way you conduct yourself is what will either make you a host, or just another wanna-be host. Your ability to be happy, energetic, confident, excitable and compelling are just some of the many qualities that can make you great at this job.
So as we get started on this journey to becoming a host, or for many of you, becoming a BETTER host, I think it’s very important that we have a crystal clear focus of this particular industry and exactly what a “Host” is.

What Hosts Do For a Show

Simply put, a host guides a show, program or episode on TV or on the internet. Your job as a host will take on a variety of responsibilities depending on the type of hosting role you’re in. These include narrating, interviewing, moderating and in most cases being the audiences “tour guide” and piloting the show. Many times you’ll find yourself providing explanations to various situations and providing your viewers information on what your show is about. What gets an audience’s attention and loyalty, is when you unleash that special energy and personality you were born with.

The 7 Attributes of a Great Host

You might be asking yourself, “Am I the type of personality cut out to do this?” The greatest thing about being a host today is that you don’t necessarily have to have a Television background to do it, just a BIG personality! And I’ve identified 7 common attributes that just about every great host out there has.
What I’d like you to do is write down these 7 attributes. When you’re done, take an honest assessment of your own abilities in each of these areas. This will create a great starting point for yourself moving forward and it will also help you to be honest with yourself on where you may need to improve. We all need direction and coaching to get better and we can ALWAYS improve on our current skill set! That being said, here are the 7 attributes that make a truly great host:

You have to be confident at being YOU.

If you’re not comfortable in your own skin, audiences have this unique ability to see right through you into your soul and they’ll know right off the bat whether you are or are NOT confident in yourself. I think one of the very best hosts over the past 20 years doing this is Oprah Winfrey. At one time or another all of us have likely seen Oprah. She’s a cultural icon and the most powerful host on television today! If you want to know why she has been able to attract the audience and ratings she has, it’s because, despite great odds, she became incredibly comfortable and confident at being herself. Everything about her demeanor, body language, vocal tones and general ease talking to the camera says, “This is probably what she’s like in person.”

But it wasn’t always that way. I once read an interview with Oprah where she candidly spoke about her early career struggles. Before she was ever a host, she spent time as a news anchor in Baltimore, MD. In the interview she recalled one evening she went to a heavyweight boxing match to see Mike Tyson fight. Just before the match began, they ring announcer introduced the heavyweight champ at 220 lbs. The only thing that Oprah heard was 220 pounds, because at that time she was 220 pounds! If you’ve followed Oprah over the years, you know that she, like many, has always battled her weight. As you can imagine, this tends to have a negative effect on your self-esteem and confidence levels. But what Oprah told herself and what you must tell yourself is that no matter what the outside world thinks of you, you must see yourself as the person you know you are on the inside. You must believe that everyone wants to watch you and likes to watch you. When it comes down to it, that’s the ultimate litmus test; if you’re as confident and comfortable on camera as you are in person, you’ve achieved the ideal comfort level for an audience to not only watch you, but also connect with you and WANT to tune in to see you.

You must have a passion to connect with others.

Simply put, you HAVE TO be interested in other people! The most important thing you must learn to become a good host is that it’s NOT about you or the copy; (depending on what type of show you’re on) it’s about the audience. If you use the word “I” often, that’s likely a good indicator that you need to focus more on the “we” or “us” mentality. Think about how Apple has created and branded all of their products in the last decade. The Imac, Ipod, Ipad. These are meant to be used by “one” person. However, as a host you are talking to an audience, which means there are multiple people involved in the conversation. “I” needs to be thrown out of your vocabulary most of the time. You’ll also learn later in the book, that this also goes for marketing yourself. Certainly there will be times when the use of “I” is completely acceptable, but if you’re in this for self-glorification, if you just want to be famous or popular or the next cast member on a reality show, the audience is unfortunately going to see right through you and your hosting career will be short lived. So make sure that you know deep down that you have a definite interest in pleasing other people. This is incredibly important and crucial to your success as a host.

3. You must have an outgoing personality

I’ve seen the term HOST thrown around very loosely especially by local news stations hiring for what they call “lifestyle” shows. Unfortunately, TV News Anchoring is not hosting. Hosting is something that you either have the personality for or you don’t. It’s hard to teach charisma. The best hosts are the ones who are most comfortable in their own skin. Take Ty Pennington for example; if you ever watched Extreme Home Makeover, you know Ty could care less about what people think of his crazy antics. How about Rachel Ray. She’s crazy, goofy and great all at the same time! If you watched her, you’d think, “There’s no way you could call what she does “work’’! Or Adam Richman of Man vs. Food. I mean really? Not only does he go out and eat himself into a coma every week, he makes it look like its fun!

Like Ty, Rachel and Adam, some people just have that outgoing personality and love being around a crowd and entertaining other people. That’s why people that attract an audience are called “celebrities,” because others celebrate their personality. And as I’ve mentioned already, that in essence is what hosting is! You’re an entertainer and so you must act like one, whether that comes naturally or not.

4. Great improv skills– Much of what we do as hosts is completely off the cuff, and many times those priceless moments that end up causing people to come back and watch our shows again and again is our ability to react in fun and humorous ways to various situations. Watch a Tom Bergeron, Ellen Degeneres or Wayne Brady. They all have the unique ability to deliver great one-liners because of their improv skills. Unlike some of the other attributes, this definitely IS something that many people are born with, but that’s not to say you can’t learn it. There are many different improv classes out there you can take to help you with being quick witted on your feet. Also, I highly encourage you to watch comedians that make you laugh. You’d be amazed at what you can pick up by watching them! Growing up I was always a big fan of Eddie Murphy, Kevin James and a host of other comedians I would frequently watch and study. Observing my personality now, I can see that many of the nuances those comedians used in their stand up routines have become a part of my humor and personality. You can do the same. The people that have you bursting into tears with laughter are likely the people who will best fit your personality mold. In chapter 3, I’ll recommend some good coaches you can go to for help in this area.

The ability to listen– Listening is not just an attribute for being a great host; it’s a great attribute for life in general. If you sit down with someone for an hour and ask questions and let them talk about themselves the entire time, they’re going to walk away from that going “Man, I really enjoyed talking to that person!” But what they likely don’t realize is they did ALL the talking! People, including you and me love to hear and talk about ourselves. It’s not arrogance, its general human nature and everyone you interact with in life and on-camera will respond 150% better if you learn to listen to what they want to talk about and somehow work that into your conversation. As a host, it’s your job to take control of the situation and be the pilot of the show. However, if you make the people involved feel better about themselves and their time with you, it’s going to make your job not only easier, but more fun and engaging for the audience.

If you want a more detailed approach as to how to deal with just about every type of personality, I highly recommend the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It’s one of my favorite books of all time and it will teach you how to become a great conversationalist and develop relationships quickly and with ease.

Be able to market yourself!

This is easily the most underdeveloped and mysterious attribute the hosting world struggles with. The whole hosting landscape has changed so much over the past decade. It’s not about just about being an “okay” host anymore. You need to have the right tools and be able to develop your own brand. And with social media and Internet resources, it’s a lot easier to build your brand in this day and age because hosts can literally create their own opportunities by doing things such as taping video blogs and webisodes every day. You can do this anywhere and anytime and with minimal investment. In chapters 7 & 8, I’m going to go over how you can market yourself as a host and provide you with some amazing FREE resources you can take advantage of. If you do, you’ll better your chances of getting a call back or even getting the job!! So keep reading!!

7. A Thick Skin
It’s definitely an unfortunate reality of the business we work in, but in order to be successful in the entertainment industry, one of the most difficult things you’ll have to overcome is rejection. You have to have a strong sense of who you are; otherwise you won’t last long. Remember, there are hundreds of people auditioning for each hosting gig out there. For every person that lands the job, there are hundreds of others that don’t and somewhere along the line you will be one of them. Knowing this ahead of time, you must develop patience, and if you don’t, you’re going to add a ton of unneeded stress to your life and unfortunately to those around you. As a caveat to that, let me give you some insider advice. There are many people in this industry that try to avoid rejection by cutting corners and “manipulating” the situation. These people NEVER succeed and tend to burn many bridges in the process.

Stay true to who you are. If you go to an audition and don’t get the job, shake it off and get fired up for the next one. Do your research, practice as much as possible and give it your all for each and every audition you go to. You’ve may have heard that Thomas Edison failed thousands of times before he ever created the electric light bulb. You must take the same determined approach if you’re to succeed as a host. I can honestly say I have failed hundreds of times in my career, not only in hosting, but in many careers I’ve been a part of. And each time I do, I view it as one step closer to right job for me. Stay persistent, confident and positive as you go through this process. Doing so will put you at the front of the line and have you ready for the right opportunity when it presents itself.

As you begin to look at these 7 attributes and how they relate to your personality, you may find that you have areas that need some improving, or you may find that you’re perfectly suited to pursue this career because these 7 attributes describe you to a “T.” Either way, these qualities will serve as a guide to where you are currently and what you can become. We all need a map to get started on a journey and this book will serve as yours to get into the world of TV hosting.