“The indispensible first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: decide what you want” – Ben Stein
Legendary business guru and influential author Peter Drucker once said a very powerful phrase that stuck with me when he said, “Strengthen your strength.” This means you must not focus excessively on your weaknesses, and don’t ignore the fact that your natural talents will shape the opportunities that have the most potential for you.
A strength is really an expertise. I define expertise as knowledge + experience. As you put these two together, the more valuable you become. No matter what genre of hosting you decide to pursue, work on improving things like your vocabulary, your ability to persuade, using metaphor and story, and speaking in front of an audience. The better you are at doing all these things, the better you will be on-camera, period.
As I talked about in chapter 2, picking a show or program to audition for without first asking yourself if you’re right for it is a recipe for disaster in the hosting industry. To develop our god-given talents into strengths, we must do what doesn’t always come to us naturally – and that’s to narrow our focus and our expertise. If you have real deep expertise in a particular area, let’s say interviewing others, that’s part of your natural talent or gifts, then that’s likely where you’ll succeed! But this “narrowing” of your skills can be uncomfortable for many of us.
Let’s say you’ve decided that being a game show host is where your greatest talents exist. Then you don’t want to spend most of your time learning about all the different areas of hosting like reality shows, shopping channels or talk show hosting. Instead, spend about 80% of your time focusing on that segment of hosting that is most suited to your natural talents and your personal and professional growth.
If you get into hosting and you try to be be a talk show host, and you then you experiment with being a game show host, and you see that you’re definitely better at the Game Show stuff… it would make perfect sense for you to narrow your focus on Game show hosting. There’s nothing wrong with being interested in something that’s not perfectly suited for what you thought was your skill set. If something else comes along that comes naturally to you, that’s a great thing! Be smart and follow it.
For me, becoming an emcee for charities and professional sports teams was a real eye-opening way to improve my skills on camera. I found that when I was live in front of these large audiences ranging from 500 to 50,000 people, it made my awareness of everything around me that much stronger. Then when I went back in the studio, I found the teleprompter easier to read, interviews were less nerve racking and my general performance on camera improved greatly.
That being said, I want to give you some help in narrowing down what your focus in hosting should be. It’s likely that many of you reading this know exactly what you want to be, but knowing all your options before you get started is an effective method of learning. I find that many people don’t know all the opportunities out there in which their talent could be useful. So let me break down the most popular and well-known styles of hosting that are out there today.
A spokes model or spokespersonis someone whose appearance and personality contributes to a company’s brand. Good examples of hosts who have gone on to become spokespersons include Mike Rowe (Ford, Lee) Ty Pennington (Sears, Lumber Liquidators), Jillian Michaels (Go Daddy) etc. As we will cover in upcoming chapters, understanding your brand is essential to your foundation as a host. Just a like a company, once you know what that brand is, you begin to target a certain audience. What many hosts are surprised to find later in their careers is that the same audience they cater to, happens to be the same audience a large company or corporation caters to. For those companies, this makes many hosts a perfect spokesperson for their brand because they already have an established relationship with their target audience.
Infomercial hosts appear onlong-form television commercialswhich typically range from 15 to 30 minutes, and short-form infomercials, which are typically 30 seconds to 2 minutes long.
Infomercials were originally created as a form of television advertising; however “informercials” can refer to any video presentation that offers a significant amount of information to promote a point of view. They’re also known as paid programming.
As an infomercial Host, you’re basically a pitchman/woman selling whatever product or service a company pays you to present. Their quality tends to range from the very poor infomercials that air in the overnight hours, to some of the more well-produced infomercials endorsed by a celebrity infomercial host. Many hosts use infomercials as an extra source of income in addition to their main job, pending their contract allows it.
Some of the best known infomercial hosts are the recently deceased Billy Mayes, former Entertainment Tonight Host Leeza Gibbons, Tony Robbins, Tony Horton of P90X fame, and more recently magazine show hosts like Mark Steines and Dana Devon have entered into this genre.
Home Shopping Host
A home shopping hostpartners with guests on network televisionshopping channels, such as HSN, QVC, and ShopNBC. Their job is to introduce new presenters and guests to the television audience, and help these guests explain the values and features of the product being showcased. Many of the guests who accompany the host on-air many times aren’t very TV-savvy or experienced, so a home shopping host must help guests better define the details and value of the items being showcased.
As a host in this role, you’ll typically stay on the air for anywhere from one to five hours at a time, welcoming several new guests and demonstrating many new products. Since products and guests are often only given 10 or 15 minutes to sell their product in the world of home shopping, it’s not uncommon for a host to be required to introduce 20 or more different products and inventions during their shift. Shopping networks are broadcast live, 24-hours a day, so mistakes and errors cannot be edited out. In this line of work, being quick-witted, personable, and likeableis essential, as well as being able to make quick transitions from one product to another.
Networks also like to routinely debut new inventions and products, requiring the host to quickly explain to the audience why the item is worth purchasing. Because of the large amount of guests and products, hosts often don’t have the time to study products beforehand, which increases the need for an effective host to possess sufficient verbal skills to mask this lack of direct product knowledge. Probably the best known Home Shopping Host on TV today is former Miss Tennessee Lisa Robertson of QVC. She’s been on the air since 1995. Other notable shopping hosts are Kim Parrish, John Cremeans, Lisa Mason and Jennifer Crawford.
Reality TV Host
Probably the best known types of hosts today are reality television hosts.This category of television programmingis very broad, but popular. Reality hosts present unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, document actual events, and almost all reality shows feature ordinary people instead of professional actors, sometimes in a contest or other situation where a prize is awarded. The genre, as we talked about in the introduction of the book, exploded as a phenomenon around 1999–2000 with the success of such television seriesas The Bachelorhosted by Chris Harrison, The Amazing Race hosted by Phil Keoghan and Survivorhosted by Jeff Probst. Since then reality TV has expanded exponentially and covers a wide range of television programming formats, from game showor quiz shows to voyeurism-focused productions such as Big Brotherand The Real World.
While is no set format for a Reality TV host, reality television tends to portray an influenced form of reality, at times utilizing sensationalismto attract audienceviewers and increase advertisingrevenueprofits. Product placement has become more prominent as the genre grows as demonstrated on shows like Extreme Makeover, Home Editionand The Biggest Loser. Participants can be placed in exotic locations (Survivor) or abnormal situations (The Bachelor), and are often persuaded to act in specific scriptedways by off-screen “story editors” or “segment producers.” Other forms of reality shows are those like Top Chef, Mythbustersand What Not to Wear. Each show establishes its own specific format and style and the hosts are crucial to making that format a success. American IdolsRyan Seacrest is the most successful reality Show host to date, signing a $45 million dollar deal in 2009 and a new one on 2012 putting him in the payday ranks of professional athletes and Hollywood actors and actresses.
INTERNET AND WEB TV HOST
This genre of TV has just recently started to gain mass popularity with shows like Yahoo’s Daytime in No Time hosted by Nikki Boyer and Prime Time in No Time hosted by Fran Nicoteroand evenYahoo’s Sports Minute. With faster downloads and ease of accessibility through phones and tablets, you will see this genre grow exponentially over the next few years and more and more hosting jobs will be popping up everywhere, so if you want to get ahead of the curve, this is the genre you can do it in!
Video blogging, also called vloggingis basically bloggingwith video. It’s a form of Web TV in which a host can combine embedded videos or a video link with supporting text, photos, and other information. You can record a vlog in one take or you can edit a series of takes into multiple parts. This has become one of the top categories on YouTube. Vlogging also allows hosts to take advantage of web syndication. This means you can distribute your videos over the Internet using either an RSSfeed or playback on mobile devices and personal computers.
I highly recommend this genre for those of you starting out in your hosting careers. This is one of the best ways to get comfortable doing the day to day on camera stuff and increasing your confidence and developing a following. If you go on YouTube you’ll see that there are thousands, maybe even millions of people vlogging these days. But if you pay attention to the information I am providing you in this book, you will be able to put yourself to the front of the pack and get established as a strong vlogging presence in your own sphere of influence.
37 year old Michael Buckley became an internet celebrity when he created a vlog called “What the Buck?”in which he covers popular cultureevents and celebrities. He has one of YouTube’s most popular channels with several million viewers each month. Michael started hisvlog as a small weekly segment that gave him the freedom to rant on his own. His cousin then posted these rants on YouTubeand it took off from there. He built a following and started his own YouTube channel in 2006 centering his focus on celebrities and pop culture, complete with satire and pardodies. In 2008, he was making so much money on You Tube that he was able to quit his job for Live Nation. In April of 2008, Buckley started broadcasting live internet TV shows on BlogTV. Those shows were viewed by over 200,000 people. In August 2010, he was a red carpet host for the 2010 Teen Choice Awards where he got the chance to interview TV, Web and Film stars.
Lifecastingis when you broadcastdaily events in your life through digital mediachannels like YouTube and Facebook. There are many different ways to do this, but the most successful “lifecasters” simply use camera and lighting equipment and generate millions of viewers and companies wanting them to market their products. For years, major TV networks always held the power when it came to generating large audiences through TV viewership. YouTube has changed the game and given individuals the ability to generate their own content that can be seen anywhere in the world. While “TV host” has been the long standing term, now “lifecasters” are evolving what a host is and can become.
Easily the most recognizable and successful lifecaster is 28 year old Justine Ezarik, better known as “iJustine.” She has millions of followers on her channel, ijustine.tv. She’s produced more than 500 videos which garner upwards of 30 million views each. Top put that in perspective, an episode of American Idol on Fox in its best season generates between 20-25 million viewers. She generated so much buzz about herself that when she created a video about wanting to order a cheeseburger, it generated 600,000 YouTube views in a week!
She also gained nationwide international media attention when she posted a video called the”300-page iPhone bill”, which followed the first month of service after the introduction of the iPhonein 2007. She created so much bad publicity for AT&T, the corprate giant announced that detailed billing would become optional for iPhone users. Who said you need a TV network to make an impact?? USA Todayestimates that her videos have attracted over 64 million viewers. Her popularity also garnered her television acting guest appearances on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,Criminal Mindsand The Bold & The Beautiful.
She has also been hired by MTV and Dick Clark Productionsto host online pre-shows for awards broadcasts. Carl’s Jr.has hired a team of YouTube stars, including Ezarik to produce made-for-web ads for their new Portobello Mushroom Six-Dollar Burger on the Carl’s Jr. In December 2009, USA Todayreported that Ezarik earns about $75,000 annually from YouTube. So for those of you who think money can’t be made without being on TV as a host, there’s the hard evidence to back up that you can!
LOCAL LIFESTYLE HOST
Normally produced by local network affiliate news stations, local lifestyle shows are a cross between news and entertainment. The host is able to dress more causal than a news anchor and tends to have more fun fluffy material to talk about. Duties of a lifestyle show host tend to include on-set interviews, teleprompter reading, ad-lib segments on pop culture, feature reporting, and hosting live on-location. These types of shows can be great stepping stones for future network hosts. Mike Rowe was the host of “Eye on the Bay” in San Francisco, Matt Lauer was the host of “PM Magazine” before heading to ESPN and later New York where he now anchors “The Today Show.”
I also was a local lifestyle host for 2 years and can attest that this style of hosting can be one of the best ways to prepare you for the next level. You’re in front of large audiences, you tend to cover fun events which allow you to unleash your personality and they also allow you to get out to of the studio atmosphere and away from the teleprompter which helps you improve your ad-libbing skills. If you live in or near a city that has a show like this, start networking, preparing your materials and when the opportunity comes along, apply and use the tactics I give you in this book to take advantage of it!
Professional Sporting Event Emcee or Host
If you’ve been to any professional sporting event, you’ve likely seen one of these types of hosts. Either in between innings, during a timeout or commercial break, they pop up on the big screen usually doing some outrageous game with a fan or conducting trivia of some kind.
While these types of jobs tend to not be lucrative, they are a blast to do and put you live in front of a ton of people. To do this job, you likely need to be funny, extremely outgoing and not be afraid of really big audiences who can see you doing your job live.
I and many other hosts that I know have had the great privilege of working for professional football, baseball and basketball teams as their emcee and host. While we knew it wouldn’t be our lifelong career, it is incredibly fun and can definitely lead to bigger and better jobs in the industry.
To find jobs like these and be considered for them you must network and send in your materials to the right person. If you go on any professional sports teams website, most of them list the different departments you can contact. You should be looking for the “head of production” and send them an email stating your desire to work for them and why you would be the best person for the job. At the very least, you’ll likely get a reply from them, because not many people know this is the place to go to find them.
Game Show Host
A game showhost typically works on shows that range from a half hour to an hour long and involve some sort of prize(s). These are typically money, love, or a vacation of some kind. This format is one of the most successful in television history. Shows like Wheel of Fortuneand Jeopardyhave been on the air nearly 30 years and continue to be some of the highest rated syndicated shows on television. Game shows tend to be self-contained to one victorious outcome per episode unlike reality competitions which span through weeks of episodes (i.e. American Idol, Survivor, etc.). So that’s makes each episode and entirely new adventure for the hosts, contestants and the audience.
Some of the top game show hosts on TV are Alex Trebek (Jeopardy), Pat Sajack (Wheel of Fortune), Todd Newton (Family Game Night), Wayne Brady (Let’s Make a Deal), Meredith Vieira (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) and Drew Carey (Price is Right).
Talk Show Host
Talk shows are often identified by the host’s name in the title, an indication of the importance of the host in the history of the television talk show.
Many talk show hosts come from a journalism background. Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey, and Geraldo Rivera and Anderson Cooper all mix news, entertainment, and public affairs together.
Entertainment talk shows are popular but have a limited number of formats. By far the most prevalent is the informal celebrity guest/host talk show, which takes on different characteristics depending upon what part of the day it’s on. There are also whole ranges of shows that are not conventionally known as “talk shows” but feature “fresh” talk and are built primarily around that talk. These shows center on social encounters or events adapted to television: a religious service (The 700 Club), a practical joke (Punked), mating rituals (The Newlywed Game), a legal event (Judge Judy), or a social event (New Years Rockin Eve). The line between “television talk” and what formally constitutes a talk show is often not easy to draw and shifts over time as new forms of television talk emerge.
A good example of the importance of the host to the form a talk show takes would beThe Tonight Show which changed significantly with each successive host. Steve Allen, Ernie Kovacs, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, and Jay Leno each took The Tonight Show in a significant new direction. Each of these hosts imprinted the show with distinctive personalities and management styles. Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s Johnny Carson’s monologue on theTonightshow was considered a litmus test of public opinion, a form of commentary on the news. Jay Leno’s and David Letterman’s comic commentary continue that tradition today.
The name Oprah likely comes to mind when you hear “Talk Show Host” as she is easily the most powerful host in any genre. Oprah started in local media in the mid 1970’s and was both the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV. She moved to Baltimore’sWJZ-TVin 1976 to co-anchor the six o’clock news. She was then recruied to co-host WJZ’s local talk show People Are Talking, which premiered in 1978.
In 1983, Winfrey moved to Chicago to host WLS-TV’s low-rated half-hour morning talk show, AM Chicago. The first episode aired in January of 1984. Within months, the show went from last to first place in Chicago’s ratings overtaking Donahueas the highest rated talk show in Chicago. She then signed a syndication deal with King World. It was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, expanded to a full hour, and broadcast nationally beginning in September of 1986. Winfrey’s syndicated show brought in double Donahue’s national audience, displacing Donahue as the number-one daytime talk show in America. Her talk show “Oprah” became the highest rated program of its kind in history and made Oprah a billionaire. She has since ended “Oprah” and started her OWN network and continues to host a variety of programs there.
Magazine Show Host
Tabloidentertainment TV or Entertainment Newsmagazine shows are typically composed of breaking news stories, exclusive set visits, first looks at upcoming film and television projects, and one-on-one interviews with Hollywood talents and celebrities.
Popular magazine shows like Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Extra and E! News Now,air as either a half-hour or one-hour entertainment news shows. These types of shows also tend to havespecial correspondents who report on particular features for the show.
I had the great pleasure to work in the research department at Access Hollywood at the beginning of my career. We were located in a trailer on the lot of NBC studios and had a working crew of about 100 people total to put on a daily 30-minute program. Coming out of college, it was amazing to me the level of production and manpower it took to put on one of these shows. Our hosts at the time, Nancy O’ Dell and Pat O’ Brien taught me a ton of great information and also were great mentors to watch on a daily basis. Pat was a great writer and Nancy was super smooth with delivery and red-carpet interviews.
Overall I can tell you that if you want to be one of these types of hosts, there’s no particular pre-requisite, although a previous stint in news or sports will greatly help you. Mario Lopez had neither of those and today is a great host for “Extra.” But unless you are a bonafide Hollywood celebrity, I highly recommend some sort of journalism job beforehand. That experience will help you with writing, researching, investigating and your general ease in the studio and in the field.
While there continue to be new genres of hosts popping up all the time, these are the ones I find to be the most popular and have the most jobs available. As with anything, I always recommend you do your research and learn as much as you can about the particular genre you are targeting to host in.
1. Write out a list of the types of hosts that you think you might be at. Under each write which strengths you have that would make you a good host for that particular type of program. Once you see it on paper, this will help you learn which genre you should be focused on learning.