I remember the first time I ever dreamed about being a TV host. As a teenager I watched Entertainment Tonight and thought, “I would love to do that!” Of course, the prototypical ET anchor read teleprompter in a studio and did interviews with all the A-list celebrities.
While the Nancy O’Dell’s and Mark Steines’ of the world still exist, they have definitely become the minority in the hosting world. Every week I talk to coaches, agents, producers and hosts out there making it right now, and they all tell me the same thing; you can’t just be a “host” anymore because that’s not gonna cut it.
If you have a big personality and are great on-camera, there is certainly something to be said about having that talent, but it’s not enough to compete in the ever-changing TV host landscape that continues to evolve year by year.
If you look at the majority of host-driven shows that are on the airwaves these days, they are populated with hosts that were previously known for being an expert in some other area besides TV.
Expert TV Hosts
Take Ty Pennington. Pennington learned woodworking early in life. His interest in home improvement started when he and several neighborhood kids built a three-story treehouse in their neighborhood, which Ty designed at the age of 12. From there, he began teaching himself about carpentry and home improvement. While working his way towards graduation from The Art Institute of Atlanta with a diploma in commercial art, Ty also worked as a carpenter. During his final semester, Pennington was approached by a modeling scout, and soon began a lucrative career in that field. He traveled the world and landed print jobs for J.Crew, Swatch and Sprite, and appeared in television spots for Diet Coke, Levi’s, Macy’s and Bayer, among others.
Pennington parlayed his hands-on skills and design expertise into a career in the entertainment industry, becoming a set designer, including for the critically acclaimed film Leaving Las Vegas in 1995. However, his professional breakthrough came through The Learning Channel‘s (now known as simply TLC) innovative hit show “Trading Spaces“. He quickly became known for his off-the-wall sense of humor and creative style during four years as the show’s playful designer and carpenter. Before you knew it, he helped create one of the most successful shows of the past decade; “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. “ But without that previous knowledge and experience in different fields, Ty would have just been another guy in the audition line.
How about Rachel Ray who has a fascinating story. She created a concept called 30 Minute Meals which she credited to her experience working at a gourmet market in Albany, NY, where she met people who were reluctant to cook. She ended up teaching a course in which she showed how to make meals in less than thirty minutes. A local CBS affiliate took notice and asked her to appear in a weekly segment on their newscasts. This, along with a public radio appearance and the publication of her first book, led to a Today Show spot and her first Food Network contract in 2001. Today she is arguably the most recognized food host on TV.
I tell you this not to discourage you, but to let you know that if you want to be a TV host now, you must have a platform of some kind to build off of. Most of the things that you’ll see me write about or do videos on tend to go against the traditional grain of TV hosting. This is because there is a paradigm shift occurring inside the industry and if you want to stay ahead of the curve you must learn and grow with it.
How to Develop Your Expertise
I recently interviewed a woman on my podcast who is at the forefront of this movement. Her name is Jacquie Jordan and she started a company called the “TV Guestpert.” Her job is to find experts and help them get on radio and TV talk shows to share their expertise with the world. People like Dr. Drew, who started his TV career a few years back on an MTV show called “Loveline.”
To get some perspective on ways you can get ahead of the curve as a modern day TV host, listen to the podcast now.