6 epic fails of a CNBC appearance

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Or Fox Business. Or Bloomberg, CNN, and other broadcast media.

There she stood. Frozen in time. Jan Brady. When the glare of the spotlight shone brightly, the middle daughter of the Brady Bunch mustered only three words: “Vote for me.” And so it is in the unending world of 24/7 financial broadcast media coverage. Unrelenting and unforgiving. A beast that feeds off those financial services professionals who understand the rules of engagement on live TV.

There’s little room for error. A single poor performance — an epic fail — and kiss your chances of ever being invited back again to Englewood Cliffs, midtown Manhattan, the New York Stock Exchange, or some satellite studio somewhere. But don’t stress. Rather, consider the six epic mistakes that lead to failure and then avoid them:

  1. Failing to train, practice, or rehearse. Hey, you do this stuff all day long. You talk about the markets. Give advice. Consult with clients. But that’s not what it’s about in TV land. At its core, TV is about ratings, not selling. Producers want lively debate and fast pace. They want heat. Tightly conceived ideas and advice. Sound bites that stick. Guests who understand how to run with the ball and give up the floor when required. Preparation is key. Training is imperative. A day-long media training session can help you refine your message, understand the pace and flow, and get you confident with formats. Role-play live to video for immediate feedback to optimize your performance.
  2. Wanting to be the smartest person on set. TV is not an academic exercise. Forget the lectures. Put away the finance 101. Rather, remember that it isn’t about you. It’s about the audience. The framework of live television doesn’t allow you to be all-knowing to all people. Focus on your audience. Are you a global fixed income manager? Focus on the points of concern of your institutional investor clients. Are you advising retirees? Don’t talk about why you expect a certain company to raise its dividend, but why dividends play a key role in your portfolio strategy.
  3. Missing your mark. The most important part of any live TV appearance is the first five seconds. Forget about thanking the host. Don’t back into the dialogue. Rather, get right to it.
  4. Refusing to take control of the conversation. Once you make it on camera, you need to know you have a job to do. You are the expert. When the anchor turns to you, it’s your job to answer robustly. Don’t defer. If you think there is a better way to address the issue, then take your answer that way. Don’t try to guess what the host wants to hear.
  5. Truncating your answers. The only thing worse than a TV guest who drones on and on is the guest who spits out one or two word answers without providing context to their view. “Yes” and “no” are not meant as standalone responses in the infotainment medium that is TV. If making appearances on live TV is part of your strategy to bring visibility and credibility to you, your firm, your investment strategy, or other facet of your business, you better be ready to make the most of your time on the stage. Provide an explanation for each point of view you share and take advantage of the four minutes of airtime the network is affording you.
  6. Making the host come to your rescue. Behind the scenes during a live TV interview, the hosts are actually multi-tasking. Taking instructions from their producers, getting notes on breaking news, and even sneaking in makeup touch-ups when the camera isn’t on them. That means that they are counting on the guests to deliver and hold up their end of the conversation. Don’t freeze. Feel free to interject points in the conversation, even when specific questions don’t come your way.