How to Become a Talk-Show Host

By Contributor ; Updated September 15, 2017

Oprah and Letterman, Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh. What talkshow hosts have in common is marrying the gift of gab with the ability to glean juicy details from their guests. To get your own show, you can rise through the ranks of broadcasting or enter as an expert in your field. Either way, you need a double dose of confidence and a perpetually quick response.

Get a college degree in journalism and/or communications with coursework in public speaking and drama. See 149 Decide Which College Is Right for You.

Attend a private broadcasting school. Before you enroll, ask a variety of broadcasting professionals about the school's reputation. Or apprentice in a training program at a radio or TV station.

Work at a campus radio or TV station, or intern at a commercial station to gain experience and develop contacts. See 161 Set Up an Internship.

Produce a demo tape to distribute to program directors. Film or record a live performance to showcase your on-air experience and ability to interact confidently with guests.

Start out in radio--you have a better chance of getting on the air than you do in TV. Even there, your first job probably will be operating equipment or working as an production assistant, not hosting a show. You'll work behind the scenes--taping interviews, meeting guests' needs and running out for coffee.

Expect to begin as an assistant, a researcher or a camera operator if you start out in TV. With luck, you'll move up to an on-air position. Start in a small market to gain experience. You'll do everything from production to fund-raising--and hopefully some broadcasting work.

Get some years of experience under your belt and move to a bigger market, where you'll earn more prestige and more money. Your goal may be to work at a radio or TV station in a thriving metropolitan area, but you need a proven track record first.

Get on the air first as a guest if you're a specialist in a field such as psychology and want to become a talk-show host. People will fall in love with your wit and wisdom, and you'll go from there. At least, that's how it worked for Dr. Phil and Dr. Ruth.

Cultivate mental and verbal flexibility and the ability to ad-lib. You never know who's going to say what on a talk show, and you have to be ready with the right response.

Tip

Don't worry about having the perfect voice for broadcasting. Years ago, it was important because a lot of sound was lost in transmission. With the quality of today's broadcasting equipment, you don't need such a strong voice. Get ready for odd hours. Even experienced talk-show hosts often work on earlymorning or late-night shows. Focus on radio if your voice scores more points than your face does.

Warning

Start purging the seven "forbidden words" from your vocabulary.