If you have the gift of gab and a talent for getting people to talk about themselves, you might be a natural for launching your own talk show. In today's market, your best opportunities to debut a new program are at community local access (cable) studios, radio stations, independent podcasts and YouTube. Here's how to get started.
Determine how much time you can reasonably commit to scheduling guests, preparing interview questions and doing the actual productions. If you plan to work out of an existing studio, you will probably be required to work around the limitations of available time slots and utilize the facility's own technicians. If you plan to work out of your home, you'll need to invest in creating a quiet recording area, buying/renting equipment and determining whether you'll need to hire assistants.
Decide whether you want your talk show to be strictly audio or video and whether it will be done live or pre-recorded. These decisions will be based on your own comfort level in front of a microphone and/or camera as well as the desired frequency of the program. If you're doing podcasts, for instance, you may want to record four separate shows all on a single Saturday and then release each individual segment once a week. Perhaps you're doing all of your interviews on the phone which would give you even more flexibility in terms of scheduling chats with your guests (not to mention that you could work in your pajamas).
Identify the target audience for your talk show. If, for example, your radio talk show is going to be airing during rush hour, you can make the assumption that your listeners are traveling in their cars to and from their jobs. If your local access program is slated for late morning or early afternoon, your demographic is likely to be housewives, retirees and/or students. If you opt for a podcast, it's important to study your competitors' podcasts to discern who the content is designed to appeal to.
Identify a unifying theme for your talk show. Establishing the parameters of participation will make it much easier down the road to attract enthusiastic guests. For example, perhaps the target guests you have on your program are up and coming musicians who will be including samples of their music as part of the interview package. If it's a local access show, maybe your specialty is to invite guests who have unusual jobs or who like to do cooking demonstrations. If they have a good time being a guest, they're going to tell their friends and relatives which will, of course, result in great word-of-mouth publicity for you.
Make a list of your initial guests. (At the start, these may just be people you personally know who are happy to help kick things off.) Schedule time slots for them to be on the show. Again, this will be predicated on the format of the program and whether you will be chatting with them individually or as a casual panel in which they will be interacting with one another just as much as they interact with you.
Make a list of more interview questions than you think you will actually use. Every once in awhile, you're going to have a guest who answers everything in three words or less. If you have scheduled a 20-minute chat with them and they have already answered everything in the first 5 minutes, that's a lot of dead air you're going to have to fill up.
Prepare a working outline prior to the interview with rough estimates of how much time you plan to devote to each question or demonstration.
Relax and have fun!
If you live in a region that is popular with tourists, considering doing a talk show with guests who work in the various attractions, restaurants and hotels, or who are well versed in the region's history and lore. If you don't already have one, set up a website to help hype the program. Include a component where prospective guests can contact you to appear on the show. A radio show or podcast that is pre-recorded is easier to fix than a TV program. Humans make mistakes and you need to be able to allow for those mistakes to be remedied before the program is broadcast. Always ask open-ended questions as opposed to those that can be answered with just a yes or no. Pay attention to the answers! This can provide you with fodder to ask new things that weren't on your original list. Always have a clock nearby so that you can make sure you're not running over the timeframe you've planned. If you are interviewing someone in person, the clock should be set up behind them and in clear sight. If you are constantly turning back your cuff to look at your watch, you are only going to make your guests anxious.
Always prep your guest(s) on what you're going to be asking them about. Some of your guests may even want to see all of the questions in advance so that they can rehearse. By all means, allow them to do this. The idea is to put them at ease so that they can give the best possible interview. If a guest asks that a certain topic not to be brought up, you won't score any points by turning around and asking them anyway. Keep to your promises.
Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.