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The Characteristics It Takes To Be A Successful Online Talk Show Host In 2012 & Beyond

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by David Garland in David's Blog

The other day RISE viewer Paula sent me this question:

“David, is there a specific personality type/characteristics that works best for someone that wants to create their own online talk show interviews people like you do?”

Very good question. Because, like everything worth doing…it isn’t for everyone. That being said after 275+ episodes and 600+ interviews in all kinds of mediums, let me tell what I believe it takes to be a successful online talk show host NOW in 2012 (and beyond).

A Quick History Lesson:

Times have changed. Pre-Internet days, the way (super simplified for the sake of illustration) to become a talk show host was to work your butt off doing lower level jobs in TV production or at the local radio station, perhaps eventually getting a shot at local radio or TV or something if some old white dude in a suit thought you deserved one. From there, besides your own hard work, you needed luck and the right people to help you at the right time (probably some massive butt-kissing involved). In show-biz they call this “a break.” It might have taken years. It might have taken decades. It might have taken forever (as in it never happened).

Then, that Internet thing came along and in the Web 1.0 era, you could create your own break…sort of. *All* you needed was:

  •      A massive understanding of tech (like, MASTER because there were no simple tools like there are now that are smarter, faster and cheaper and built for mere mortals like you and I).
  •      Luck of timing. Meaning, as an early adapter you stuck out because there was unlimited real estate. IF you could figure out how to get your show up online (no easy task) there was little competition. In many cases, you didn’t have to do a ton of marketing because, essentially, you were the only store on the street.
  •     Some kind of business model associated with your show (easier said than done in Web 1.0).

Fast-forward and bring us to present time. Call it whatever crazy name you want to call it. Web 2.0. Social Media Era. Some of the same qualities are the SAME that were required of talk show hosts of past eras and some are unique to the times we are living in now.

Here are the 7 key characteristics in my eyes. Some are personality-related. Some are drive-related. Some are hustle-related. Some are innate. Some are learned.

1. People Person: No BS on this one. If you don’t like people, it will be kind of hard to have a show where the idea is to interview and have conversations with people. Bonus points if you get along with others. Likeability matters.

2. Knowledgeable & Passionate About Your Topic: You don’t have be the be-all-end-all-master-expert-guy/gal, but you do have be knowledgeable on the subject(s) that you cover. If you don’t know anything about hockey and don’t like it, why in the world would you start a show about it? Sounds simple, but I’ve seen shows fail because people chose the topic they “think they should do” as opposed to what they want to do.

3. Can Share The Spotlight: This is important. If you have to always be the “know-it-all” expert and have the attention on you 100% of the time, there might be better mediums for you.

4. Love To Give & Promote Others: Self explanatory. You are throwing a party for your guests and spreading the love is key to success. If it is about you 100% of time, it just won’t work. This would be a good place for a joke on “self love” but I’m going to control myself.

5. Curious: The top interviewers in the world have revealed to me that their best questions always from their own personal curiosities. I totally agree. The more curious you are, the better. If you were a cartoon and your first choice would be Curious George, you get bonus points.

6. Organized: Old school talk show hosts didn’t have to be extremely organized. Other people did that for them and they just showed up and hosted. Not in this era. Most likely when you start you are going to be wearing all kinds of hats: Host, producer, promoter, community builder, fire put-er-outer, guest getter. If you aren’t organized, you will end up punching yourself in the face.

7. Willingness To Get Hands Dirty: This my friends is the secret sauce and unlike McDonalds it isn’t bad for you. If you think you will be successful by simply creating a show and popping it up on your website and then riding off into the sunset, you my friend have been smoking something. You are going to work your butt off. Networking, answering emails, building relationships, responding to comments, marketing, taking on multiple roles, putting your show on the map, getting in the trenches. Is it hard work? Sure. But, if this idea of creating your own online talk show resonates with you, you will never be freakin’ happier.

Is it possible to be successful without all seven characteristics? Maybe. But, I can tell you right now if you were nodding your head as you read this more than you were shaking it, you are going to be in good shape.

Think you have what it takes? I’m going to help you by teaching those that are serious EVERYTHING I know about creating, promoting and profiting from online interviews through Create Awesome Interviews. And I mean everything. Check it out the details right here.

    1. David Siteman Garland says:

      Very welcome!

  1. Yuhannes Watts says:

    Ha.. you said “fire put-er-outer!”… that’s classic.  Your 7 rules of success just about mirror any business.  They follow universal laws of hard work, organization, wearing multiple hats.. and everyone’s favorite – passion!  Keep killing it man!

    1. David Siteman Garland says:

      Very true. Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Angel says:

    Nice one, David. Can’t agree more on #7.

    1. David Siteman Garland says:

      The most overlooked and most important 🙂

  3. shelia says:

    Great post – can’t wait to see “Creating Awesome Interviews.”

    1. David Siteman Garland says:

      Can’t wait to bring it to ya!

  4. Jason Ulsrud says:

    Great post David and I especially like that you mentioned there was an Innate aspect to being a good interviewer. 

    The one point I would add, if asked, although I wasn’t, but I’ll add it anyway.  LOL

    Is quick on your feet.  My interviews are never scripted, meaning I hardly ever know what I’m going to ask when I start.  I don’t have preframed questions.  So, I start the conversation, and as the person I’m interviewing is talking, I develop questions to ask.  I have to be flexible and thinking on my feet for my interviews.

    Additionally, I’ve gained viewership largely for asking the tough questions in my profession, so you have to be willing to put yourself out there and ask the hard questions.  I think people resonate with all interview shows because the interviewer, 1) gets the interviews with people who most don’t think they can, and 2) the interviewer is willing to ask the questions most people won’t.

    Ok, just some thoughts running through my head as I type out this comment…

    Love ya David…  You Rock brother…

    1. David Siteman Garland says:

      Jason –

      1. Ah that is a good one. I agree “quick on your feet” is definitely a good skill to have with interviewing especially being able to listen/adapt to what your guest says and when things get off track not to freak out.

      2. I agree on that one as well and it will make your interview stand out. One thing I’ve noticed is deep diving on a few things can dominate shallow diving into like 50 things.

      Great points!

  5. Luke Ryan says:

    what have been some of your favorite “curious” questions you’ve asked since starting your show?

    1. David Siteman Garland says:

      That is definitely one of the modules 🙂

  6. Great post and I couldn’t agree more.  

  7. Alexa Hart says:

    Looking forward to all your advice. Recently launched a travel storytelling site inspired by you. Once I’m home in the states in 4 months, I’m going to be fully devoting my time to it. Very excited for what lies ahead. About to watch your “free gift.” Thanks so much for crushing it and being an inspiration!

    1. David Siteman Garland says:

       Awesome Alexa. Enjoy your present!!! And sounds great re: your site. SWEET!

      1. Alexa Hart says:

        So… When can we expect the launch of “Create Awesome Interviews?”

  8. Vicki Wagner says:

    Check out my webshow “Lesbian Knows Best.” I started it in late 2007…it was me giving advice to straight people. I had to give INFORMATION that was useful to an audience!

  9. Francess says:

    I am in Nigeria and have been working on airing my talk show.I tapped from here. Thanks

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8 Steps to Turning What You Already Know into a Successful Online Course

The 8 step process to the successful with online courses + free gifts for attending!

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