By Chris Adams

As Heather Dahl points out, details matter.

A veteran television news producer, Dahl helps train people who may be masters of their own universes but clam up or slump in their chairs when the television lights go on.

Dahl, who is also a National Press Foundation board member, spent an afternoon training Paul Miller fellows – most of them print and online reporters – what to do when invited to appear on television or video.

One of the key lessons is to keep things simple. The level of complexity allowed in written communication doesn’t translate well to television, she said.

“Determine your key point – one or two sentences, no more,” she said. Beyond that, do a “jargon check” to excise technical or insider language from your talking points.

It might seem like a simple two-minute TV spot – but that also means you don’t have much time to make a good impression. Dahl said she has seen plenty of people flub a TV spot because they figured they could wing it.

Other tips:

  • Know the media outlet and its audience.
  • Practice saying words out loud.
  • Invest in your on-camera attire, and keep it accessible and ready to be worn at a moment’s notice.
  • Keep your clothing simple – no bold prints, big earrings, plunging necklines.
  • Assume your microphone is on at all times – from the minute you arrive at the studio until you leave.
  • And don’t act like the talent; be helpful and respectful around the producers and assistants who are getting you prepared.

Dahl worked with the Paul Miller fellows, leading each through mock interviews and then critiquing them for their body language, speech patterns, posture and preparation. (To see the 15 points, click here.)