TV Host  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotIf you're the type of person who thrives on challenge, then a career in television may be for you.

"Performing live on the air is a very high-pressure situation," says Jonathan Bird, former host of a science show televised on an educational channel. "Even someone who is outgoing and has a vibrant personality can freeze up. You need to be very self-confident."

Television hosts introduce pre-recorded segments, narrate dialog and interact with a live audience. Often, they are also busy behind the scenes, conducting research, attending production meetings and writing dialog.

dotThere are two routes to a career in front of the television cameras. Individuals with expertise in a specific area may be asked by a network to audition for a show. Or the initial concept for the show may come from them.

Jennifer Corson is host of a show designed to help homeowners make extensive renovations without harming the environment.

"The show is really the outcome of my personal interests," says Corson, who has a degree in architecture. "[My business partners] had the brainstorm that we might be able to put together a half-hour documentary on the topic of green design."

The group sent their pilot around to the stations. "All of a sudden we were filming for a season."

Then there are those who have always dreamed of being on the air. But competition in television is extremely keen, even for entry-level positions. Would-be hosts are more likely to begin behind the scenes, researching topics or assisting the producer. Eventually, those with an aptitude for on-air work may wind up before the camera.

"One does typically enter television through the basement," says Charlene Prickett, host of an exercise show. Today, Prickett both hosts and produces the half-hour show. But she got her start writing copy in the promotion department of a television station.

How did Prickett manage to make the transition from writer to performer? "I had a very heavy performance background," says Prickett, who studied drama at university. "The television company decided they wanted to do a fitness show. I was athletic, which was unusual in those days -- I was fit as both a runner and a dancer. So I had the skill set."

dotBesides being knowledgeable in a certain area, communication skills are essential for a television host. "Producers are looking for someone who doesn't have a boring repertoire of language," says Prickett.

But it takes more than a dynamic vocabulary to make it on the air, says Kevin Brauch, co-host of a children's television show. "If you're reading lines, you have to make your point clearly and concisely. But if you're interviewing guests you have to think more quickly on your feet. And you need to be a good listener."

He adds that writing skills are also helpful, "because often you write your own scripts."

It also helps to remember that any successful television show is a team effort. "Even though it is my face on the screen, I am very dependent on the other seven people on the team to make the story happen," says Corson. "Packing up at the end of the day, if I wrap electrical cord it means that we all get home sooner."

dotTypically, television hosts work irregular hours. "Almost all of our production is done on location," says Corson. "Our days are quite full trying to hit two locations in one day."

Even hosts of studio-based shows can put in long days. "My friends never see me, but they understand," says Brauch.

At a Glance

Be an on-air personality

  • Hosts may do behind-the-scenes stuff as well as appear in front of the camera
  • This is a tough field to break into -- be prepared to start at the bottom
  • Communication skills are extremely important