If 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.
There 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."
Besides 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
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
Typically, 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.