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How to Succeed on Television

The following section was originally developed by Patricia Glass-Schuman (former ALA president) in ALA’s Library Advocates Handbook.

How to Succeed on Television  

Develop three key points in advance

Television is a medium that requires you to be informal, relaxed, and conversational – but to get your message across forcefully in a very brief time. For most interviews, it’s important to develop three key points and make those points quickly and effectively. Find the descriptive words, visual images, and concrete examples that best make those points.

Paint pictures with your words

Especially for TV, but in all interviews, colorful phrases that call up visual images make interesting quotes. Keep a notebook of such images by your phone, along with key facts and good sound bites. Using stories collected during the “What’s Your Story” campaign to illustrate how users value your library will help viewers make a human connection.

Dress the part

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably seen someone being interviewed on TV only to find yourself thinking, “What in the world are they wearing?” Chances are, you can’t remember what that person was talking about. With a visual news medium like TV, there are a few ways you can make sure you’re being seen and heard.


  • Wear business clothes/suits. It’s harder to take someone seriously who is in jeans – even in Montana.Remember: A microphone may need to be clipped onto a blouse or shirt from underneath, so imagine how that may work when selecting your clothing.
  • Men should always wear jackets and ties.
  • Vibrant colors like blue, teal, rose, red, and burgundy show up well on camera.
  • Women should make your makeup a little heavier than normal, but in your usual shades. Men should be prepared to wear a translucent powder and possibly foundation, especially in a studio setting. Going without makeup for men can result in looking sweaty or shiny.


  • Women should avoid low-cut or sleeveless blouses and short skirts.
  • Men should avoid t-shirts and open shirts.
  • Everyone should avoid plaid and large or busy prints, including houndstooth.
  • Avoid dangling jewelry.
  • Do not wear very dark or very light colors.
  • Hairstyles that may hang in your face or be distracting should also be avoided. If necessary, pull your hair back in a ponytail or chignon.

Excerpted from the American Library Association’s A Communications Handbook for Libraries, published in Summer of 2004. To see A Communications Handbook for Libraries in full, please visit: http://www.ala.org/ala/pio/availablepiomat/online_comm_handbook.pdf.

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