How to Become a TV Host
You have to have a hosting reel to get hosting work, which is different from the demo reel for experts as talked about in section two of this book. Repeat, you HAVE to have a hosting reel to get hosting work regardless of whether your career goal is to become a presenter, a talk show host, or a television actor. It can be a general hosting reel or what we call an “expert reel.” An expert reel also features you hosting, but where a general hosting reel will include many different areas of hosting (infomercial, industrial, entertainment, talk show, reality TV, man-on-the-street) with you talking on a myriad of topics, an expert reel is meant to highlight your particular area of expertise in television. So you may still have yourself doing an infomercial piece or a talk showpiece, but everything in your reel will be you talking about your brand (sports, medicine, fashion, beauty, DIY, etc.). Expert reels have been growing in popularity the last couple of years as “general hosts,” who used to stride the airwaves, slowly become extinct. Most TV and talk show hosts these days are either celebrities or experts ... this is true even with television game shows! So if you are not yet a celebrity, it’s great to have a general reel that demonstrates your hosting abilities. But having an expert reel will almost certainly open more doors in your career. Until this reel consists of paying jobs you’ve booked, you will have to shoot these pieces on your own.
To shoot pieces for your reel, there are a few options. One option is to contact your local public broadcasting network and find out if there is an opportunity to either audition or create content for their television channel. A second option, if you want to do entertainment reporting, is to look up local film festivals at Withoutabox.com and contact a festival to get a press pass as a vlogger, which will allow you to interview actors and filmmakers on the red carpet. This is a great way to get footage and prove your TV or talk show hosting chops, though you’ll have to hire a camera operator with sound and rent a handheld mic for the event. Another great way to get footage is to hire a shooter for the day. You can find one on Craigslist or Mandy.com. Then you can go out to a few locations (beach, park, a street with some busy and hip shots) and get some fun exterior stand-ups (you standing up delivering a script/copy directly into the camera) or even some good man-on-the-street footage of you interviewing passersby. In post you can add some phone graphics and show titles to make it look really pro, like a fun digital series!*
Note: Make sure you have a shooter with good sound equipment, including a lavalier microphone and a handheld mic. You want your reel to show off your hosting skills and having good sound is important.
Over the years, I have spoken to many agents and managers in Los Angeles about what they need to see in a hosting reel in order to consider a client for a role as a talk show host or television presenter. I’ve compiled the following list from their responses, and these items have become the must-haves in a hosting reel. This represents the major components representatives are looking for when considering new talent for a television hosting role, such as a TV talk show host or a presenter:
-INTRO AND OUTRO: These are stand-ups, where you’re standing and talking directly into the camera. An intro is something like “Hello and welcome to Behind the Scenes” and an outro is something like “We had a great time today at Today’s Buzz—see you next time.”
-TOSSING: Tossing is a verbal communication exchange to redirect the viewer between two elements in a show format, such as B-roll, graphics, or another host is an important part of hosting and really good to put into your reel.
-CO-HOSTING: You definitely need a co-hosting segment in your reel where you are talking and interacting with another host. A lot of what hosts do is interact, so you need to show that you play well with others!
-DEMONSTRATION: You need to demonstrate something, whether it's how to cook something, how to wear something, or how to use a product; you need to be able to show that you can do something with your hands and talk at the same time.
-INTERVIEW: Even if you just do a man-on-the-street, where you grab a cameraperson, go out of the street, and ask a passerby a question (but always with the mic in your back/upstage hand). You can definitely talk to somebody you just met, but you need to conduct the exchange as an interview. In general, your reel needs to be under two minutes. Remember, it’s not a dramatic reel, so please put some fun music underneath it and make sure it moves at a nice pace. A montage at the beginning can work nicely, and make sure the clips are long enough that we can get a feel for you but short enough that we don’t feel like we are watching an entire segment. I know it might seem frustrating to go through this process, but it may lead to you being booked off of your reel without ever having to audition. It’s heavenly!
For more on the main areas of what should be in a TV host demo reel, check out the all-new book, "The Ultimate On-Camera Guidebook" by Jacquie Jordan and Shannon O'Dowd.
Shannon O’Dowd is an on-camera host, commercial spokesperson, & media training/on-camera instructor. Shannon has been working on both sides of the camera for well over a decade. I eat, sleep, and breath on-camera training and coaching. I literally wrote the book on how to prepare and embellish your on-camera performance. Finding talent managers and eventually, agents means focusing on building out your resume, headshots, and sizzle reel. Having on-camera training can get you ready for the audition. I go above and beyond for my clients and teach up and coming professionals and established talent all over the Los Angeles area. Reach out! I want to continue to build a thriving community of entertainers.