I’ve done seven cooking segments on local TV now, and I’ve been asked a number of times how TV segments work. So I wanted to share some info with you!
You’d be surprised at how easy it is to land a baking segment on local TV as a food blogger. If you cook or bake and have a stellar recipe that you can share on camera, go ahead and try contacting a local TV station or two. Local daytime and morning shows are often looking for new talent, and they are constantly in need of new content for their shows. So really, the local TV stations that you reach out to could need you more than you need them.
Let’s say that you actually do hear back from a TV producer about doing a cooking or baking segment on their show. Then what? Here is a brief guide to preparing for your first TV cooking or baking segment.
Don’t freak out.
First things first: don’t freak out. Doing a cooking segment on TV sounds scarier than it actually is. As long as you plan carefully and come as prepared as you possibly can be, everything will be fine. Doing a TV segment, live or recorded, is generally less scary than giving a speech. Plus, your host will talk you through everything.
Be ready for quick turnaround.
A TV producer is much more likely to take you on as a first-time guest if they have last-minute spots that they need to fill. This could mean getting as little as two days’ notice to prepare for your segment. Be ready for quick turnaround by keeping a list of solid recipes and segment ideas ready just in case.
Communicate with the producer.
Once you and the producer have settled on a date, remain in close contact in order to nail down the details of the segment.
Decide on your recipe or topic.
You’ll first need to discuss the content of the segment. It helps to be forward here; in the same email where you say that you’d love to do the segment, go ahead and write out a list of ideas for content. Your producer will select one that they like best or make some suggestions for more unique content.
Send the recipe and a list of talking points.
After you decide on the recipe or topic for the segment, you’ll need to turn around very quickly and email the producer the full recipe with a list of talking points. In your talking points, give some general guidelines on how you see the segment going, and point out a couple things you’d like to share as “tips” during the segment.
Get the essential details.
As you are in communication with your producer, it’s also important to get the essential details on the segment to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Producers are generally very good about keeping you in the loop, but in case your producer isn’t, be sure to ask:
- How long will my segment be?
- Will it be live or recorded? (If it’s recorded, when will it air?)
- What time should I arrive?
- What time will I actually start?
- What appliances and supplies do you have in your kitchen?
Prepare your props.
Food segments require a great deal of prep work. You’ll need:
- Finished product of what you’ll be making (e.g., frosted cupcakes)
- Partially finished product of what you’ll be making (e.g., unfrosted cupcakes + frosting in a piping bag)
- Measured out ingredients of what you’ll be making (e.g., flour, butter, eggs, vanilla, etc.)
- Food prep tools (e.g., hand mixer, rubber scraper, whisk, bowls, etc.)
- Accent props (e.g., cake stand, platter, potholders, fresh fruit, etc.)
Plan to prepare your final product and partially finished product the day before your segment. (If you aren’t confident in doing it right the first time, plan to practice at least once before the day before.) And because you’ll be preparing the recipe during the actual segment, you’ll need to measure out your ingredients the night before as well. Bring any kitchen utensils you’ll need, even if you think the kitchen there might have them; you never know what might be missing. And don’t forget to include accent props like decorative platters and garnish because these things will really tie the look of your segment together.
Practice running through the segment.
Food segments are often ad-lib, meaning there isn’t really any practicing with the host beforehand. While you can’t really anticipate everything that your host will ask you, you can still prepare what you’ll say as you demonstrate steps in the recipe for your host. Video record yourself talking through the recipe so you can see what your bad habits are (saying “um,” touching your hair, etc.)
Dress the part.
Do your research to find out what TV hosts usually wear on the show, and try to dress accordingly. (When in doubt, it’s always safer to dress on the more formal side.) Keep in mind as you get dressed for your segment that they will need to “mic” you with a wireless microphone like this one. Usually the audio professionals can work around whatever you’re wearing, but it helps to have a beltline where they can attach the bodypack transmitter. As for makeup, it’s a good idea to apply a little more than you would on a daily basis, but don’t take this too far; today’s cameras are very good at picking up the makeup on people’s faces.
Come on time.
This goes without saying, but make sure you get to the TV station when the producer says you need to be there. Getting there late will only drive your nerves up.
Test everything before you start.
Nothing is worse than trying to operate a stand mixer or turn on a blender during a food segment, only to find that for some reason it won’t turn on. Make sure you know how everything operates beforehand, and test out everything that plugs in; you never know when a kitchen utensil might shut down on you or when an outlet needs resetting. (I know this from personal experience; luckily the producer and I reset the outlet right before the cameras went on!)
Again, as long as you do everything the producer says and come as prepared as possible, everything is going to be fine. Food segments can be nerve-wracking in those first few moments when they are starting, but chances are you’ll find your groove and forget that the camera is even there a minute or two in. Just be sure to smile, sound enthusiastic, and have fun with your host!