A few weeks ago a producer from The Today Show reached out (on Facebook!) to see if I might be interested in appearing as a guest to share my insights about small talk. Yes, I replied! Then six days later I found myself on live television, in what felt like the fastest three minutes of my life.

Once I actually booked the job, the real work started. I decided to prepare for this opportunity the same way I would prepare my clients and students. While you may assume that I winged it, let me tell you… I did not. I practiced. A lot.

Here’s exactly what I did to get ready:

1. I collaborated with the producer from the moment we connected. I so appreciated his openness to my ideas and we worked together to find the best way to address Tamron Hall’s nervousness about small talk at cocktail parties. Given the fact that I only had three minutes, I wanted to share only the most relevant information. This process took 6 emails back and forth and 2 30-minute conversations. By then end, we were both on the same page about my content and the bullet points that would appear on the screen in the shot.

2. Once I knew we were going to use multiple choice questions as the format, and after each of the questions and answers were confirmed, I went ahead and printed them up to use during my practice runs.

3. I chose the outfit I was going to wear well in advance. (Tip: When going on camera, avoid black, white and bold patterns!). The producer explained that they wanted me to look “casual and hip”. I described what I was planning on wearing and he said that sounded fine. As luck would have it, Tamron Hall was wearing the exact same color as me. Not ideal, but what can you do?!

4. I practiced. Yes, you must get up and practice out loud. You simply cannot run it in your head, because life never plays out quite like you think. The best you can do is mimic the scenario and re-create it. For me that was taping up the questions, laying out the staging (that the producer and I had discussed) and timing myself to make sure I was covering everything in the 3 minutes that were allotted for the segment. I also made sure to wear the shoes that I was going to wear on the show so I could practice moving in them as well. Critical!

5. I enlisted friends. That’s right. I asked my friends to pitch in and pretend to be Tamron Hall and John Cena. I asked them to interrupt me and ask questions. I asked them to critique my delivery. I asked them to do it over and over. The more I practiced, the better I felt about my material. There was no script, so I needed to try and shorten my responses so I could cover all the material we had laid out in the segment.

6. The night before I made sure to have a great meal and get plenty of sleep.

When I arrived at the show, I had time for hair and make-up and then I reviewed everything with the producer. About 20 minutes before we went live, he took me up to the stage where we were going to film and walked me through the staging. The truth is, in live television, there’s not much time for anything. The sets are changing constantly, the crew is swirling around and there’s absolutely no practicing at all. At that point, you need to stay calm and focused and then let it go…

With 20 seconds before we went live, I met Tamron Hall and John Cena for the first time. 20 seconds. Then the countdown and off we went. As you can imagine, those three minutes went by in a flash.

Alexa Fischer on The Today Show discussiong Small Talk Strategies at Cocktail Parties

All in all, I had a blast. It was a wonderful experience and one I hope I get the privilege of doing again. We shall see…

Hope that gives you an inside peek of how I got prepped for the big show! Have any questions? Send them my way!

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