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How to Produce a Talk Show

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It might seem like a glamorous career -- and it can be -- but the job of a radio or TV talk show producer also involves a lot of hard work and careful attention to detail. Among their daily duties, talk show producers book guests, plan the sequence of segments, monitor the activities in the control room and look for ways to promote and enhance the quality of the show. With only so many hours allotted for a single workday, producers may also do extra work at home.

Researching and Booking Guests

A big part of the producer's job is conceiving ideas, often with the help of hosts, writers and executive producers. Because talk shows are often based on current events or recurring themes in society, the idea-forming portion of a producer's job requires her to be up-to-date on current events. She might start her day by reading the local and national newspapers or researching trending topics. With a show topic in mind, the producer will seek out show guests and book them into time slots on the show.

Developing the Show Rundown

Another big part of a producer's job is developing the "rundown" for the show -- basically the timed outline of the various elements that go into the program. The producer will choose music, put the various segments or guests in a logical order and, in the case of TV talk shows or shows with a web presence, work with graphic artists to create maps, charts or other visuals. With a rundown created, the producer will assign a team of writers to draft the show script. The show hosts might also double as writers, helping to develop questions for guests as well as introductions and closing statements.

Monitoring Activity During the Show

Whether the show is live or taped, the producer will be on hand, either in the control room or studio, to monitor the production and see that it goes according to his plan. This portion of the job involves working closely with the show's technical director, who's typically in charge of the technical crew, including camera, lighting and graphics professionals. If a segment runs long, the producer might tell the TD to cut a subsequent section, for example. If there are problems or conflicts with guests, the producer might have to come up with alternative material on the fly. This portion of the job requires sound judgment and an ability to think on your feet.

Promotion and Planning

In the digital age, producers who work either in radio or TV must also see that the material is distributed online. After a talk show has finished recording, the producer might select segments of it to be posted on the show's website, or she might make the show available in its entirety. She might also be responsible for developing ideas for further marketing the show, such as placing ads, recording promos, or attending networking events on behalf of the network. The producer might conduct long-term planning to determine the show's overall direction or to make significant changes to its look or focus.


Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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