Energy Tips

What kind of energy do you need as a TV presenter? I don’t mean energy to go to the gym, or jog around the park, but on-screen energy.

If TV presenting is being You, then just be your everyday normal self in front of the camera and you’ll be presenting. Right? Well yes, but there is some value in TV presenting as if you are the host of a dinner party, with a bit more oomph than in real life and a twinkle in the eye.

Too little energy, and your performance could be dull; too much energy and you could be OTT (over the top) and irritating to the viewer. So, how do you know what level of energy is right for TV?

You need to use your judgement, because in the world of TV you may not get director’s notes. Prepare beforehand by recording your work to camera and playing it back on a large monitor to evaluate your performance. Does it seem sincere, are you shouting, are you making distracting facial expressions, is the performance engaging, or flat and boring?

Unlike theatre, in TV there is no need for larger than life facial or vocal performance. Unlike public speaking, in TV you should not be casting your gaze around the room. On video/TV you are only speaking to one or two people at a time, via the camera, so speak to them as if they are positioned where the camera is.

Over the years I’ve trained hundreds of different presenters, and have identified two opposites in on-screen energy (as a generalisation of course). Actors from musical theatre often have performances that are too big for TV; they are used to reaching out to their audience, to be seen and heard at the back of the amphitheatre. What works on a musical stage does not necessarily work within the confines of the video screen, and I usually find I ask them to tone it down, to do less.

On the other hand, people from management consultant backgrounds often deliver video performances that are flat – perhaps because they’ve been trained to reduce the emotion in their performance, keep a neutral expression and take the heat out of the situation. Here, I often find myself asking presenters to raise their energy level, to do more.

When practising TV presenting you need to apply the right energy to the situation, for example, Newsreading and Children’s presenting require very different energy levels. But, as a general rule, on TV and video take care not to be too musical theatre or management consultant!

 

 

How to talk to a camera

How can you talk to a camera and make it seem real? A camera is just plastic and electronics on a tripod, so what can you do to make your performance natural? Imagine the camera is a person.

Your job is to connect with the viewer through the lens, so if you imagine the camera is a person, your performance will be sincere.

Who should you imagine? It can be your best friend, your mum, or a typical viewer. If you’re presenting a shopping channel imagine someone at home who is watching the channel, if you’re presenting a pre-school TV show imagine talking to a four year old on the sofa.

How do we watch TV? Usually on our own, or with another person, so when speaking to camera, talk to one or two people max. Even if hundreds, thousands or millions are watching your video, they are in their own space, not all crowded into one room. Make it personal and the viewer will relate to you, they will think you are talking to them individually and you will create a bond through the camera.

The same goes for radio. We tend to listen in the bathroom, in the car, doing the ironing or through headphones … again it’s the same rules as for TV. If you’re presenting a radio show imagine talking to one listener. Some radio presenters place a photo of their mum, boyfriend, or girlfriend by the mic to help them talk to one person they have in mind.

The language you use reflects this approach. If you’re on stage presenting a public event you might say,

‘Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen’.

If you’re hosting a children’s birthday party, you might use,

‘Hello girls and boys’, or ‘Hello everybody’.

But when talking to camera address the individual –

‘Hello and welcome to the show. It’s great to be with you again and I’ve got a fantastic line up of guests for you to enjoy this afternoon.”

It’s about being relatable, connect with the camera so the viewer can connect with you.

Am I too old to be a children’s TV presenter?

After teaching a recent TV presenting course I was asked by a thirty something if he was too old to be a children’s TV presenter.

It depends how you connect with your viewers and which target audience you are aiming for.

Some wonderful TV shows for younger viewers feature more mature casting including James Bolam in Grandpa in my Pocket, and Lynda Baron in Come Outside – both shown on CBeebies.

CBeebies is the channel for viewers under 6 years, their presenters tend to be maternal, paternal, aunt or uncle figures who can reassure the viewers whilst entertaining them. Popular and long-lasting CBeebies presenters include Justin Fletcher (Mr Tumble) Chris Jarvis and Pui Fan Lee who are all mid-forties and have presented children’s programmes for around 20 years. Justin Fletcher was made MBE in 2008 for services to children’s broadcasting, and won a BAFTA Award for Children’s Presenter in 2012. Currently he presents Something Special and Justin’s House, and Chris Jarvis and Pui Fan Lee present Show Me Show Me.

CBBC is aimed at children from 6 to 12 years, although older children watch the shows. Their presenters tend to be youthful, sometimes looking like teenagers themselves. Current popular presenters include Blue Peter’s Lindsey Russell, Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes from Sam and Mark’s Big Friday Wind-Up, Scrambled’s London Hughes, Arielle Free, Luke Franks and Sam Homewood, and Katie Thistleton from CBBC presentation.

Children’s TV presenter Gemma Hunt demonstrates how to move successfully between the different children’s channels. Gemma studied Media Performance at the University of Bedfordshire and as soon as she graduated she started presenting with CBBC – her many credits there include Xchange, Barney’s Barrier Reef and Bamzooki. In 2013 almost 10 years after joining CBBC, Gemma moved to CBeebies to present Swashbuckle the pirate themed pre-school game show. In 2015 Swashbuckle received a BAFTA for Best Entertainment show at the Children’s Awards and filming has just finished on the fourth series. As a young presenter, fresh out of University CBBC was the natural home for Gemma, and as she matured her style was ideal for CBeebies.

Different audiences demand different presenting styles, as ever, it’s about knowing your brand. So, my answer to the question, am I too old to be a children’s presenter? You’re never too old to be a children’s TV presenter!

Shopping Around

This week one of my TV presenting students was shooting a reel to send to a shopping channel. Choose a product you can relate to and record a 2 – 3 minute sell in the style of the channel you want to approach. To demonstrate that you can talk without the need for re-takes, don’t edit the presenting section. Shopping channels are live or as live, their producers want to know you can present in one simple take without losing structure or focus.

So, develop the knack of ad libbing about the product as you describe its key features and benefits. Demo the product and explain how it works. Lifestyle it –who would this product suit and why, know it inside out, be the expert. Look good – maturity is a plus for some channels, but grooming is key.

Live shopping channels use in-ear talkback to give timings to presenters. You can practise this at home by working with a friend giving you a countdown, or pre-record timings and play them back via headphones.

Watch one of my former students Marie-Françoise Wolff presenting Kipling bags on QVC to see how she connects with the product and structures the sell, with lots of energy, enthusiasm and product knowledge.

To read more about being a shopping channel presenter, see my book The TV Presenter’s Career Handbook, published by Focal Press.

A prompt success

I was observing some TV auditions recently where the presenter had to read from a prompt, and I felt some sympathy for the fragile performer under the glare of lights and onlookers reading from a screen – where it isn’t easy to scan entire sentences at once. Intonation, understanding and communication were made tricky for the presenter who faced unseen text and clunky sentences lacking sufficient punctuation and correct grammar –  and that were somewhat overlong. (Like the above!)

Where was the poor presenter going to pause for breath, let alone smile?

Presenters, when faced with reading from a prompt you can ask for a hard copy in advance – unless it’s for a broadcast journalism job where coping with breaking news is part of the skillset. If you familiarise yourself with the text before the audition it will be much easier to read from a scrolling screen because you will know what is coming next. If you’re not happy with the pace of the text or your performance during the screen test, don’t reveal this in your face or eyes (until after you hear the word ‘Cut’).

The scripts in your hand and on the prompt are from the same file, so look out for typos, overlong sentences and pronunciation issues before you face them on screen. Check punctuation, commas and full stops, read aloud to see where you can take a breath. Talk to the viewer, don’t read to them, and look through the words to find the camera lens.

Production teams, are you guilty of writing corporate speak, jargon or tongue twisters? Fine for reading alone, but not aloud. As TV is a conversational medium, try reading your scripts aloud before you press save, and spare a thought for presenters who can deliver a much better performance if given a little prep time beforehand.

Geeks, Boffins and Experts

Being a geek is cool – it’s also a sure fire way to get near the top of the TV presenting pile. If you are an expert without TV presenting experience you can get training and interest an agent. If you’re a general TV presenter without an area of expertise you can spend months trying to be seen.

We live in the age of the TV expert. Whether it’s on niche channels or mainstream, experts give authenticity to a production. Just look at how many current presenters have qualifications and/or life experience in the genre they are working in. Celebrities and known faces are being outnumbered by specialists, buffs and boffins.

If you’re a female expert you’re even better off. In recent years BBC schemes trained up a widening pool of talented women media experts from Economists to Engineers, Art Historians to Scientists, and there was a BBC training scheme earlier this year for BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) women experts.

TV and media researchers seeking experts can only offer you work if they know you exist. Be visible. Accept invitations to speak at public events, present conferences, write articles, be interviewed for print, video or radio. Upload your details to websites used promote experts such as findaTVexpert.com, beatvexpert.com, thewomensroom

But, sincerity in performance is still key. You need to be passionate about your area of expertise, don’t become an expert just because you’ve read it can help your career, be the expert who loves being the expert, the boffin or the geek!

The Reel Thing

Recently I was contacted by an experienced TV presenter, wondering why his showreel was neither helping him to gain momentum nor open doors. Beautifully shot and edited, the reel included a range of professionally presented items in too many genres. A triumph of style over content, the pieces to camera lacked originality as the generic scripts, written by the showreel production team, failed to convince.

It isn’t necessary to spend a fortune on a glossy product to make a reel that stands out. Your talent will leap out of the screen even if shot on a phone. Content is the key. Write scripts yourself, based on your passions, interests and expertise; self shoot and edit, or skill swap to create some video footage. Presenting is about being yourself, so engage with the viewer by making a reel with your fingerprint.

Agents and broadcasters frequently state that mobile phone showreels are acceptable because they are looking for potential. So, worry less about the finished product and spend more time thinking about the ideas. I have viewed dozens of ‘sausage factory’ reels that were so superficial or derivative they didn’t leave an impression; I can count on one hand the reels that were exciting – even if the sound wasn’t perfect – they were the reel thing.

 

Strictly Success

Joanne Clifton & Kathryn Wolfe, April 2015As a tutor it’s so rewarding when one of your students achieves success, and it has just been revealed that the multi talented Joanne Clifton is to join the presenting team of BBC’s It Takes Two. Joanne, World Champion Ballroom dancer and pro-dancer on Strictly Come Dancing will be a regular dance expert on the Strictly chat show this Autumn, as well as performing in the Strictly series.

When Joanne attended my course Get into TV Presenting at The Actors Centre last summer she was clearly a bundle of talent. She was training in acting, singing and presenting after achieving World class in dancing, aiming to launch herself in a new direction. Appearing on Strictly last year, along with her brother, ‘Kevin from Grimsby’, it was quickly apparent that Joanne could present as well as dance – she was discovered!

TV Presenting is an extension of your own personality, it shouldn’t be fake or an acting performance. You need to confidently talk to the camera, to engage with the viewer. The skills can be taught quickly, and then it’s practise. Joanne’s dance background meant she could connect with the audience, and she combined this with her cheeky personality and sense of humour.

The 2-day course taught Joanne the basic presenting skills of talking to camera, speaking to time, interviewing, being interviewed, walking and talking, vox pops and reading Autocue. Almost immediately Joanne found herself being interviewed for Channel 4, and she performed brilliantly.

Feeling that TV presenting could be her new career Joanne followed up her initial training with personal coaching with me, and is now confident enough to hold her own on mainstream BBC. It all started with a weekend course. Who knows where it will end?

There’s plenty more info on my website and in my books, The TV Presenter’s Career Handbook published by Focal Press, and So You Want to be a TV Presenter? published by Nick Hern Books.

 

TV Presenting Skills Check

TV presenting is a skills-based profession, you will need to prove to your agent, director or producer that you can do it! Your aim is to show employers that you have the skills and personality to handle whatever is asked of you in an audition or screen test. Below are some basic presenter skills that you will need:

Be yourself
Presenting is about being you, it is not acting, or pretending to be a presenter. You should not ‘be in character’ as when acting, but have the confidence to be yourself.

Talk to the camera
Reach your audience through the camera lens, so engage with the viewer by speaking conversationally to the camera.

Perform for video
There is no need to use larger than life expressions or project your voice as the camera and mic will pick it all up – it’s about performing for a screen, which is not the same as public speaking or performing on stage.

Speak to one person
It can be off-putting talking to a camera and trying to make it seem natural, so most presenters imagine the camera is their best friend or one typical viewer.

Relax and smile
Talk to the camera lens without getting a tense face, keep relaxed, smile, and breathe!

Good posture
Good posture gives authority and allows you to take in more air when breathing, which in turn leads to relaxation.

Clear diction
A presenter’s toolbox includes good vocal technique and clear diction. If you are watching a presenter on TV try closing your eyes and see if you enjoy listening to them too.

Ad lib
Presenters need to be able to ad lib (talk off the cuff, not scripted). You may need to fill if the guest is running late or there’s a technical delay, or answer unscripted questions on a live show.

Talking to time
Speaking accurately to time is a skill that’s used particularly on live shows, but you may also need to talk to time in pre-recorded programmes to reduce the amount of editing. The general rule for calculating broadcasted speech is three words a second, so a ten second script has about thirty words and a twenty second script has about sixty words.

Scripting style
TV scripts should be written in a conversational manner, as it’s a spoken medium. Try reading a corporate brochure aloud – would it work on TV? No, it’s a different style.

Memorising scripts
You will need to be able to remember scripts and repeat them accurately (or near enough!)

Working with a prompter
The trick with reading from a prompter is to speak to the viewer, not read to them. Remember the camera is behind the words, so look through the words to the lens.

Walking and talking
Walking and talking – it doesn’t sound too tricky to do both at once – but it’s funny how some presenters forget how to walk normally because they are busy concentrating on talking, or vice-versa!

Vox pops
Vox pops can feature in TV or radio, (also popular for show reels) and it requires the presenter/reporter to approach members of the public to get a quick straw pole reaction to an issue.

Interviewing
Central to being a good interviewer are the skills of research and listening. Although you do not need to be a qualified journalist to present (unless it’s News), some journalistic approaches are needed in interviewing.

The demo
If you want to work in shopping channels then your essential skill is the demo, or demo combined with an interview. Demo (short for demonstration) means showing how a piece of household, technical or sports equipment works, or selling jewellery, cosmetics, fashion or other products.

The make
Makes – ‘Here is one I made earlier’ are found in children’s and arts and crafts programmes. Try it out first, prepare!

Appearance
Finally, don’t forget personal grooming. What do your clothes, hair, make-up say about you? Are you projecting the image you’d like to?

To do list
Research TV presenter training courses
Start training or top up existing skills
Watch TV – analyse TV presenter skills and performance
Attend TV recordings

Edited extract from The TV Presenter’s Career Handbook by Kathryn Wolfe, published by Focal Press 2015

Do You Have the Right Personality for TV Presenting?

Whilst TV presenting is perceived as a glamorous profession, the reality is somewhat different. Of course, being in the industry has fantastic moments, from being on the red carpet to interviewing high profile guests in fabulous locations, but the reality is that TV presenting requires a huge amount of energy, commitment and preparation. Do you have the right personality to cope with the rigours of the job?

Start by thinking about you. Consider your character, temperament and qualities. Recognise your strengths and weaknesses. Try to evaluate objectively how you come across and realise how others see you.

One of the first questions I ask presenting students is, ‘Why do you want to be a TV presenter?’ This is not a trick question, it could come up in a job interview in almost any field – (celebrity, glamour, wealth are probably not the right answers here!).

What motivates you to present? It could be that you want to communicate to a larger audience, you enjoy interviewing and finding out about other people, there is an issue you want to promote, you have role models who are TV presenters, or you want more variety and challenge in the workplace. It might be that you are already writing, producing or broadcasting, in TV, radio, print or online, and you want to be more mainstream or high profile. Alternatively, you could be someone who has watched from the sidelines or from your sofa, and you’ve been thinking – ‘I could do that!’

Most TV presenters are freelance and motivation is a key quality to possess, so ask yourself if you really have the personality to go for it – it is a competitive business, and you will need to convince others that you’re really keen and committed.

Are you a self-starter, happy to contact people you don’t know and ask them to employ you? Do you enjoy meeting new people, would you be able to work alongside a myriad of different colleagues and technicians?

Do you display initiative or do you prefer to be given instructions at each stage? Do you work well in a team or do you like to work independently? Are you persistent and tenacious or do you give up at the first round? Are you fairly thick-skinned or do you take rejection personally?

Can you think on your feet? How well would you cope if the top news story were replaced as you are live on air reading from a different script? You can train for breaking news, so don’t panic, but it is worth bearing in mind that some people can work better under pressure than others.

Are you good at researching a topic, becoming an instant ‘expert’ in a wide variety of discussion points to put to the viewer or interviewee? Can you digest technical information and deliver it to the viewer in easy bite-sized chunks? Are you confident, with a friendly manner, do you possess good communications skills? How is your personal grooming!

Be honest with yourself and take a cold hard look at whether you’re in the right place. Take advantage of online personality tests – they can be very revealing, with questionnaires that can help you to assess your qualities and priorities.

To do list
List your strengths and weaknesses
Evaluate presenter qualities and match them to your own
Analyse your personal motivation and abilities
Explore online personality tests

Click, read, discover
Online personality tests & career advice
https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/tools/skillshealthcheck/Pages/default.aspx
http://www.profilingforsuccess.com/profile-yourself.php
http://prospects.ac.uk

Interview advice
http://careers.theguardian.com/careers-blog/star-technique-competency-based-interview

US
http://career-advice.monster.com/
http://www.careercc.org/

Edited extract from The TV Presenter’s Career Handbook by Kathryn Wolfe
Published by Focal Press 2015