TV Presenter training – not just for TV presenters

One thing I love about teaching TV presenting is the range of people it attracts. On my last course at The Actors Centre, which was fully booked, there were two Dancing on Ice professional skaters, a Reuters journalist, musical theatre actor, former actor working in events, IT consultant, blogger, and marine engineer. They all had different reasons for attending, with mainstream TV presenting not necessarily being the end goal for all of them.

Certainly, I’ve trained people who’ve gone on to have high profile TV presenting careers including Seema Jaswal Sports presenter BBC and ITV, Julia Chatterley financial reporter/anchor CNBC, Bloomberg and now CNN, David McClelland Tech broadcaster on BBC’s Rip Off Britain and Watchdog, Sita Thomas children’s presenter Channel 5’s Milkshake, Louise Houghton presenter Euromaxx for Deutsche-Welle TV and Marie-Francoise Wolff, Kipling bags brand ambassador QVC.

There are dozens more of my former students who’ve achieved success using their presenting skills online such as Asian Media Awards Finalist presenter/writer Momtaz Begum-Hossain @the_craftcafe, flower expert Rona Wheeldon @flowerona, vegan cook Suzanne Kirlew @kirleysueskitchen, storyteller Lucy Walters at lucywalters.uk.com, Dr Clare Lynch businesss writer, udemy.com and Matthew Bellhouse Civil Engineer, winner Fleming Award for Best Presentation at The Geological Society.

People use TV presenting training in all kinds of ways, not always for TV, to build up their brand, vlog, make marketing videos, create their own content channels, to speak to camera with confidence and understand professional expectations.

TV Presenter training can help launch your media career and enable you to speak to your audience wherever it might be. There are people who are confident enough to start broadcasting to the world from their kitchen table, some with huge success, but for others it feels better to get some expert feedback and learn how to get it right before you do.

Kathryn teaches TV Presenter training in Covent Garden London at The Actors Centre and City Lit, and in North West London for one2ones.

 

 

 

Acting v TV Presenting

Many TV presenters come from an acting background or combine acting careers with presenting. What’s the difference? Acting is taking on a persona, getting under the skin of another character, portraying someone who is not you. TV presenting is being you, don’t try to be someone else or act the role of being a presenter.

Acting for camera teaches ‘Don’t look at the camera (unless a soliloquy)’, but TV presenters should look at the camera to engage with their audience. Actors can have weeks of rehearsal time, TV presenters rehearse just before the recording/transmission. Actors are almost always given a script, presenters may get a script or work from bullet points, research notes, a brief or just ad lib. Actors usually have a wardrobe department, presenters often wear their own, but on some bigger jobs I have known presenters to be given a budget or stylist, it  depends on the production.

There are transferable skills between acting and presenting, similarities and differences but if you are having a bad day in either profession, you will need to draw on your performance skills to keep it professional. Is presenting acting? Well, just a bit …..

More tips in my blog and book

https://www.nickhernbooks.co.uk/so-you-want-to-be-a-tv-presenter

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.

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.

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