Quite understandably, when people are thinking about appearing on camera they watch professional TV presenters to see if they can copy what they do.
Often this is unhelpful. Why? Because its a bit like watching Jamie Callum before your Grade 1 piano. It can lead to a form of despair. It is the job of every TV professional to be calm, collected and clear at all times. They get paid to look unflustered and in control, and mostly they do.
A friend has a very old tape of a BBC 1 lunchtime news. In the production gallery they record the show with the talkback – what the presenter hears in their ear while they’re presenting – over what the viewer hears. The lunchtime news is produced in a couple of hours when that days news is often half-cooked. So it is normal for only a fraction of the show to be actually ready as they go on air. This story goes back to the time before everything was computerised and the Director might just have a few pages of printed script to start the show. On this day, the lead story wasn’t ready when they went on air so seamlessly, the newsreader read the headlines, read the intro to the main story and said “More on that later” before starting the second story. Sadly, this repeated several times so 10 minutes in, the show was teetering on the edge of disaster. The Director, who like the presenter, is PAID to be calm, lost the plot. Looking down in front of him several times he found he had no script to go to until he only had one place to go: Page 23.
“I havent got page 23. Where is Page 23? I need page 23 NOW. I haven’t f******* got f******* page f******* 23!! WHERE THE **** is PAGE 23!”
At that point the newsreader ran out of script all together.
The Director, simply screamed “FILL!!!”
So, without a flicker, the newsreader, who has a lunatic screaming in his ear, and knows he has nowhere to go, looked down calmly at his script, found the first page with the headlines, and said, as if nothing was going wrong, “So, the headlines again; the Treasury has announced….”
He read the headlines for 30 seconds by which time Page 23 had arrived and no one watching ever new anything out of the ordinary had happened.
Why you shouldn’t model yourself on a TV presenter.
1. They have fantastic resources.
When a TV presenter “finds something out” it was in fact found out several months before by a (probably) young and (probably) very bright person who is paid to find stuff out, check it and then give it to a presenter in a way that makes it easy for them to say. You probably don’t have that person. You probably have you.
They often have autocue. Maybe that might work for you? Its easy to use and easily available.
2. They do it all the time. You don’t.
Practice never makes perfect, but it does make better.
Why you should model yourself on a TV presenter.
1. They have the same objective as you – to do a good job while looking cool and in control.
2. They take it slow.
Gabbling doesn’t work on telly, nor will it for you.
3. They focus.
There is a wonderful feeling in a live TV studio. Everyone is really focussed on getting this thing right. Everyone has the fear of messing up and everyone wants everything to go well. No one is surfing the internet for city breaks when you’re live on air.