This one is simple. Don't get caught like a deer in headlights. Preparation is key, and while emphasis is often put on a Host's very first impression, I would argue its how you leave them that solidified that. It's one of the first bits of live broadcasting advice I ever received and it hold true to this day. Know how you will END a segment before you begin.
When doing any kind of side-line reporting, red carpets, interviews, or stand up, especially when you are LIVE, knowing how you will end a segment can save you from eternal embarrassment, or awkwardness. Just google news reporter gifs and you'll find plenty of bloopers. Of course some of these are unavoidable, like the man who had a fly enter his mouth (I feel you sir. I'd have spat too), button thing is for sure, these mistakes are memorable, if not immortalized on video forever.
'Knowing how to end' may sound like common sense, but like the role itself, Hosting always looks easier than it is.
But I digress. Your "landing" in a broadcast has VALUE. Sometimes it anchors your segment. Sometimes it leads into a deeper story. In a later post, I'll talk about how the executive at a major entertainment cable network recently told me to add all of my years of LIVE broadcasting skills to my resume. "But isn't that obvious?" I replied, having worked in a newsroom. "Doesn't matter- its a lost art, and people are too easily edited now." In other words, live TV doesn't forgive, And no one wanted to end up on a YouTube blooper reel.
I recently told my eleven year old son he was banned from watching any YouTube video that began with "Hey guys!" He was upset at first and I could hear him yelling at the screen, "Oh come on!" as seemingly every video he clicked on began like that. My little boy got the point quickly and so should you. "Hey guys" is rampant in DIY videos these days. It's overused. It's trite. And it's lazy. You won't hear Bob Costas, or Ryan Seacrest, or Savannnah Guthrie opening with these words. Ever. That's because they're practiced at what they do, and you should be too.
Be different. Break things up.
It's simple. Mix up your intros. If you went to Journalism school, or you have ever worked in a newsroom, you already know every article; each segment should start differently from the last and it's the same here. And if you don't believe me, just check out your favorite news site, or your local evening news. Your hosting stand ups should begin differently each time as well. Simple as that. And if you truly feel the need to use "Hey guys" (yes, even I have used it once or twice) be sure to employ a 10-1 ratio. In other words, for each time you use "Hey guys" be sure to do something different the other nine.
Here are a few other crutches that hosts use when they're nervous, or don't know what else to say. Up your game by not being one of them.
Finally, please don't beat yourself up if you've ever used these. Most of us have (see mine above). Yes, it can be off-putting, but its a great reminder that you are better than this. You put work into our craft. Don't derail it with flubs like these. Now its your turn. What catch phrases, or overused cliches bother YOU?
True story. When I was first hired at MTV, I was told to be aware of what I was doing with my hands. "The last guy did weird thing with his hands. We tried coaching him, but he couldn't get it so they got rid of him."
Yikes! This poor soul literally lost his job because of a nervous tick (we all have them as we'll cover in a later post). But really? Hands cost him a gig? Apparently so.
According to producers, hands can ruin a segment by upstaging your message. During my career alone, there was the Consumer Electronics reporter who hand-modeled products with hangnails and dirty fingers. Yuck! There was the famous model-turned-red-carpet Host whose stiff arms made her the butt of jokes. I haven't seen her on camera since. And then there was the beautiful girl with what I'll call "Italian grandmother speaking hands." What was she saying? I don't know- I was too busy watching her hands! And then there's this thing (picture below). What the heck is that?? Please for the love of Pete- do not do this. Its unnatural, and looks like a lady's private parts.
The point? Don't let your hands be the focus of your segment. So what are we supposed to do with them? Well, Dear Reader, that answer is as individual as you are. Luckily, there's a trick or two that can help set you on the right path. In my former classes, I always had my students try this: shake your hands out. Get them nice and loose. Now, 3-2-1 drop them! Where did they land? This is where your hands go naturally. However, unless you're very practiced, this trick doesn't last for more than a few seconds so try this: if you're doing a casual segment, and you happen to be wearing jeans, anchor your thumbs in the belt loop. Not for you? No problem. Here's another: place one hand behind your lower back and use only the other to lightly use expression, but again, you can only use this for a short bit -30 seconds max- or it starts to look bizarre too. If you're reporting, you likely only have a head/shoulders shot so hands aren't an issue. Or you might have a mic, or a clipboard so at least one hand is busy, but for the sake of the argument, let's say you have a Wide, plus you're wearing a Lav. There's nothing in your hands, and we can see everything. My tip for you in that case is to try this exercise: Call a friend and put them on speaker. Next, roll video on yourself while you're talking, but DO NOT watch yourself in real time. Instead, turn away from the video as you talk for 3-5 minutes. Then stop recording. Now hang up with your friend, and turn down the volume on the video to watch the playback of your body language. Chances are, sometime during that 5 minutes, you relaxed enough to be your true, organic self. Take careful note of what your hands (and the rest of your body) do when you aren't "on". Now try to incorporate your Authentic Self into your on camera presentation. I'll just bet your hands aren't the focus and you aren't doing the weird "V" thing. Good luck!
Inspired by a recent Virtual Hosting hangout with Shay Holland, creator of the Facebook group, HOSTS IN LA, and her guests Casting Directors Barbara Barna Abel and Sean DeSimone, I'm sharing some Hosting tips that were originally designed for my class at the esteemed Creative Studios of Atlanta before our return to California. While these tips will always be free, a follow on Instagram would be greatly appreciated as I grow that reach. Thank you!
As I write this, the COVID 19 virus is at an all time high, leaving us at home, isolated, bored, scared, and sedentary. If you are a TV Host, or any media type for that matter, now more than ever it's imperative to keep your skills in peak condition. That's right, I said imperative, and I'm not being sardonic either. You see, whether your platform is TV, radio, streaming, podcasts, YouTube, or IG, the job of a Host or Reporter is to be a messenger; a conduit for information. But as the great media philosopher Marshall McLuhan once said, "The Medium is the Message" ...and let's face it Hosts... we are the medium (or part of it anyway) and the world needs information (and lighthearted nonfiction) now more than ever.
The inspiration for this series was originally to help the "farm league" of hosts online who are tech savvy, but perhaps not as polished as they could be. Please note: these tips are not for the Veteran Host, but still may bring a commiserative smile to their face. Not "rules" per se, these are a collection guidelines picked up over 25 years from TV executives, CDs, producers, focus groups, and my own observances. I welcome all comments!
For its 20th birthday, the VJs and producers behind MTV's sequel channel tell the story of a music-video network too beautiful to last Andrew Unterberger // August 1, 2016
Reprinted with permission from SPIN Magazine.
Posted by Kris Wellen May 2016
It's one of the shortest words in the English language, and yet, for so many it is incredibly hard to say in the professional world. Employees are too often afraid that by saying 'no' to anything from -a project to severance- they will somehow tarnish their reputation. Within reason, of course, this is absurd, and may just be the thing that is keeping you from reaching your true potential. That's right- instead of saying yes to everything, see what happens when you say no.
I stumbled upon this little secret quite by accident. The first time it happened, I was a radio DJ living blissfully in Omaha, Nebraska. Say what you will about the Heartland, but that time and place were a huge highlight of my career. Most people never get to see what a gem of a city Omaha really is. I was in heaven. So when a potential new employer in a bigger city offered me more money for a more high-profile job, I said no. It may sound crazy, but I was that happy in Omaha.
But here's the thing. That would-be employer? He didn't take no for an answer. Instead, he came back with an offer for more money! Believe it or not, I said no a second time. I wasn't playing games. And guess what he did? Yep. He came back again, only this time he asked me to come say no in person. Now it just so happened that I had a good friend living in that particular city, and I saw it as a great way to network professionally, while catching up with my friend. Needless to say, the weekend was a huge success, and the rest was history. My friend needed a roommate, and the employer offered me even more money. Turns out that by saying no I made the employer want me even more.
Years later, I would use the 'no' secret again. It was at the end of a job; not the beginning, but it still had a positive outcome.
I had been working at a start-up that was clearly not working out the way I'd hoped. I could see the writing on the wall. The media department I had been hired for never got off the ground, department heads were let go, and layoffs began. I began to brace myself for being laid off, and to tell you the truth, I was fine with it, because whereas I had kept my promise to do the "temporary" research they asked of me, they never kept their promise to utilize my twenty years of media experience (in all fairness, those who had made these promises were let go, and the few remaining didn't seem interested in my television background). So in those last few weeks, I went to work knowing the hammer could fall at any time.
When the layoffs began I wasn't surprised. Day after day someone new would be called into HR, and leave the building with a cardboard box. The day they called me in, I was mentally prepared. I went in, and listened closely to what they had to say. I said nothing beyond nodding, and telling them I understood. I thanked the HR professional for her time. That can't be a fun job. The underboss, a young man decidedly fresh out of college, explained that I had a right to speak with the CEO, and here's where it got interesting. I said yes, I definitely wanted the outgoing interview with the Big Cheese.
"You want the meeting?" he asked confused.
"Yes, I do."
"But you'll just have to come back again. He's not here."
"That's fine," I said before leaving with my cardboard box.
People get funny when you've been laid off. As I left that day, there was a wake of condolences as good wishes from my coworkers, and whereas I appreciated that, I didn't need it. I couldn't have had a healthier mind-set. You see, in my original line of work, Radio, lay-offs are par for the course. They are so commonplace that you begin to accept them as inevitable, so when I was laid off of the start-up, it was really no biggie to me, especially since it wasn't the job they'd advertised. I don't think anyone expected to see me so upbeat on my way out. It was liberating!
When I got outside that day, I had a great idea. I immediately called my friend, Mary Jane, an expert in HR.
"MJ," I said. "I think I want to try a social experiment."
I explained that I had just been laid off, and that after everything, the severance packages were pretty meager.
"Do I have to accept what they offer? Can I ask for more?"
"Sure," Mary Jane said laughing. "They don't have to give it to you, but I'll bet with your positive attitude they just might. It's worth a shot- what have you got to lose?" MJ and I shared another laugh and she wished me luck.
The very next day I dressed well for my exit interview. When I arrived, the energy in the room was strange. Some people looked at me with surprise, like "Why is she here?" Others were already aware of what I was trying, and they were all smiles. The younger boss who had given me the news just the day before approached me sheepishly. A newfound confidence swelled inside me as I smiled at him.
During my meeting, I was cordial, professional, and very upbeat. I explained that I absolutely understood the reason for their changes. I consoled them for having to let so many talented people go.
"I know that can't be easy, nor fun."
Then, I simply explained that the severance package they offered wasn't fair, given the promises I'd been made, my original reason for being hired, and other jobs I had turned down to be a part of their company, and the fact that it was past Thanksgiving, and nearly impossible to find a job until the new year. Then I I politely declined the severance package as not commensurate with my experience. Just like that.
The room was very still before the boss spoke. If anything, I think he admired my guts. Or maybe he agreed with me completely. Either that, or he just wanted to move on. Regardless, I ended up getting more money that day, and perhaps most importantly, maintaining my professional integrity. As a bonus, I was later told by a coworker that I was something of a legend in that office for having my unique exit meeting. All because of that little word... No.
This could easily be my shortest article.
I could say "Don't do it!" And be done with it, but let's be honest, the world is more complicated than that. People do curse it the workplace, and that can make all the difference in your professional atmosphere.
Naturally, if you're a school teacher, or preacher, cursing just isn't part of your vernacular, so this article may be irrelevant to you. But what about the rest of us? Those working in more casual atmospheres, like Technology, or Sports; The Arts? Or how about dangerous jobswhere its easy to accept an F-Bomb flying out of a shocked electrician? S#!+ happens.
For the sake of this article, let's call the person who curses The Perp. Also, its fun to say 'Perp'. There have been Perps in every job I ever had in the media. They curse equipment (Oh, the equipment!) In Master Control they curse talent that has gone rogue, and off-script. Sometimes these folks get caught on tape cursing. Perps can also curse to defend a story they believe in. In radio, the cool kids used F-bombs to punctuate a sentence all the time. That is, until they cracked the mic. Then it was all Happy, Sunny, Smiley Day. Don't even get me started about Wall Street cursing.
What about when the employee isn't the Perp at all... the customer is?
According to a poll conducted by The Marchex Institute, the Number One industry to hear swear words in is Satellite Television (the full list is below). They note that 1 in every 82 phone calls by customers results in at least one of the Seven Deadly Swear Words that we in the media cannot, and will not broadcast.
And when cursing becomes hostile? Take this video of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (said to be one of the nicer Uber execs!) His rant went viral. That's embarrassing. And if Susan J Fowlers experience at Uber is to be considered, this sort of behavior is rampant there.
An HR issue?
It can be. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines Harassment as "unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information." Not swearing, although these Perps usually find a way. However, the US Labor Law says a hostile work environment "exists when one's behavior within a workplace creates an environment that is difficult or uncomfortable for another person to work in." And that most definitely can include your potty mouth.
So can you curse at work? Legally, you probably can (unless it causes harm to your employer's brand, or a coworker, in which case you better start looking for a new job). But should you curse at work? Absolutely not. Its unprofessional and vulgar, so simply put... wait for it... Don't do it.
Each November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo (nano-ry-mo). The national "competition" is a personal challenge for budding authors everywhere to complete their manuscript, whether it be the implied novel, or memoir. And while there are badges, and honors awarded, you aren't entering a traditional contest, nor are you cheating any people- NaNoWriMo participants challenge only themselves.
NaNo was born from the desire to get everyone who says they can write a book to actually do it. From its humble beginnings with only 21 participants in 1999 writer Chris Baty's brainchild has grown into a creative writing community supporting (arguably) more than a million participants. And Baty's project works! There are no less than a dozen popular books, and best sellers that originated from NaNoWriMo. In fact, self-publishing's Big Kahuna, Hugh Howey, completed the first draft of his mega-hit WOOL using NaNo. The novel, and Mr. Howey's subsequent work has made him a millionaire, and WOOL has been optioned by Hollywood-great Ridley Scott for theatrical rights.
So if the competition works, then why on Earth would I cheat, let alone do it so proudly? After all, I'm a fan of the annual event. Well, after having participated in NaNo three times now, I have found that what I end up with is indeed a completed manuscript. It's just a really really really bad one replete with typos, unintentional red herrings, and plot holes. Furthermore, I've found that I end up taking longer to hunt for, and fix mistakes I would never have made in the first place if I weren't in a rush to get 50,000 words on the page in 30 days.
So this year I decided to try something. I'd cheat!
I had been wanting to retell a classic story for some time. I believe that like all the great Shakespeare retellings, and others like Pride, Prejudice & Zombies, and Cinder- this was my opportunity to bring a great story to people who may be intimidated by antiquated diction, and unrelatable fatal diseases. This was my opportunity to record my idea in a short period of time. But to reread the lengthy book (did I mention the antiquated diction??), take copious notes, and change names, places, events & even plot lines to fit this century in 30 days would be next to impossible. By sourcing public domain material, I cut & paste chapters from the original (well over 200 years old, thank you very much) into my document. From there the fun began. I was able to rewrite each chapter chronologically in a new time and place with updated, and composite characters. One thing I've learned during this experiment is that the Victorian era mentioned everyone, and their cousin, in the ballroom!
Now, more than 20 chapters in, I feel great about following the blueprint of my source material. My new version also contains notes on how I can deviate from antiquated plots, edit or shorten otherwise bland scenes, and still come back to the mainline. Best of all, I was reminded of quotes, trivial happenings, and nuggets that made the original so great, and drop those into my new story as easter eggs for the savvy reader to find.
At the end of the month, I'll simply delete all of the borrowed source material, leaving only my revision. From there, I can also tweak the ending, or plot to better suit savvy readers like yourself. Granted, I know after that's done, I'm certain to have fewer than the 50,000 words that NaNoWriMo defines as a novel, but I'm guaranteed a clear outline for my next completed novel.
What are you writing?