#4 Work Out Those Kinks
Rome wasn't built in a day, and your hosting craft won't be honed in one either. It takes time, practice and many many hiccups to achieve that imagine of "winging it" live on air. The trick to becoming a polished host is to practice. That is the only way to get better. Furthermore, you will make mistakes, and that's fine. Just beside you don't make them in front of a huge audience. In other words, make all of your mistakes while no one is watching. Self recording is one way to do this. Volunteering for some small project is another. Be sure to record yourself, then go back and watch those recordings. Did you fidget with your hands? Did your voice crack? Did you stumble? If the answer to any of these is yes- congratulations! You have just caught your own mistakes. Then next time you record, you'll be more cognizant of these and other little things, and by observing them, and correcting tiny flaws, you not only begin to work out your kinks, you begin to get more comfortable with yourself. Now get out there and put in some work!
#5: Timing is EVERYTHING
Let's talk Timing- both figuratively and practically. If you want to make it as a host- you'll have to have perfect timing-- first to get the job, and to keep it.
TIMING TO GET THE GIG
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me I was "lucky" in TV and radio, I'd buy a new car every few year. While LUCK certainly has an element of fortune outside of your control, more often than not we make our own luck. Virtually every book on success will tell you that. So how do you generate good luck? The answer can be found in statistics.
During my career, I began to see patterns emerge. What came of that observation transformed itself into an equation that I subscribe to today, and teach all of my students. Its my variation of the Theory of Relativity and it goes a little like this:
LUCK = TIMING + PREPAREDNESS
In other words, for the hungry host, your opportunity WILL happen. Will you be ready?
TIMING ONCE YOU GET THE GIG
If practice makes perfect then this is where you must focus. Like any other talent, Hosting requires practice. It will help to flesh out thoughts inside your head, get out the "um-s" and "uh-s" and help you practice your voice. It will also help train that tongue of yours to speak clearly.
I recommend this trick. As you are driving down the road, start reading the street signs out loud. Ideally, do this when there are not a lot of people able to see you! This will get your tongue in tune. Next, start listening to Talk Radio, or morning shows. When issues come up, consider making a comment -again aloud. Why do we do this? Its simple and yet strange- just as your speaking voice sounds different to others than it does to you when you hear it played back- the worlds that you say can have a different effect when said aloud than they do inside your head.
By practicing using these methods, you naturally begin o think on your feet, and by thinking on your feet you are polishing that very skill needed in "live broadcasting" namely to have great timing when on camera.
Remember practice practice practice. Hosting is NOT a "fake it till you make it" talent. Good luck!
#6: You are not the exception
Let's keep this one short and to the point. The job of the host -no matter your platform- is to be both a representative of the viewer, and the engineer that keeps the segment on track. It's not about you- its about what you are presenting to the audience. That goes for both you- and what you wear. Let me explain.
More and more I see a new breed of hosts on sites like YT, IGTV and Twitch talking about themselves and yet calling themselves a host. If you want to talk about yourself, fine. Be a pundit. Just have to stand in a bikini and call yourself an Influencer? Not my cup of tea, but millions of viewers can't be wrong. Please, simply call yourself a model- not a host.
As for clothes. please don't wear white or pinstripes and thing the rules of production do not apply to you. They do.
#7: Cut - it - Out!
The QUICK CUT on your YouTube channel monologue-- the simplest form of editing, and the best way to hide all your little mistakes ... right?
Think again. The quick cut may be exactly what's keeping you from a well-paying gig.
Recently, my friend, an Executive Producer for a major entertainment news magazine, told me to punch up my resume's live experience. She knew I had years of live experience, and I assumed it wasn't a big deal to necessarily point it out. But I was wrong. According to my friend, LIVE BROADCASTING EXPERIENCE is becoming something of a lost art. Producers for all the big news magazines, and red carpet outlets need people with live experience. Unfortunately, the quick cut seems to be cutting more than flubs- it is literally keeping the farm-league of hosts from making the cut, because they've never trained themselves to think on their feet.
Now if you aren't interested in a traditional hosting job, or if your YT videos are killing it with AdSense, that's great! But for those who want to grow with television and cable networks, AND with the growing number of Live Streaming platforms, know this- you won't go much beyond your bedroom in broadcasting if you don't learn to recover from gaffs while live on air (or live to tape). Luckily, lots of practice will do this for you (as will #8 on my list). TIP: As you create your videos, try to do an entire 30 seconds (it feels longer than it sounds) talking without any mistakes. Next time try 45s- then a full minute. If you can get yourself to two minutes of talking with no mistakes, no flubs, no stumbles, then CONGRATS! So cut it with all those digital cuts and practice. Before you know it, you might be ready for Prime Time.
#8: Know How to Shut Your Mouth
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
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