On-Air Presence & Practice: Learn the Look, Sound & Style that Can Land You a Job

Broadcast Workshop Panel PosingFor the benefit of ourselves and all of our colleagues at TV2 KSU, we decided to learn more about on-air presence. It will help us with our own and allow us to teach others better in the future.

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1:58 p.m.: Session underway. Ted Hall, Anchor/Reporter – WXIA TV; Susanna Capelouto, CNN Reporter – CNN Radio; and Emilie Porman-Bush, former NPR/GPB Reporter/Author. This workshop is all about creating a physical, vocal and online presence when you are trying to get a job in broadcasting.


2:01 p.m.: (left to right) Susanna Capelouto, Steve Butera, Ted Hall, Emilie Porman-Bush.

2:05 p.m.: Ted Hall brief intro: Playing a clip from his morning newscast. Started in broadcasting in 1983.

2:07 p.m.: Dropped out of college. Went to a broadcasting school in Minnesota – lasted ten months. KLOA-TV in Kansas turned him down. Then, called later and offered him the lowest job on the totem poll. Was told to shave his mustache.

2:09 p.m.: Never say no to an opportunity. You never know when you’ll stumble upon something. Be ready at all times. Did reports for ESPN and E. Was told to fix gaps in his teeth.

2:11 p.m.: Gave an example of a man with a very effeminate delivery. Had to eliminate that from his speech and delivery before he was ever let on the air. You always have to be conscious of your looks and delivery.

2:12 p.m.: Capelouto begins talking about voice. She had an accent when she started because she grew up on Europe. She went in for a news reader audition and then got a DJ job. She discovered what she really wanted to do was tell stories in sound. She spent about 15 years in public radio after interning. Recommends going into podcasting rather than commercial radio. CNN is developing a daily podcast called CNN Newsday. Audio reporting is really going the way of podcasting.

2:15 p.m.: Having a good voice is something that’s relative. It’s not just not having an accent or having to sound one way. One thing is certain: You have to have a clear sound. If you have an accent you work at it. If you have a high-pitched voice, you work at it. You have to exercise your voice.

2:16 p.m.: Voice exercises examples: Hello, Joe! and tongue restricted “Mary had a little lamb.”


2:18 p.m.: Don’t be shy! Hear your own voice and own it. Listen to it. Be comfortable with it. Have your friends listen. When you listen to your own voice, it’s easy to fall in love with it. Have friends listen to it. Write very clearly with short sentences. Have solid pacing.

2:19 p.m.: If something is awkward to say, change it. If it’s one difficult sentence, change it to two short sentences.

2:20 p.m.: The trend is not going towards big, burly voiced broadcasters. What the trend is now is peoplecasters. Odds are, many people are going to be listening to the audio of your broadcast through earbuds. The trend is towards the more personable, conversational voice.

2:21 p.m.: The other thing to look for is vocal fry – where you drop your voice at the end of a sentence and your voice gets very gravelly. This is very common in girls. But it can happen to anyone be aware of it. Your voice is as important as your looks.

2:22 p.m.: Multimedia journalist Steve Butera presentation: Has to shoot his own stuff, wrangle his own interviews, edit his own packages, etc. Something everyone needs to focus on remembering is a stand-up.

2:24 p.m.: You want to build a resume tape and you need stand-ups. The beauty of a stand-up is you get to shoot it multiple times. Never settle for an imperfect stand-up.

2:25 p.m.: Broadcast looks: Always a conservative look for news. Earrings, long hair, tattoos all have got to go.

2:26 p.m.: It is incredibly important to wear suits on air in college. For girls, get as many suits and skirts as you can. You have to build a professional look early on. Jennifer Meckles at WBIR is a great example. She’s 23-years old and already a weekend anchor in market 60 – it is all thanks to her professional appearance and delivery. Build up your look from the beginning and you’ll go far.

2:28 p.m.: Emilie Bush: Body language is so important. How many people are sitting watching this presentation with their mouths open? Body language and how you carry yourself is all part of your professional look. Your web presence is just as important as your physical presence.

2:31 p.m.: Have two Twitter accounts: personal and professional. Mask your name on your personal accounts – something that can’t be traced back to you. Put the keg stands and DUI’s there.

2:32 p.m.: How do you get that first job? You get work however you get work. You keep work by being pleasant, hitting your deadlines and doing good work. However, sometimes two out of three isn’t bad. If you hit deadlines and keeping creating good work – you might be able to get away with being a jackass.

2:33 p.m.: Networking is everything. If you’ve gone ahead and gone to a conference like CBI, be ready to network. Loyalty is important in this business.

2:34 p.m.: The reason the pay is so low is broadcast is because there are hundreds of people waiting to walk over your cold, dead body and do your job for less pay. Also, keep up the best look you can. You’ll get asked to do more gigs if you stay fit and have quality headshots.

2:35 p.m.: A lot of the people who are the most successful on-air are the one’s who are the most unique. But you need to look the part to get in the door. Once you start building up equity with your audience and managers, you can get more unique with your look. But to get in the door, you need to look like what everyone is expecting.

2:37 p.m.: For your first reel, you should use the most creative stand-ups you can. You want to grab the attention of the first or second News Director you apply to. For example, Steve saw a stand-up submission where the journalist popped out of a pool – got them an interview. Have confidence when you do anything creative. The caveat is the creative stand-up has to fit the story. Be careful. The most original thing in the world can fall flat if it’s inappropriate.

2:39 p.m.: Sometimes, in smaller markets you have to plan ahead of time to do the creative stories. Plan a few days ahead when you’ll meet your sources. The first thing you want to think of in your package is what are the viewers going to hear. Plan all of the elements ahead of time based on the story. If it’s an individual, one-on-one story, don’t do a stand-up. Always give yourself at least three hours for creative and careful editing.

2:41 p.m.: If you have a strong accent or regional dialect, there are accent reduction classes you can take. However, sometimes slightly unique voices can land you jobs. The trend is no longer making everyone sound Western. You don’t want to try to be someone else you’re not. But if you do have a really strong accent, you want to work on it. Half of it is awareness of your accent.

2:43 p.m.: The world works on stereotypes a lot, unfortunately. If you have a European accent, you seem worldly to many. If you have a Southern accent you can seem like a hick.

2:44 p.m.: In order to sound authoritative and conversational, you have to confidence and sound like you know what you’re talking about. Often silence is the best way to get more information out of someone in an interview. Listen to what people are saying and continue to play off of it. If you don’t know what to ask next, shut up. Often, if you’re talking to someone and say nothing, they’ll think they haven’t said enough and will often say more. Eventually, you’ll get to the right question. You’ll find what to talk about.

2:45 p.m.: Don’t have a flat conversational style either. Be colorful and energetic. Throw in colloquialisms like “hey” or “I bet you thought about that yesterday.” Another trick is to take a pre-written script, read over the first paragraph, cover it up and then tell your friend what it says. Record both versions. The sound you want to get to is the more conversational style. That way, you can listen back to what the pure conversational tone sounds like.

2:47 p.m.: Anchors can always re-write their scripts to eliminate words they know normal people wouldn’t use in conversation.

2:48 p.m.: Conduct yourself as always on. Be a constant public figure. Be able to swallow criticism when people yell at you. There’s a mask you wear. You have to be able to come more than one person. It does affect your character. You become jaded about death. It’s something you have to be careful of.

2:50 p.m.: When is stand-up appropriate: If you are doing a story about an individual, you may want that entire 1:30 to be about them. But if you’re doing a story where you may want to demonstrate something, a stand-up is more appropriate.

2:51 p.m.: Know when you want to be demonstrative and make someone smarter in stand-up. But if you want to be more personal and emotional, perhaps show yourself in a reversal.

2:52 p.m.: When looking for your first job: don’t look for a job that you want. Look for a job you can get. Get your foot in the door and then start fighting for what you want. You’re not going to get what you want until you’re already inside. Show them what you’re willing to do.

2:54 p.m.: Often, this will be through an internship or by taking a less-than-entry-level job. It doesn’t have to be paid to be an internship. Take every opportunity to get in the door. They want to make the easiest hire they can. Make yourself easy to hire.


Very well-done and informative presentation. Great advice for anyone hoping to work in media.

Relevance to TV2 – A

Insight and Demystification – A

Innovative Ideas – A

Overall – A

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