Not being an overly confident public speaker, I accepted the challenge of attending a TV presenter taster course at 3 Mills Studios, Bromley-by-Bow, with the vague hope I might discover an unknown talent of being in front of a camera and become the next Holly Willoughby. Sure enough, it wasn’t to be, but what I got from this experience was something altogether different. I left feeling inspired, comfortable in my skin and empowered having enjoyed a full day with some incredible people in one of the most supportive and friendly environments I’ve ever come across. This is how it happened…
Upon arrival at 3 Mills Studios, I was warmly greeted by Helen Sheppard, our host for the day, who gathered together the flock and whisked us off to our workspace. After an introduction to her fantastic career as a children’s TV Director working on well-known programmes such as Playdays and the Tweenies, I relaxed a little knowing that I couldn’t be in better hands. We began by introducing ourselves and why we were there, which gave me a great insight into the breadth and depth of people a course such as this could help. The group comprised musicians and business owners wanting to improve their TV interview skills for appearances, writers wishing to take the leap into the world of video blogging, public speakers looking to create inspirational videos, individuals preparing for a new course and a small few who actually wanted to pursue a career in TV presenting. Basically, whatever you’re after from this course, it’s for you, and the opportunity to network is an added bonus.
Now, down to the good stuff. We entered into a brief and informal discussion about what makes a good TV presenter, gathering lots of tips and advice from Helen ready for our first shoot. We learned the five golden rules of presenting (ooh!) and that the most important part is not the words themselves but their expression, which is perfect because if you mess up, and all of us pretty much did, it’s fine as long as you recover – phew! Next we readied ourselves for the first shot, and in 5 4 3 2 1… we spoke a little about ourselves remembering all we had learned, maintaining eye contact with the camera and staying well anchored. We then watched these played back on the screen and, yes, we all squirmed a little as we thought ‘do I really sound like that?’ but input from Helen and the rest of the team was vital for improvement.
Quick tip: The most successful people in this section didn’t list everything about themselves from their education to their favourite food, but spoke about a subject that interested them such as their business or their recent travels. Their passion came through and produced great results!
After lunch, we got back to work and when entering back into the room the equipment had been moved and the teleprompter (aka Autocue) had been set up. Each of us glanced over the words on the sample guide we had been given, making mental notes of bits to look out for, as our host explained the exercise and how it all would work. Written as a mock TV show competition, we took turns to take the seat and after a practice run filmed our second performance. This exercise for me was easier, as I didn’t have to think about what I was saying, I was able to perform better. This task was great for those who might write a script such as a video blogger or motivational speaker, as it helped them to work on looking natural and thoughtful even when reading or speaking something premeditated. It was an excellent contrast to the morning’s activities, and gave an insight into the diversity of a TV presenter’s skill set.
Quick tip: When you glance over the sample on the back of your hand-out think about how these competitions might be done on TV, for example they might say ‘triple two, triple three’ instead of each number individually. Also, be sure to memorise words or phrases that might trip you up.
Our final task was co-presenting, which I had been dreading the most but was in fact my favourite of the day. We were told to split off into groups of two or three, decide what kind of show we wanted to be and then create an introduction feature which might advertise the show and make people want to tune in. I split off with a couple of other girls in the group and we decided that our show would be a beauty show with different features including ‘dirt cheap product of the week’, a ‘high-end to high street’ comparison of products and a food section talking about great foods for healthy skin. I think our sections were clearly defined, and the most successful ones did have a clear purpose for the different parts of the show such as an interview or cooking section. Again this part of the day was a lot of fun and everyone was noticeably at their best having taken on board constructive criticisms and encouragement throughout the day. Everyone was comfortable, happier to be the focus of attention and individual personalities really shone through. The improvement from the first exercise was very visible and it was great to see how each session enhanced individual performances. The format of the day really worked!
Quick tip: You might want to begin by introducing yourselves with a ‘Hello and welcome to… My name is…’ opening, then follow on with ‘Coming up on today’s show…’ and a list all of the features. Finally, finish off with something like ‘And that’s all coming up on channel X at 9’. This is how this kind of section tends to go so it’s a useful template to follow.
So, the day was over and we all left with smiles on our faces having had a great day! For those looking to purchase a showreel of their pieces, the first exercise was rerecorded to allow the opportunity to use your new found knowledge and experience to improve on your first attempt.
I left feeling that I could happily tackle a presentation or pitch. I even flashed back to my teaching module at university and thought I could tackle a lesson much more assertively now, which just goes to show that everyone can take something valuable from the day. In fact, those who were most out of their comfort zone got the most out of the day. At first it may have been hard but the day definitely helped them grow – some people arrived with virtually no confidence in themselves and left with a new-found quality to their personality that I don’t think anyone ever thought would be achievable in a short space of time. Definitely one to recommend… and that’s a wrap!
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