5, 4, 3, 2, 1...As a newspaper reporter, this is what I say to the camera right before a TV standup. Trust me, it helps.
It allows me to "get in the zone" right before I start telling my story. I also know to speak loudly and clearly, and to get my point across. Just like you don't want someone to turn the page or scroll past your story online, you don't want anyone flipping the channel or exing out of the video online.
Believe it or not, this is tough stuff for newspaper reporters. We're so used to writing for the eye instead of the ear. But honestly, it's crucial to learn how to be in front of the camera. It'll make you a better reporter and more valuable in the industry.
Nowadays, we have to be good storytellers, masters of social media and have a great camera presence. Being first on the scene and posting a story and photo just doesn't cut it anymore for today's readers. They want video. They want short clips, and they want to *see* you and *hear* you.
We're more than a byline.
Here are some tips to help you get camera-ready.
- E-nun-ci-ate. Very important. Spellcheck is important for our written stories, right? Enunciation is crucial for TV reporters. Also, when we're nervous, we tend to talk really fast. Doing this on video can kill your delivery. Slow it down a little. Breathe. And if you have to do a few takes to get it right, so be it.
- If you do mess up, just keep going. Don't cuss, try not to falter and press on with your point. Everyone makes mistakes, but it's best to just move on.
- Have *lots* of energy. The camera has a way of sucking the happy right out of you. Don't let it. Smile, use hand gestures, make good eye contact. Connect. A colleague of mine once told me to do jumping jacks before my standup to get energized. I looked like a dork, but it worked like a charm.
- It's OK to look at your notes. Instead of stumbling to remember the details (which could quickly derail your flow), just glance down at your notebook, read the highlights and then look back up.
- Practice practice practice. We newspaper reporters tend to read and re-read our stories, and TV folks say and re-say their scripts. I've practiced many intros and outros in the car while on my way to an assignment, in front of my family and in front of the mirror. Fun fact: When the "Today" show was filming in Orlando last year, I saw Matt Lauer walking and "talking" to himself on the sidelines. (Really, he was rehearsing his standup before going live. I thought it was pretty cool.)
Jennifer Sangalang is the entertainment reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Her work has appeared in USA Today and her videos have been featured on usatoday.com. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter: @byjensangalang
Photo: TV reporter via Shutterstock