By: Leah Charles-King
Presenting on Live TV can be exciting, nerve wrecking, fun and challenging, especially if it’s your first go at it. Even after 13 years of working as a TV Presenter not only do I still get butterflies before going live, but I’m fully aware that despite my years of experience there are still times when things go wrong. And that’s OK, it’s Life! I’d like to give you some insight and pointers on how to work through any mishaps that happen while presenting on live TV.
As a TV Presenter, there are several skills and techniques that are key to creating a career that has longevity. Learning how to keep going no matter if you mess up, is such an important skill to have! I cannot stress that enough. Naturally, you may want to stop, cry or apologise. But I’d urge you to resist from doing anything which draws attention to any unfortunate goings-on. You have a job to complete and if you make a mistake, it’s ok, the audience will empathise with you. Laugh it off.
My first TV job was as a children’s TV presenter and many still don’t appreciate that like shopping telly its the best way to get started in the business. The on-the-job training is second to none. They say “never work with kids or animals”. I’ve had the (mis)fortune of working with both. And at the same time. But wow, what experiences these were. Many a time things would go wrong but it becomes part of the “live TV buzz”. If something goes very obviously wrong such as part of the set falling down for example, or an animal taking a wee on the floor during your interview with it’s owner, or a kid going silent on-air although you’d practiced with them a zillion times, then change direction or make a joke of it. The fact that you kept going with a smile not only shows you are human, but also you are confident in yourself as a presenter.
One instance from my own experience, I was presenting live and there was a technical issue with my earpiece so I couldn’t hear the timings in my ear from the gallery (control room). At this stage of my career I didn’t have the training or possess the necessary skills to know how to act fast on my feet in the ever changing world of Live TV. It was my very first presenting gig – CITV – and I’d only been doing the job for less than 8 weeks. I heard a timing of 25 seconds to throw to an Ad break, but as I rounded off what i was saying and threw to the ads I was then told it was a mistake and that I had another 60 seconds to fill! When you’re a rookie in this game 60 seconds can feel like a lifetime, especially you’ve already thrown to the break. I remember feeling mortified! I literally started speaking jibberish on camera but I knew that I needed to keep going to make it to the commercials. Once we wrapped, I cried my eyes out. I felt embarrassed and as if it were the worst TV mistake in the world. But of course this wasn’t the case. In fact nobody noticed. Including my family and friends who can me the most critical (as in the positive sense).
Now when I think back to this memory it makes me smile, and if I’m honest I’m glad it happened. Why? Because from that day forward I swore to myself that I would always carry something in my proverbial back pocket, just in case anything goes wrong. And let’s face it, whether its LIve TV or hosting an event, things can go wrong at any second! Train your thoughts and actions to respond quickly should this be the case. Try to remember to stay calm, refocus and keep going. The worst thing you can do is to freeze up. The best thing you can do is to carry on going whether by using humour or by your professionalism. If you find yourself in a funny situation, or you think you know how you can change the negative into a positive, just go with it!
Here’s a little vid I found on Youtube of CITV’s 25th Birthday Bash presented by me and Michael Underwood. I still cringe at myself a little however cut me some slack as I’d only been presenting for a little over a year! It was a 2.5 hour live show with tons of celebrity guests and characters from CITV past and present, a bunch of kids, a birthday cake with real candles (yes, in a TV studio!) plus 80’s original childhood witch, Grotbags. I remember there were so many things to think about on the day. And I’m certain many things may have gone wrong. But my point is that we pulled through and made it to the end. After the show and even looking back, nobody remembers the bad bits! (Continue reading below)
As a TV Presenter it’s important to have your wits about you. To help assist you when things such as, technical difficulties, human error, wrong signals from Floor Managers or other random happenings, always be prepared for the worst case senario in advance. You need a back-up plan just in case something goes wrong, and often something does! A great tip is to have extra talking points on your subject matter or some extra questions in mind during an interview. In preparing for a live show you should do your research beforehand. For example, if you’re on a shopping channel make sure to learn a few extra facts about the product you are selling or about another product on the schedule as you never know when you may have to step in. Thorough preparation will equip you with all the material you need to wing it if need be.
Live TV Presenting looks so easy when watching from the sofa, however there’s so much more to it than meets the eye. In fact there are more technical skills attached than just being able to “talk on camera” or showcase your fun personality. If you want to make sure you’re prepared in your budding TV presenting career, check out our One Day TV Presenter Bootcamps.
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ABOUT THE WRITER:
Leah Charles-King is the Founder of The Red Carpet Academy. She is a multi-ward winning TV Presenter with 13 years experience of presenting on mainstream television in the UK and worldwide. www.leahcharlesking.com