How to Look and Speak on Camera

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“Just look into the camera and go”

A bit of advice I got from my first job in Ireland, on TV3 [now Virgin Media One] – one of the presenters there said, “Just look into the camera and go. Don’t worry about all the people that might be watching.” And looking into the camera – it was easy for me to just do that. I never thought about the amount of people watching after that.

Practice and preparation are the keys to success in all of these environments [TV, radio, podcast, etc.] The better prepared you are, the smoother your interview is going to go. The more practice you’ve had, the more natural you’re going to sound.

Of course, it doesn’t happen overnight. Especially if you’re reading a script or autocue, it will sound quite unnatural at first. Honing your skills and experience will get you to a point where you sound completely natural. Hopefully at this point, I sound on the radio like I do right now – like we’re having a conversation.

So be prepared and try to relax if you have a script to read. And for the intro or at the beginning, write it yourself, or take what somebody has written and turn it into something that sounds like you. If you write it yourself, it’s much more likely to go well and you’re not going to stumble.

Using autocue on TV/radio

Well-funded places like Sky, BBC, ITV – they’ll have somebody in the gallery to help. (The gallery is where all the directors, producers, and technicians sit, a glass room with loads of TVs in there.)

If it’s a well-funded place, they’ll have somebody on the prompt or on the order queue and there’ll be scrolling it for you. And they will speed up and slow down based on the timing and how you’re doing; if you start ad-libbing, a good technician will stop, and if you skip a few words, they won’t panic.

Elsewhere, you do your own autocue – either with a foot pedal to go fast or slow, forward or backwards, or with a little hand dial. Therefore you’re a bit more in control of it, but also it’s on you – and if you make a mistake, you’ve got to try and find your place again with that foot pedal. This is why having a paper copy, or some sort of automated screen, is never a bad thing.

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