Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Body language: the other window to the soul

Since we're on the subject of appearance, let's talk about something else that conveys your true feelings besides your eyes.

Body language.

Think about it: you've got ten or fifteen seconds in every package that you're on camera, and if you can't be at the top of your game, if you can't convey your entire life force in that short period of time, you're going nowhere.

Anchors, meanwhile, have to be at their best for 22 minutes, and often at the end of their day. And when you consider it, how much of that 22 minutes are you actually on camera?

I can hear my father in my head, spouting one of his many comments on my appearance. "Stand up straight, you don't work in a belltower. Go wash your face, you look half asleep. If you move any slower pigeons are gonna land on your head."

Your appearance, your "voice" so to speak, is a big key to your success. If you stand there slump shouldered and look as though you're just trying to get through the standup, you're not going to convey any energy. If you do a walking standup where you just...amble...along... you're not making a good impression. Power walk. Have a purpose. Look excited. Throw your head back and look like you have the world by the tail. Back to my father again. "Jeez, you're on television, for God's sake!"

When you're on camera, anchoring or reporting, you need to grab the viewer by the throat and not let go. It's as if you're saying, "Listen, I've got this kick ass story and you're really gonna want to see it." Only you're not just saying it with your voice, but with your body and your eyes.

Every time you're on camera is an opportunity for you to move up the ladder. Never, ever phone it in. You never know who's watching, who might call and ask to see your last three stories.

They say, "Look alive!" in the military.

Honestly, it's not that hard, and it can pay great dividends.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Eyes are the windows of the soul, and could be a key to a good job

Okay, we're going to use our dear friend Mary Hart again.

Mary, of course, is the over the top animated host on Entertainment Tonight. Nobody gets more mileage out of her eyes than that woman. Say what you want about her, but the woman never comes across as bored.

Which brings us to "dead eyes syndrome." (Okay, I just made that up, but it sounds legit.)

You can be bored with a story, but you can't ever let the viewers know you feel that way. But in some cases all you have to do is look at the eyes of the reporter and you know the person's heart just isn't in it.

Years ago we had an anchor who had gorgeous eyes, but simply wasn't using them. One day I cued up an aircheck and taped a piece of paper on the screen, covering her face from the nose down. All you could see was her eyes. I turned the sound off and asked her to watch, then put this question to her: "Do you seem excited?"

A week later we did the same thing, with impressive results. Her eyes were bright, on fire, filled with life in every story. Excited, sad, whatever, her eyes ran the gamut of emotions.

Try that with your own standups, live shots or anchor airchecks. Turn off the sound and cover everything but your eyes.

Then do the same thing with network and successful big market anchors. You'll find that all use their eyes very well.

You may be the best reporter in the world, but if you've got dead eyes, if you do you on-camera work with a lifeless attitude, don't expect many News Directors to call. Using your eyes to their full potential is simple, and can make a huge difference.