News Anchor Tips from a TV Talent Coach

A photo of a coach with a clipboard, whistle and stopwatch.
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News anchor tips are often easier to accept when they come from an outsider. That's why many stations and networks hire TV talent coaches from beyond the company walls to help turn news anchors and reporters into valuable TV personalities. Obeying their tips is vital in building a news career.

Expect a Candid Critique of Your Work

When a TV news anchor or a TV news reporter sits down one-on-one with a TV talent coach, the conversation can be humbling.

Some may leave the room in tears after hearing a brutally honest assessment of their on-camera skills.

The reason it's hard to listen to this evaluation is that it has nothing to do with whether the person is a good employee or a skilled gatherer of news. It's all about on-camera performance.

A TV news director usually shies away from this type of discussion, because an anchor or reporter could get the wrong idea that she's about to be fired. The insecurities that would develop would hurt her on-camera confidence.

Sometimes, a TV consultant might also take on the role of a talent coach. But a consultant's expertise is usually in market research, focus group studies and TV sweeps tips instead of the details of talent coaching.

While you could be subject to receiving news anchor tips at any time from a variety of people inside and outside your company, when you hear that "a talent coach is coming", prepare yourself emotionally for the TV equivalent of a complete medical physical.

You need to hear the talent doctor's report, even if there's some pain involved.

What You'll Hear from a TV Talent Coach

You may receive some compliments on your work as an anchor or reporter when a TV talent coach meets with you. But the focus will be on making you a better on-camera performer, so the meeting will concentrate on changes you'll need to make.

Before you dismiss what this outsider says, consider that the advice may really be coming from your TV station managers, possibly even from the corporate office. Your bosses will be looking to see if you will follow the tips you get, which could help determine if you get to keep your job.

The three major areas that a TV talent coach will likely bring up are your on-camera appearance, your vocal skills, and your perceived audience appeal. The coach has probably spent a great deal of time studying your work through a series of newscasts before you ever meet him.

Your Physical Appearance

What you're likely to hear about the way you look on TV is also the way that viewers see you. A talent coach may even have the results from focus groups to back up his opinions.

Some advice may be mild, such as "avoid wearing black." The reason could be because it doesn't look appealing with the station's anchor desk or studio lighting choices. If black doesn't look good with your skin color, such as making you look pale, you might ask if you can get more help from a wardrobe or image consultant. These people can suggest makeup, clothing or colors that will enhance your features. The network-level news anchors and reporters you admire most probably get similar advice.

That's why they always look so great.

Remember that acceptable on-camera clothing in a trend-setting city like Miami might not work in a place like Salt Lake City. Women may be told to save their low-cut blouses for when they go out on the town and not to wear them behind the anchor desk. The same is true for dangling earrings and distracting hairstyles.

If you have weight issues, you're likely to hear about them. You might be told to wear jackets to hide your flabby arms or to get a gym membership. The intent isn't to be cruel, but constructive. If you're on camera, every aspect of your appearance may be a topic of discussion.

Your Vocal Delivery

Most on-camera news people realize that looks are a part of their career. But the same is true of how you sound to your audience, just as if you worked in radio.

In years past, TV newscasters sounded as though they were simply reading out loud from printed scripts. That was acceptable then, but not in contemporary broadcasting. Audiences clearly prefer newscasters who sound as though they're speaking conversationally, even if there are scripts involved.

Mastering that art takes practice and coaching. A talent coach can help you work on your inflection, so that you don't sound stiff or sing-songy.

In some cases, an anchor or reporter needs to lose a regional dialect, such as when a person from Mississippi gets a TV job in Minnesota. Another common vocal issue is improper pronunciation -- like saying "sangin" instead of "singing".

Many inexperienced anchors and reporters tend to talk too fast or too loud, without even knowing it. A good talent coach can fix these aural distractions to make vocal delivery more polished.

Your Audience Appeal

There is a component to good on-camera presence that has nothing to do with the mechanics of appearance or voice. It's the "it" factor -- the charisma that separates the superstars from those who are quickly forgotten when the newscast ends.

"You come across as a know-it-all", "Viewers think you're arrogant" or "Stop trying to be funny" are some ways a TV talent coach may address shortcomings in your mass appeal. Fixing these problems is much more difficult than changing your clothes or your speech patterns.

Hopefully, these suggestions are based on market research. There needs to be some substance behind the talent coach's desire for you to change your on-air persona. But sometimes, an outsider's gut instinct is correct.

A weatherperson's constant attempts to sound smart may indeed sound like a professor's lecture. A sportscaster who's been told to inject some commentary into his or her segment could come across as smart-alecky, even mean-spirited.

Instead of becoming defensive, explain to the talent coach why you're performing in this way. You two can work together to accomplish your goals that better connect you to the viewers. He or she may agree with your strategy, just not your tactics.

Getting talent tips from an experienced TV talent coach is a great opportunity. Accept what you hear and develop an action plan based on the advice you get to make yourself a better broadcaster.