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Tips for TV Teaching

Don Porter brings exceptional skills and experience honed during a decades-long career in television and radio news in the Pacific Northwest, Washington, DC, and London. He has kindly given TEP permission to pass along this advice regarding teaching through videoconferencing.


First, determine how close they are shooting you.

If it’s a medium (waist) shot, you should project in much the same way you would in a classroom. But if they are tighter on you - closer - then the dimension is more like a one-to-one conversation. And you can tone down the projection accordingly.

TV is never quite conversational. You need a bit more energy to come through the screen as if you were there in person. Don’t worry too much about it. Just be yourself. And ask for a critique after your first TV lecture. Beyond that, ask if you can see a tape playback. Don’t compare yourself with anchors or Jay Leno or anyone like that.

The important things are:

Again, don’t fixate on your TV persona or imagine yourself as un- telegenic. The camera often picks up where your head (mind) is. So on balance, concentrate on your primary mission: to impart your knowledge to the viewer(s). If you are satisfied that you are doing that, then how you look and sound on TV will follow naturally from your ability to communicate.

Break a Leg on your TV teaching debut.

TV teaching is the kind of thing that will take getting used to. Try to think of the camera as a single student sitting in the front row of a classroom. Use that physical image to adjust your own delivery. The projection level you would use in a lecture hall or large classroom might be too “hot” for TV. Just relax, be yourself. Take your time. And don’t worry: it will get easier.

On a screen [62 inches], you can be more conversational and less stentorian [i.e., loud]. Try to get some advice and feedback from your first TV class.

But again, the best thing to do first time out is not overthink the TV stuff. Concentrate on your content and pacing. Be ruthless about paring content to the bone. But do that without making yourself rush. It’s a trick, I grant you. You may feel it’s impossible at first. But believe me, it is doable.

Also, don’t try to make everything totally perfect the first time. Attempting that will only increase the tension. Your learning curve will increase with every TV talk. But take it easy on yourself - a few steps at a time.

Two things to note:

One: Don’t be afraid to pause Resist the temptation to fill your pauses with “uh.” Pause as you would talking in person with someone You don’t have to fill every second with the sound of your voice.

Two: Think about and note to yourself where you might introduce a variance in pace. If something in particular interests you or you think it’s important, then let it affect you naturally. TV picks up on your natural behavior and, conversely, detects your “artificial” behavior.