What live TV reporting can teach us about public speaking

Jeff Kofman
'Elizabethtown' German Premiere
Source: Getty

The first time I looked into the glass lens of a TV camera, it felt like I was looking down the barrel of a shotgun.

I remember being terrified at the thought of vast numbers of people hanging onto my every statement.

But over the years, I became accustomed to reporting on live TV. And what I learned can be applied to public speaking. It might not get rid of the nerves, but it will help to own the stage.

Be prepared

Jotting down a few keywords is all it takes. Instead of memorising full sentences, I used to remember what to say on live TV debriefs by noting the main points.

Just four or five words that would help me keep my thoughts in order.

Allow yourself some time to over-run. When you time a speech, you’ll think you’ve got the length right, but when you deliver, it takes longer. That’s because the natural flow is interrupted by audience reaction, as well as our own movements and pacing.

Stand and deliver

When I was a rookie TV reporter in Toronto, I asked a more senior reporter how she made talking to the camera seem so effortless.

“Don’t think of the crowd, just think of one person.” So in those early days, I made a point of thinking of my grandmother as I was talking to the camera.

She was a smart woman, but a little hard of hearing. It forced me to speak clearly and slow down – and remember, apologising for stumbles only draws attention to them.

After 30 years as a TV reporter, I moved on to build a startup. I still do a lot of speaking, but it’s in front of investors, customers, and our fast-growing team.

It may seem obvious, but people believe your words if you believe them.

Visual basics

Check yourself in a mirror before you go on stage.

An untucked shirt, messy hair or other fashion faux pas can really distract from the message you’re hoping to communicate. And that’s exactly what you don’t want.

On TV, you get given a lecture by the bosses if you talk too much with you hands. Search for a happy medium between being too stiff and too animated.

Communicating is a lot more effective if your audience connects with you, so try to be natural. When you’re talking to an audience you’ll hold their attention if you’re relaxed, make them laugh and feel good.

Related articles