Though in this business, a funny thing happens: the “rules” change all the time.
With each successive news director, managing editor, or executive producer and from one consultant to the next, what they’ll want to see in your weathercast will change, sometimes drastically. It’s something we have to all accept.
It can truly become an even bigger problem for someone just starting out.
“How can I possibly do what the boss wants now when the orders are always changing?
What I’ve learned is you need to separate out the nuts-and-bolts of your weathercast from you as a person, a scientist, and (gasp) a performer.
I use the word “performer” unashamedly. What weather people do is quite different from our colleagues in the newsroom and the studio. That’s true now more than ever.
News and sports reporters follow a fairly similar method of finding a story, gathering facts, writing and then delivering a report. Anchors show their personalities from time to time in crosstalk and develop a manner of delivery that is unique to them, but the job is still similar from person to person.
Meteorologists at competing stations in a market are probably delivering the same weather forecast, but your two or three minutes in your show is your time with the audience. It’s your chance to differentiate yourself, to earn the viewer’s trust and possibly even to make them smile.
Before you can do that, you have to get comfortable in front of the camera, comfortable with gesturing and making eye-contact with the viewer.
Comfortable with the idea of you on TV.
Comfortable with the idea that you are going to be in front of thousands of people who will judge your credibility by your confidence.
Now, unless you were some child actor, becoming truly confident on-camera is probably going to take practice.
It rarely comes easy to any beginner. I can say that from experience. But as a pilot might sit through weeks of ground school and learn “how to fly,” only many hours in the cockpit earns them their license.
Practice your craft like an athlete trains and it won’t be long before you’ll have viewers say, “How do you do that? I couldn’t ever be on TV! Don’t you get nervous?”
You’ll reply, “You just get used to it.”
It really is true.
So, if you’re still in school or just starting your first job, here are some tips:
1) Score as much studio time on the chroma wall as you can. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask those running the department at your school, behind-the-scenes folks at an internship, or even your boss at your first job to give you extra time to practice. Good folks will recognize your request as a sign you’re willing to go the extra mile to improve!
2) Tape practice sessions and show them to others who will give you honest criticism. Perhaps that could even mean putting clips online for other meteorologists to critique, like in Medialine’s WX Line forum. Weather people are generally nice, supportive folk who will give you a constructive analysis of your strengths and weaknesses. We’ve all been where you are.
3) Don’t worry if you flub a line or miss a graphic when you’re practicing (and of course when you’re actually on-the-air). Any anchor or meteorologist will tell you that the moment you get flustered by an error, the snowball starts building steam downhill and more mistakes will happen. Don’t worry about “looking foolish.”
It’s all about getting comfortable with yourself as a performer just as you’re confident in your ability to make an accurate forecast. When you can break through early nerves and more confidently deliver your weather story, the audience (and your bosses) will respond.
Oh, and by the way, keep one of those practice recordings.
Trust me, many years down the road, watching it might give you an urge to burn the tape or shatter the DVD.
But you won’t.