Do you dream of a TV career? A permanent job in television, presenting the news? What is it actually like working in a TV studio, standing in front of the cameras all day?
To find the answers to these and other questions, I decided, together with three of my fellow students, to undertake the elective module “Public Relations and Business Journalism” as part of my Marketing course at ISM Dortmund. Besides lectures on “journalistic production”, the module also contains professional media training. This includes becoming a TV presenter for a day and being given a behind-the-scenes look at how a TV studio works.
The big day was in May: We set off on our journey to Mörfelden near Frankfurt am Main, where we met up with ISM students from the other campuses for a media training course at Rhein-Main TV. We were accompanied by our lecturer Carsten Meyer, who is a TV presenter and journalist. He had already given us valuable tips for the event: “You have to be totally professional as soon as the camera starts rolling. Breathe calmly, speak slowly and clearly, concentrate, but remain relaxed. There is no place for nerves or butterflies in front of the camera. And if something does go wrong, just carry on as if nothing has happened.” It can’t be that difficult to read from an autocue and to smile into the camera – we thought – and thus took a quite relaxed approach.
The session kicked off with individual training. Each of us was given the task of presenting the evening news. But before becoming newscasters, we had to be fitted with a microphone in the Greenbox Studio, a virtual TV studio, and hooked up to the engineers in the room next door. Then it became serious: spotlights on, cameras rolling, dead silence. Just the flashing red light of the camera. The nervousness started to kick in. What had our lecturer recommended? Breathe calmly! Stay relaxed! Not as easy as it sounds when you’re suddenly the centre of attention, everyone is watching you and the heat of the spotlights becomes unbearable in a TV studio without air conditioning. Luckily, we had quickly applied a bit of make-up before going on set. After a few initial problems and nervous slips of the tongue, reading from the autocue went a lot better than expected and we slowly adapted to the unfamiliar surroundings. We managed to present the news, the sport and the weather fairly well – considering it was our first time. After a well-deserved lunch break, we continued with the simulation of a live chat show. We were split into groups and, with the active assistance of our lecturer, allowed to re-enact an episode of a well-known German chat show. One thing above all else was necessary: improvisation! No script, no autocue, just a microphone and the chat show guests, who all wanted to have a say. Quite a challenge for any presenter!
By the end of the day we were all extremely tired, but still had to make the long journey home up north to Dortmund. There were plenty of laughs a few days later when analysing our video recordings during a lecture. Gaffes, fits of laughter and ultra-fast (almost record-breaking) reading from the autocue ensured this lecture was one of the funniest of the semester. The day in Frankfurt was great fun and we took a lot from the media training course. Especially: being a TV presenter demands much more than just reading from a monitor. A high level of self-control, discipline, a natural talent for improvisation and a good sense of humour are also essential.
Author: Carolin Cornelissen