I remember setting myself the goal of becoming the next Blue Peter Presenter when I was just 18 years old (1998). Seems like yesterday! Sadly this dream never came true, but I did go on to enjoy a very successful career as a Kids TV Presenter at CBBC (2002-2008).
During my 6 years at CBBC I presented a variety of shows including Best of Friends, Xchange, and Sportsround. I even managed to make a few guest appearances on Blue Peter (click on program to watch clip).
These days it seems more youngsters than ever are hungry for ‘Fame and Fortune’. It’s great to have ambition, but do you have the drive to succeed and more importantly are you prepared to work your arse off to achieve your goal?
P.S. If it’s money and fame you’re after you definitely don’t want to be a Presenter!!
As with most jobs it’s only the very top tier of Presenters that are making some serious cash and trust me these guys have all worked their nuts off to get to the top of their trade. Saying that they all had to start somewhere!
EXERCISE: Think of your favourite TV Presenter? Whose job would you most like to do? Whoever you’re thinking of, whether it’s Dermot O’Leary, Davina McCall, Ant or Dec, they didn’t just become famous overnight! They’ve devoted years of their lives to mastering the art of Presenting.
So what is it you like about your favourite TV Presenter? The way they look? The way they speak? How they come across on screen? Again these are all things that have taken years to perfect, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort let’s get started!
I believe we all have something ‘special’ about us, something that makes us unique. So here’s my first tip:
TIP 1: WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT?
Try and put your finger on this for starters if you can. It can be something as simple as your accent, the colour of your skin, your hairstyle, your nationality, maybe even a disability? Anything that sets you apart from the crowd. You have to take whatever it is that makes you different, and use it to your advantage.
TIP 2: WHAT’S YOUR PASSION?
Everyone is passionate about something. It could be your local Football team, Fashion, Film. Maybe even something slightly quirky like Tractors, Planes or Submarines?! Who knows where your passion lies? It may be Politics, Travel, or Music? Whatever it is, this is a perfect starting point for you.
EXERCISE: Write down a few sentences about your passion/hobby. Then learn this off by heart. Once you’ve learnt it practice presenting it. Try and make it sound as interesting and natural as possible. This might take a bit of practice!
N.B. One of your main roles as a Presenter is to pass on information to the viewer, so this is why this is a good exercise.
After you’ve had a good old practice you can record yourself using a camera. You don’t need anything too expensive at this stage, a basic camera phone will do. Build up your confidence and try presenting in front of an audience as well, this will be nerve racking to start with but the more you do it the less nervous you will be. I’m sure your family and friends will be more than willing to lend a helping hand.
TIP3: WATCH YOURSELF BACK!
It’s horrible to start with but you will get used to it. It’s important to be self-critical. Not overly critical, but you have to be aware of any bad habits you might have when on camera. Those Presenters we really enjoy watching tend to be the one’s who appear genuine and natural on camera. Obviously talking to a camera is not the most natural thing to do and you will find yourself doing some really crazy things to start with. For example when I first started I used to smile like a freak! Seriously I looked like Jack Nicholson from The Shining, not ideal for Kids TV!! My point here is that it’s important to recognize you’re bad habits, that way you can address them an work hard to eradicate them. Practice! Practice! Practise!!!
TIP 4: MAKE A SHOWREEL.
When you start to get the hang of Presenting and you feel like you’re ready for the next step I suggest you make a showreel. What’s a showreel? Here’s the sort of thing I mean:
Obviously you want to try and tailor your showreel to a specific area, whatever your passion is. For me it was very much Children’s TV, Sport and Entertainment, and my first ever showreel was hideous in comparison to this (I will try and dig it out!!). Basically you just want to get something down on tape.
There are plenty of courses out there that can help you put together your 1st Showreel, although they do tend to be quite pricey these days. However if you truly believe in yourself and that this is what you want to do then see this as an essential investment to help you to the next stage. Try to make your Showreel as unique as possible, you want to stand out from the rest. Again it’s important to be passionate about your subject matter. It doesn’t need to be too long either, 2 or 3 minutes will do.
TIP 5: CREATE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOURSELF.
Seneca, a first-century Roman philosopher once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Well now that you’re better prepared with a brand new showreel you need to get it out there. How the hell do I get noticed though I hear you cry? Well sadly this part can come down to “luck”.
It may just be that your showreel lands on the right desk at the right time? But you’ll never know unless you get it out there. You’ve got to be ‘in the race’ if you want to give yourself the chance of winning a medal.
There are plenty of ‘Contact’ books out there as well. It doesn’t normally require too much effort to track down the people you want to impress. That could be an Agent you’d like to represent you or a particular Producer you’d like to work with.
Before I started at CBBC I used to watch the end credits of all my favourite shows, find out who was Producing/Directing them, then I would write to them directly and ask for work experience! These days you can simply send an email with you’re CV and showreel attached! Bare in mind lots of people are doing this sort of thing, so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t hear back. If you’re any good though the chances are that one day your showreel will end up in the right hands and then you’ll have one foot in the door.
I’d say it’s also worth posting your showreel on You Tube as well. You never know who might stumble across it? From my experience though, success requires hard work, focus, and shear determination, so if you’re willing to put in some seriously hard graft and you feel that you’ve got what it takes to become the next big thing then get involved!
I hope this gives you a better idea of what to expect and some of the challenges that lie ahead. It’s a fiercely competitive industry and there are a lot of good Presenters out there but I honestly believe ‘anything is possible’.
‘ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE’ by Michael Absalom
“Anything is possible.
So, set yourself a goal.
Then do everything in your power to achieve that goal.
Never give up.
Accept rejection, and don’t take it personally.
Work hard to toughen up any weaknesses.
Eventually someone will notice.
It won’t be easy and it may take time.
A positive attitude,
Your determination will shine through.
Seize opportunities that come your way.
Don’t let go.
Then one day you’ll achieve your goal.
You’ve earned it.”