Step Right Up! Four Tips For Better Live Shots At The County Fair

Summer is coming to an end. The news is slow and most of the reporters are out on vacation. Its also fair season, which is a good time for the news director to send the broadcast meteorologists out for live shots. You’re not in three feet of snow like you were eight months ago, so you are going to need something else to talk about. Live shots at state and county fairs can be fun and interesting, if you give them a chance.

I’m by no means a master at them, but I’ve done them enough over the past thirteen years to know what works. If you’ve just started a new broadcast meteorology job over the past couple of months, this might even be your first live shot (get used to them). Here are a couple of ideas to make the most of your time at the fair:

Prepare for the fair. There is a big difference between going to the fair for fun, and going to the fair for work. If you are in your work outfit, you are going to stick out and people are going to notice. That is kind of the point, but dress comfortably. A shirt and tie might be way too much for a hot sunny day. Ask your news director or other reporters what they would wear and you might be able to go a little more casual. The last thing you want to be is a hot, sweaty mess for your live shot. Believe me, I’ve been there.

Have fun, but be yourself. Getting away from the weather wall is a great opportunity to show your viewers more about who you really are. You are there to do the weather, but you also have a lot going on around you, and a chance to show some personality. Look for things that could make your live shot fun and interesting, but don’t go overboard for the sake of good TV. Do something that fits who you are, and then make it your own. Anything less would be boring, and anything more would be unauthentic, and the viewers will sense that a mile away.

Have a point to be there. In the winter, or during severe weather, there is usually a point for you to not be in the studio. If the snow is coming down, or you are standing in ankle deep water, its pretty clear why you are there. At the fair, you need to explain why the heck they sent you out there. Its often not clear when you get there, but you should take some time to find something interesting to talk about. It could be the ten-year-old kid who won the blue ribbon for growing the biggest pumpkin, or the brand new ride that everyone seems to be getting sick on. Ask around and see what people are talking about. You’ll still be talking about the weather too, but at least you have another little story to tell as well.

Play nice with fairgoers. People come to the fair to have fun, and you are just another (free) attraction to them. Its not uncommon to see news crews out at the fair, and you’ll always find someone who really wants to be on camera. The best strategy is to be nice. You’ll always have people walking and waving behind you, but you’ll want to keep an eye out for those lurkers who are looking for something more. My first step is to go and introduce myself and try and talk with them for a bit. Sometimes that will satisfy them and they’ll walk away. Other times I’ll fake the live shot completely, about three minutes before the actual live shot airs. This also works great on New Year’s Eve. If you turn off any on-air monitor and go through the whole hit as if it were live, you’ll allow your enthusiastic fairgoers to do their thing, and they’ll walk away before the real live shot starts. That all being said, part of being at the fair is about the people around you. Embrace the fact that you are going to have an audience there, and make the best of it. Most people are usually pretty cool.

Fair season is a great way to get out of the office, so if no one has asked you to do a live shot yet, go ahead and volunteer. I’ve always had a fun time, and you’ll always meet some very nice and very interesting people. Summer will be over soon, and you’ll be back standing in three feet of snow soon enough.

What other tips do you have for surviving the county fair live shot? Please let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

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