Beating The Butterflies – Dealing With Anxiety At The Chroma-Key Wall

Most people have a fear of speaking in public. Throw in a big green wall, a bunch of lights and some live television, and its understandable that broadcast meteorologists often deal with nerves when starting out. Its easy to come to terms quickly that this anxiety stems from an irrational fear. We aren’t going to die up there. No large animal is going to come out from the control room and eat us, but the nerves can still be hard to shake, and it is usually the biggest hurdle to get over when trying to become your best on camera. The more comfortable you are, the easier it is to be informative and personable.

The Long Term Fix – There is no magic bullet to reducing anxiety on camera. The ultimate cure is lots and lots of work on camera over time. With each show you get under your belt, you get a little more comfortable on camera. Anything new can be scary. The less new it becomes, the less scary it will be. The reason why you go to a good broadcasting program is to get experience and work these nerves out now, before you head out into the real world. You should be starting the process in the privacy of the classroom and once you are a little more comfortable, graduate to live campus weathercasts. There are things you can do  before your show to set yourself up for success during your next weathercast.

  1. Plan your show. Prepare what you want to cover ahead of time, but instead of trying to memorize, internalize instead. The difference is that instead of learning exact sentences, you are learning the concepts those sentences are based around. The more you know, the easier it will be for those words to make the trip from your brain to your mouth, and you’ll be able to think about other things at the same time.
  2. Practice ahead of time. You should know the order of your graphics, and how you plan to bridge from graphic to graphic. Click through the order once or twice before the start of the show, so when you see those graphics on-air, you are already pretty comfortable with what you you want to say.

The Short Term Fix – Getting comfortable takes time, and there are still things you can do now to make your shows better. The problem with nerves is that they can cause all sorts of other problems in you show. Anxiety on camera might make you talk fast, not breathe properly, fiddle with your hands, adopt crutch phrases and at least a dozen other things you probably weren’t completely aware you were doing. Its a frustrating experience because its nothing you intend to do, but ends up popping up involuntarily anyway. There are ways we can stomp out these pests now, while you are still in the process of being comfortable.

  1. Watch your shows, a lot. As painful as it might be, you need to see yourself from the other side of the camera. Things might feel one way during the show, but might
    look completely different when you watch it back later. See for yourself what your nerves are doing to you and what you need to work on now. Watch each show several times to make that emotional connection between what you need to fix, and the desire for you to correct it. The longer you hide from it, or deny it is there, the longer it will take to fix. Accept that you might talk too fast, or play with your hands, or whatever. Now make the commitment to stamp out that bad habit.
  2. Be aware of bad habits during your show. We have enough to worry about during the course of our shows. We’ve got graphics and forecasts and all sorts of data we are trying to hold in between our ears. We spend so much time on the message, we neglect to make ourselves aware of how that message is being delivered. Make a conscious effort during your show to be on the lookout for that bad habit to creep up. Pay attention to how you are talking, or moving, or the words you are choosing to say. Make the choice to slow down, or pause, or whatever your issue is during the course of the weathercast. The first few times will be the hardest, but the more often you catch yourself, the easier it will be to notice next time. If you need more reminders, place Post-It notes just off camera that might say “SMILE!” or “Slow Down”. These can be helpful visual cues to keep yourself on track.

Its not easy what we do. Just like any skill though, the more you do it the easier it is going to get. Trust in the fact that even though it might be hard, frustrating and even a little scary in the beginning, it will get better. Its usually the scary things that let you know you are moving in the right direction. Keep moving.

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