Connecting Through the Screen – Charisma Development for Broadcast Meteorologists

As the number of sources of weather data continue to increase, from mobile apps to secondary channels, what drives people to your content? What motivates a viewer to watch one news broadcast over another? While content is key, who we are and how we present weather information can often make a big difference. It’s a broadcast meteorologist’s charisma, likability or personal character that makes us each unique, and allows us to connect to our viewers on a personal, more emotional level.

I think one of the more interesting challenges I’ve found in teaching broadcast meteorology at Lyndon State College is how to teach charisma. I admit when I started teaching this seemed like something a student either had or didn’t. It’s not too hard to teach a met how to walk and talk on camera, and with enough practice most of them smooth out pretty well. Charisma is a bit harder to grasp. It’s not a concrete thing, and therefore much more difficult to shape for each student. I’m still figuring it out myself. In order to help new broadcast mets have the best chance for success, they need to figure out not only how to inform the viewer, but to engage them as well.

Early on, when you are learning to become a broadcast meteorologist, so much time is spent on the mechanics of weathercasting. It takes a lot of “brain bandwidth” to worry about what you want to say, what you are trying to point to, and all the other distractions that are going on around you. When you factor in newbie nerves, remembering to do things like smile and relax are the farthest things from your mind.

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane

As a met gets more comfortable, it’s important to learn the elements of charisma as well. In the book “The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master The Art and Science of Personal Magnetism” by Oliva Fox Cabane, the author outlines how charisma is a skill like any other, and can be learned and improved. In a society now where social interactions are more important than ever, it’s essential for people to know how to connect with others. It’s even more important when you are in front of a television camera addressing thousands of viewers each night.

Borrowed from the book, here are the three cornerstones of charisma and how I apply them to broadcast meteorology:

Presence – Being there is half the battle. The mind is very busy when a met is doing weather-wall ad-lib, and the ability to focus is the first key to charisma. In a one-on-one conversation, presence is all about paying attention to what the person across from you is saying. When the conversation is more one-sided, such as a television broadcast, the met still needs to understand that there is a person watching behind that camera. When we get bogged down in the graphics, the meteorology and the production of the show, it’s easy to forget that there’s a person there listening and watching. By staying in the moment and allowing ourselves to focus on the people we are talking to, we can help the viewer feel like they matter.

Brock's got power, but not quite the power we're looking for.

Brock’s got power, but not the power we’re looking for.

Power – Finding the confidence viewers can believe in. Having power in a weathercast is the ability to show your audience that you know what you are doing. It is about building trust and credibility. If you look the part, and sound the part, then the viewers are more likely to believe what you are saying. Our appearance matters; viewers are more likely to respect those who look professional. Our message matters; what we say must be clear and concise. Power comes across in the tone in our voice and the way we move and gesture in front of the camera. When you can convey power to an audience, you gain their trust, and they’ll count on you to give them the content they are looking for everyday.

Warmth – Truly caring about what you do and the viewers you do it for. While presence and power are two things we can teach and improve, warmth is not. If you don’t honestly care about the people you are talking to, you’ll eventually lose your audience. Hopefully most of us became broadcast meteorologists not to become local celebrities, but to help people and keep them safe. I think most of us do. For a broadcast meteorologist just starting out, the key is to be themselves. It’s easy to emulate the TV met we grew up watching in hopes of being just as good as they were, but it’s when we allow ourselves to be ourselves on camera, is when we end up projecting the most warmth.

You need to show both power and warmth to be charismatic. Someone who is powerful, but not warm on camera will likely come off as cold and arrogant. A met who shows warmth but no power, may seem too soft or too eager to please. If you are interested in learning more about charisma development, I highly recommend picking up the Charisma Myth. It’s full of insights that will improve every level of your communication.

Broadcast meteorology covers such a variety of skills. I think it’s part of what makes this job so interesting. With all that we need to learn in college, I think personal interaction can sometimes be forgotten. My students who are immediately the best on camera are often those who have had some sort of theater, stage performance, public speaking or leadership experience in the past. The difference between an auditorium and a chroma-key wall might be large, but the skill that connects one person to another remains the same. If we can be comfortable to allow ourselves to be our best selves, we are certainly on our way.

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