Presenters work at the front line of television and radio. They introduce and host programmes, read the news, interview people and report on issues and events. As the number of channels and radio stations increases, so do the openings, but opportunities to become a Presenter are still scarce and competition is fierce.
Presenters work across the whole spectrum of broadcasting – national and regional television and radio, satellite and cable channels – and also in the non-broadcast sector, e.g. training and corporate productions. Most are employed on short contracts and the hours can be long and unsociable. The work may be studio based or on location. Some presenters achieve celebrity status and command high salaries, but life in the public gaze is not always desirable.
What is the job?
Some presenters work on a range of programmes; others specialise in a particular type, such as current affairs. The calm and relaxed manner of successful presenters makes the job seem easier than it is. They are usually involved in the careful planning that goes into every programme, including rehearsals and research, and they keep the programme running to plan whilst on air, working closely with the production team, often following detailed instructions whilst reading from an autocue and/or script, and responding positively to any problems or changes. They may write their own material and they also need to be able to memorise facts and ad-lib when necessary.
Many presenters start young, working up from a local level, and do anything they can to gain practical experience with e.g. student broadcasting, in-store and hospital radio, and local and community broadcasters.
Essential knowledge and skills
Personality is central to this role and presenters need to be outgoing, confident and enjoy contact with an audience and with people in general. Presenters are often part of a much larger team of technical and production staff and they must be able to communicate effectively and have a good understanding of the whole production process.
In radio, where teams are smaller, presenters often also fill other roles and may have to operate technical equipment.
Key skills include:
• excellent written and oral communication and presentation skills; • performance skills and a clear voice for broadcasting; • research and interviewing skills, and an inquisitive nature; • awareness of media law; • the ability to handle stress and make quick decisions under pressure; • a broad range of interests, including current affairs; • knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.
People who present are performers. They must understand their audience and be able to engage with them in all circumstances.
Typical career routes
Presenters come from a variety of backgrounds. Some begin their careers as journalists or researchers, others as actors or models, and some side-step from other roles within the industry. There is no set route. Being in the right place at the right time, with a face and/or voice that fits is what counts. This is often a matter of luck, but determination, hard work, preparation and signing with an agent can also play a significant part. Presenters all have an enthusiasm for broadcasting, along with motivation, self-belief, excellent personal presentation and a good voice. Detailed knowledge and experience of a specialist field, such as sport, music, gardening or history, can also lead to a presentation role.
Training and qualifications
A formal education is less important than having the right skills and experience, but many presenters do have higher level qualifications. Any degree subject is relevant, but it is essential to develop practical skills in broadcasting and/or journalism as well. Drama school training is also useful preparation.
Journalistic training is increasingly a prerequisite for those wishing to work in a reporter-type role. There is a range of degree level and postgraduate training accredited by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council. The BBC runs training schemes for broadcast journalists and other broadcasters run short courses.
There are also short courses for would-be presenters, some of which are very expensive. Careful research - into, for example, content, trainers and likely outcomes - is advisable before committing to a course.
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