“I still record nearly every newscast,” says Ford. “Not because I like to watch myself, but because I want to critique myself and try to improve.”
Ford spent time with students in the Meek School’s Media Performance class and suggested that successful on-air delivery can be summed up in three words: appearance, performance and preparation.
“It sounds shallow, but appearance is important,” Ford says. “You don’t want what you wear to distract from the message you’re trying to send. If they notice your clothes, they’re not listening to what you’re saying.”
In terms of wardrobe, Ford suggests that men wear solid color suits in blue, black or gray, and he favors white shirts. For women, he’s a big fan of red and says that solid colors tend to work best for them as well. Ford does recognize that it’s sometimes hard for young journalists to get used to such a basic clothing selection.
“It’s a uniform. You don’t have to wear it outside of work,” says Ford.
One other piece of wardrobe advice? Ford says you should always try a new outfit on camera before you cut off the tags — it may look great in person, but awful on the air.
When it comes to performance, Ford says you need to recognize you have multiple tools at your disposal — your voice, facial expressions and movement to name a few.
“When you do a stand up, don’t just stand – move around, gesture, use a prop,” suggests Ford.
However, he’s quick to add that the tools should not become a distraction. If you use your hands too much, for example, that’s what the viewer will focus on, not what you’re trying to communicate.
And the worst mistake you can make when it comes to delivery? Failing to seem like you are interested in the story you’re telling.
Most important of all these tips is preparation, according to Ford. He points to anchors who do sports play-by-play as the masters of preparation.
“They spend hours memorizing line-ups, talking to people, researching players,” says Ford, “but on the air it sounds like it’s all off the cuff.”
If you don’t do enough preparation, Ford says a live shot will expose you. He suggests that you jot down a few key points on a notebook or a cell phone to use as a guide for your presentation, but be ready to wing it as he did recently.
“I lost IFB, so I handed by iPhone to the photographer so the producer could give him my cues. Then I remembered that that’s where I had put my notes,” says Ford. Fortunately, he had done enough preparation that he got through the live shot just fine.
In the end, Ford says excellent on-air delivery can get you noticed, but you need more than that.
“The more things you can do, the more valuable you are.”