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Jon Beaupré is a voice and performance consultant for radio and television performers. Under the name Broadcast Voice, he provides private training and workshops for reporters, anchors, sports and weather casters, and others working in electronic and broadcast media. He teaches in the Broadcast Communications program at California State University at Los Angeles, and conducts workshops and seminars with the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He has been a fixture on the convention circuit, teaching workshops at a wide range of specialty journalism and broadcast conventions and stations on both coasts of the U.S.

Tag Team

As we continue our examination of anchoring, it occurs to me that it is considerably harder to talk about single anchor performance than it is about anchor teams, so I will leave single anchor observations for a future installation.

In two person conversation, a listener’s response typically comes organically from what is said by the first person.

The content of the second person’s comments inspires a follow-up by the first person, and so the conversation continues.

The addition of a written script artificially circumvents this process. Each person speaks when the script indicates they should speak, not when the intellectual content or emotional message inspires them to speak. The process of training anchor teams, then, is in trying to construct an unspoken language that lets them know when the normal, organic process would inspire a response, and placing the artificial construct of the script over it.

In short, the idea is to mimic the process of listening and responding that is so natural for our normal speech and try to make it appear that that is what is happening in the course of reading a script.

I know this seems complicated, but here is an exercise to build that sense of unspoken language.

Taking Focus

1. Anchor “A” begins to describe an image he is holding -clipped from a magazine for example, without letting anchor “B” see the image.

2. When anchor “B” feels the inspiration to speak, and anchor “A” gives her the opening, anchor “B” dives in with a description and explanation of her own image.

3. The descriptions can be extraordinarily detailed - size and shape of the image, colors, composition, emotional content, hidden messages, etc. Each is trying to get their description of this image to an unseen audience while acknowledging the participation of the other anchor.

Whenever there is a pause or an opening, the other anchordives in with his or her description.

4. The anchors work to not interrupt each other, to not step on each other’s description, but to really try to get their description out. If one anchor succeeds in taking advantage of a pause in the description to begin her own description, the other anchor has to graciously wait for his opening to continue his own description.

5. Each anchor has to acknowledge what the other anchor is saying, but transform their acknowledgment into their own description process. For example: “Well, Linda, that color blue that you describe is exactly what my image shows. There is a large blue building in the upper right...” etc.

6. Each time the anchor “takes focus”, they are concentrating on smooth, elegant transitions, not clunky ones like “Now I’m going to talk...” or “Ok, my turn...”. What the coach is looking for is the smooth and elegant process of interweaving descriptions, that mimic the natural process of conversations. This focusses on so much on the words and sentences that would the normal part of any script, but the underlying process of contributing to an ongoing conversation, transitioning from one to the other, but concentrating on what each one has to accomplish individually.

You are going to have to take this on faith for the time being. This exercise undoubtedly seems peculiar for a serious journalist. After all, we are supposed to be efficient in getting the facts out. However, understanding the process of taking focus begins to turn the process into a deeper two person performance and away from the superficial recitation of facts that many young anchors find themselves doing.

In the next installment, we’ll continue with these two person anchor interviews. Individually, to are merely interesting. Taken as a whole, they can make a profound difference in your performance. Keep breathing!