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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.

Standups, and be Counted

October 1st, 2001

One of the ironies of doing these installments on voice and performance is using this written medium to describe a live performance that is three dimensional, filled with nuance and meaning; but then that just challenges our skills as communicators. I thought it might be a good idea to do a brief primer on doing effective stand-ups. Interestingly enough, these ideas apply in similar ways to both radio and television reporters.

1. When you do a stand-up, interact with your environment. This doesn’t always mean touching or moving through the environment, but at least acknowledge it, look at it and relate to it. Frankly, if you don’t relate to the environment you are standing in, there is little reason to do the stand-up; better to just track the segment in a studio.

2. Speaking of moving, of course moving through an environment can add real interest and excitement in your stories. However, as in real life, there has to be a kind of logic to the movement. In our real life, we don’t wander aimlessly (unless we are drunk, dazed, or crazy, and some might say that describes the news business, but I digress...) We always walk, move and gesture with some purpose or goal in mind. The more we use this reality in our stories, the more natural these ‘moving’ stand ups will seem. Instead of simply walking with the camera following the reporter, take the viewer and show them, for example “...the car came from here...and swerved across the sidewalk here...and ended up in this ditch...” You add not only movement, but real practical information.

3. Constantly challenge yourself to exploit your immediate environment for interesting interactions. Try coming up an escalator into your camera’s shot, or have your videographer rack focus on the camera as you walk into near focus behind the hurricane fence, or have the camera pull out to reveal another important element of your story.

4. This is a great trick: one reporter from Rochester whose work I have reviewed, was told that she couldn’t get within camera shot of a collapsed building. (This applies in spades to New York right now!). Instead, she had a model maker build a simple box-like model of the adjacent buildings, and standing on location as near as she could get, she showed viewers how the building collapsed and what it left behind. She couldn’t interact literally with her environment, but she could symbolically.

5. In another nifty example, the same reporter had acquired a document that described a toxic waste dump. The document came from the city hall, and the waste dump was miles away. On camera in front of the city hall, she holds the document up in a 3/4 shot. The camera cuts to a close-up of the document, but when the camera pulls back from that close up, we are at the waste dump with the reporter holding the same document. We use the technology to move our audience in an elegant and compelling way.

6. One way of doing this with audio only, imagine this: reporter says “Commissioner Smith said that if the city wanted to...” and you then cross-fade [not jump cut!] to Commissioner Smith who contiues “...wanted to purchase six trucks, then we would have purchased them!” There are dozens of creative ways to use audio to transport your audience.

I’ve cited just a few examples. If you tickle your imagination, you can come up with dozens more. This kind of thinking about stand-ups or on-location actualities makes each story you do a creative expression as well as a journalistic one. Don’t let the stand up simply be a show of virtuosity, but rather use them to really pass on important information to your audience. In the meantime, breathe deeply!