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Want to improve your public speaking? Watch the news!  A TV newsroom is a public speaking machine where the key roles correspond directly to the key elements of a business speech.

The news anchor engages the viewer and gives the big picture. The reporter explains a key point in a compelling way. The graphic designer brings messages alive with stunning visuals and the director makes sure what the viewer sees is flawless.


The bulletin starts with the anchor who is there to engage the viewer and gain trust.

When I anchored news bulletins on BBC TV the first thing viewers noticed was what I was wearing and my body language. As I started speaking my voice engaged the viewer.

So, when speaking in public behave like an anchor. Make sure you manage external presence: that’s how you look and how you sound.

At the Beeb I had a make-up and wardrobe department to help out. Their purpose was to take a critical look at my appearance and then make me look my best. Do the same.  Make smart choices about clothes and grooming.  Be clear about the impression you want to make and ensure it’s right for the audience you are speaking to.

After the first word you say, an audience has decided whether to trust you or like you. It takes less than a second. How attractive your voice sounds determines that decision so pay attention to your voice. 

Before I started broadcasting, I spent weeks reading aloud news scripts to the ultra critical ears of an experienced radio presenter. They were days well spent.

He helped me avoid one of the most common mistakes of public speakers: talking too fast. My trainer told me to follow the full stop. By this he meant to pause organically between ideas or sentences so I stayed in control and the audience could follow. 

The reporter’s job is to tell a story in a clear and compelling way. He or she is much like a public speaker explaining the first key point in a presentation. The elements of a reporter’s story are: the top line, the explanation, the recap. It’s a bit like the beginning, middle and end of a presentation.

The top line tells the audience what the story is in one simple sentence. The speaker’s equivalent is a one sentence explanation of the key point. Getting a key point down to a single sentence makes you focus precisely on what you are trying to say and the clarity helps the audience understand the message. 

Then expand. The reporter will illustrate points with interviews, moving pictures, graphics or speaking directly to camera.

The speaker’s explanation is always ‘on camera’. Keep the structure clear and simple and illustrate points with compelling examples, data, stories and graphics.

Then recap the key point briefly.

I’ve always thought graphic designers have the best job in the newsroom. They make ideas come alive. The graphics are often stunning and well produced despite being done under the pressure of deadlines.

The slides I see in business are often not so effective. They don’t look great. They are not easy to read. They are too many of them and they don’t enhance the speech.

Simple solutions? Use good quality photos and use them full frame. It’s relatively easy to get hold of great photos. If you like things free use photos you’ve taken yourself or try for free hi-res pictures. I use a combination of free and paid-for photos.

Learn how to create good graphics in a few minutes. Look at:

> Slides that rock –
> TED guide –

Last word on graphics. Less is more so don’t get carried away with endless slides.

To make sure your speech is flawless do what directors do – a dry run. It is simply a full run through with cameras, lights, presenters, crew and gallery. The lot. It’s designed to ensure every aspect of a programme works perfectly before it goes on air.

Speakers can do a dry run with all the technology including slides, laptops and remote controls.  Record and review three full rehearsals. Record the first run through without vision – only capturing sound. Focus on how clear your message is and how effectively you are using your voice. Next record vision without sound to ensure your body language enhances your message. Concentrate on gesture, facial expression and posture.

Finally, record sound and vision. Ask yourself what else you need to do to achieve your best performance.

Make the most of these TV techniques. They really are news you can use.

Jacqui Harper MBE, MA, Hon Fellow – Crystal Business Coaching

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