Most business people give a presentation on just an occasional basis, which is one of the reasons it can feel like an ordeal every time it happens. So what can we learn from people who are presenting day in, day out - Television personalities? I have come across a couple of tips from TV people from very different generations and they both revolve around preparation.
Jason Manford is a comedian, TV presenter, radio presenter and actor. He’s probably most familiar, however, from his regular appearances on TV panel shows. How has he achieved such a broad-ranging career at the age of just 35 and why is he in such great demand?
A big clue to his success can be drawn from this insight. “I prepare for everything”, he says, “even panel shows. I probably won’t use a lot of what I have prepared, but knowing you are so well prepared gives you great confidence.” So, contrary to rumours, he is not given all the questions in advance, but does know broadly what topics are going to be covered. Based on that knowledge, he researches and writes little snippets and jokes that will suit the style of the show.
That kind of commitment and attention to detail is more readily associated with a different era of television – such as that of Cliff Michelmore, who was 96 when he died earlier this year. In the 1950s and 60s he became one of the best-known presenters on British television. He was appearing in as many as 300 programmes a year and presided over election coverage and moments of live drama such as the assassination of President Kennedy and the return of the damaged Apollo 13.
Michelmore’s hallmark was that he always appeared confident, calm, unhurried and unflappable. We could all do a bit of that, so what was his secret? Michael Parkinson got an insight when, prior to becoming a famous chat show host, he worked with Michelmore on the BBC current affairs show 24 Hours. Noticing that his preparation methods used to involve a mere skimming of the research, but many notes in the margins of the running order, Parkinson asked Michelmore what he was writing. “I’m looking at the running order to spot where there might be a breakdown, and when I find it I write in my ad libs,” he replied.
Like, Jason Manford, he hopefully didn’t need to use much of what he had prepared but forewarned is forearmed and the result is unflappability.