PUT ME IN COACH
“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment”
– John Wooden
I read an interesting statistic in the Harvard Business Review that stated the top 3 reasons coaches are hired.
1. Develop potential or facilitate transition – 48%
2. Act as a sounding board – 26%
3. Address a derailing behavior 12%
In the hosting business most of us fall under number one. We know we have it inside of us to do great things and be a real success, but we need someone to show us the way. Number 2 is for those who have been in the business for a while. They’re professionals and they know their way around a camera, studio and crowd, but are always looking to improve in any way they can. And then there’s category number 3. This is for those who never really learned the fundamentals of being on camera. Their delivery is equivalent to a teenager learning how to play basketball on the playground. They watched, learned and did what they thought was best. No coaching, no path to follow. While there is definite admiration for someone who goes out and does the work, a coach could take all that dedicated energy and focus it on the right tasks that will help them become a fantastic talent.
In most great success stories you’ll always find a great coach or mentor who was behind the immense success of an individual. In sports, Michael Jordan will readily admit that much of the reason he is now a basketball legend is from the principles he learned from his greatest coach, Dean Smith of The University of North Carolina. Upon his 2009 induction into the basketball Hall of Fame, Michael was asked who got him there. He answered, “ Dean Smith, in all honesty, the man that he made of me along with my basketball talents that he elevated to another level and his knowledge of the game, giving me an opportunity to play, there is no way you would have got the chance to see Michael Jordan play without Dean Smith teaching me the game.”
Famed life coach and peak performance specialist Tony Robbins admits that much of his knowledge about the personal development industry came from his mentor and coach Jim Rohn. At one of his “Date With Destiny” events Tony spoke about Jim right after his passing in 2010.“ He gave me a way to look at life allowed me to ask not that life be easier but to ask that I be better. He got me to realize that the secret to life was to work harder on myself than my job or anything else because then I’d have something to give to people.”
American Idol host Ryan Seacrest learned many of his principles from his idol and mentor Merv Griffin. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Seacrest stated, “He taught me a lot. He taught me how to leverage. He taught me how to take the success of being a personality and the access you have and build something to have forever. To build an asset. Because you never know how long this is going to last.”
The list could go on and on of examples like these, but the point I’m trying to make here is that no matter how talented you are, no matter how driven you are, having someone there to guide you down the path and keep you focused in the right direction can be the difference between mediocrity and living the life of your dreams. As I have been a part of and studied the hosting business, I find that because of what we do and the type of personality it takes, that many aspiring hosts have plenty of energy and drive to want to get to the top, but a large majority have no idea how. They try everything under the sun and many times end up spinning their wheels because they just don’t know who or where to turn to for help.
We are incredibly blessed to work in an industry that allows us to speak to the world through a camera lens. As Ryan Seacrest stated in his interview with Oprah, hosting gives you access to things that most people could only dream of experiencing in their lifetime. Sometimes as a host, you even get to be the dream grantor! Let’s face it, being in such a powerful medium as TV can launch the success of your career and life into the stratosphere. Having a good coach is one of the best ways to help you get there if you’re willing to put forth the effort and time to learn from them.
I remember in 1995 when I sat down with a school counselor and started looking into colleges that offered anything that had to do with being a TV host. Unfortunately none existed. There were courses for journalism, theatre, performance and storytelling but none that specifically focused on “hosting.” Today there may be a few classes offered here and there as an “extra,” however I’m hopeful that one day soon you will see more and more of these Hosting 101 types of classes. For now though, the very best way to truly learn to host is to work with the people who’re currently in the know and in the industry. Check out all the different types of courses and classes host coaches are now teaching:
Showcases for agents
Brand building seminars
Game Show Hosting
Shopping Channel workshops
Teleprompter Reading Classes
Backstage Interview Training
Ear Prompter Training
Training for Vloggers and Web Hosts
If you want to be on-camera as a host, there’s training for just about every genre in existence.
While you might spend upwards of $20,000-$100,000 on your college education, today you can take some pretty dynamic and effective hosting courses for under $1000. It’s important that you take advantage of these courses, because in my experience, one hour with a host coach is worth 18 hours I spent in school trying to learn what professors referred to as “performance.”
A great way to jump start your hosting career is by simply getting into a hosting class, workshop or bootcamp. Most of these range in price from a couple hundred bucks and up, but rarely have I seen any type of host coaching over $1000. These courses are very effective because they focus solely on hosting and the coaches keep class sizes small and intimate to allow for more one-on-one personal attention. This also means they fill up very quickly, so I advise that you constantly be checking the coach websites and calendars below to see when the next courses are offered.
Instead of making you do hours of research, let me give you some guidance. These days, there are a handful of coaches who really stay in close contact with industry producers, casting directors, agents and current on-air hosts. Some of them are even casting directors and agents themselves! They in my opinion are the gold standard when it comes to host coaches and I highly recommend their services:
Maureen Browne – http://initiativetalentgroup.com/
Marki Costello – http://www.becomeahost.com/
Robin Radin – http://www.robinradin.com/
Patricia Stark – http://www.patriciastark.com/
Each one of these coaches has her own style and methods. I encourage you to read up on each of them and watch any videos they have. This will give you a good idea of which one might best suit your personality and style.
Let me give you fair warning. There are a ton of “coaches” out there who like to say they do “on-camera” training, but let me give you some advice I learned the hard way. Much like learning the fundamentals of any sport, the first coach or coaches that you allow to work with you will develop the core talent and on-camera skills you’ll always take with you. Make sure the methods of delivery and presentation skills they’re teaching you are for hosting in particular. Being in the business for quite a while now, I can tell you that it’s very easy to spot someone who hasn’t learned the proper fundamentals of being a host. If you work with someone who really doesn’t know what casting directors want to see or what audiences really crave from hosts, you’ll only be digging yourself a hole that you’ll eventually have to climb back out of. Trust me this is a frustrating experience that can take years to reverse. In my personal experience, I began in TV news and developed a “box” mentality that took me about 2 years to break out of. If you’ve ever watched a news program, you’ll notice that anchors and reporters don’t make many movements outside of their head and arms. News tends to be a more serious atmosphere and the lack of movement is simply the nature of that side of the business. But when you become a host, you’ll find the more movements you make, the better. Watch any great host on a reality TV show and you’ll see that they are always moving around, making big gestures and letting their body language do much of the talking. Coaches are great at helping you learn this!
Another VERY important aspect of a great host is how they use their voice. You’ll notice that all great hosts make you feel like they’re talking to their best friend. Much of that has to do with the way they use voice inflection, tone, melody and pace. Studies have shown that 93% of your personality is determined by how you sound and what your body does when you speak. In the hosting world, your personality is EVERYTHING so you can understand why voice training is incredibly important!
To learn how to use your voice correctly, you can take courses in person, over the phone and there are now even CD audio courses. Vocal coach Roger Love is considered the top voice coach in Hollywood. Roger has worked with a slew of celebrity voices from Reese Witherspoon, Tyra Banks and Tony Robbins, to the cast of Glee. He recently created a CD audio course you can order online that is incredibly helpful and one I use daily while driving in my car. It’s called “The Perfect Voice” and you can find it at www.theperfectvoice.com. It costs around $100. His CD course will teach you how to use your voice and how to fix any problems you might already have. Roger is also available for one-on-one coaching.
If you’re looking to do voice training in a one-on-one setting, one of the other great coaches out there is a man by the name of Marc Cashmann. I had the great pleasure of doing some one-on-one training over the phone with Marc and got great results from our one-hour sessions. He conducts classes in his California studio or you can schedule phone sessions like I did. Either way, Marc is a veteran of the voice acting profession and has an extensive background in educating others on how to effectively use their voices for a number of areas. Check out Marc’s website www.cashmancommercials.com
COACH YOURSELF TO BEGIN
Even before you invest your money in a coach, you can start coaching yourself right now by doing simple things like:
Use your phone or flip cam and start recording your own segments
Reading out loud everyday out of a book or magazine to get your teleprompter skills up to par
Listen to what the popular hosts out there say and do. Watch how they address the camera. You’ll see that most good hosts aren’t afraid to do something different and be themselves.
Practice interviewing friends and colleagues and don’t be afraid to add some of your own personal flavor in and make it fun and engaging!
Start testing your quick witted responses with friends during casual conversation and see what kind of response you get. Are they laughing? Confused? Smiling? This will help you gauge how your audience will respond.
Let other people watch and listen what you record. Get their feedback. Many times we tend to look at ourselves and only see what’s working and we overlook what might not be working. Most of the people who will be watching you as a host are not in the business and they’ll give you honest feedback. You need to get used to hearing this!
And lastly, I mentioned this earlier, start doing you own webisodes! Get a YouTube Channel and a FB fan page going and start posting them as often as possible! This is a great way to prepare you for the real thing when an opportunity comes along. It will also show casting directors that you’ve been diligent and working hard and that’s always a plus!
FIND A MENTOR
In addition to having a coach, it’s also a great idea to have a Mentor in your life. A mentor is normally someone who has befriended you based on their love to help others reach success and in you, they see a “certain something” they can develop. A good mentor will also likely have years of experience in the area you want to be successful in. You read at the beginning of this chapter how people like Michael Jordan, Tony Robbins and Ryan Seacrest all had a great mentor.
In my life, I have had the great fortune of having several high profile mentors in multiple areas of expertise. Some were in sports, others in marketing and finances, in TV however, my first mentor was Nancy O’ Dell who is now the co-host of Entertainment Tonight. At the time (2000), I was part of the research department at Access Hollywood,which is on the NBC Studios lot. Since our offices and studios were in separate buildings, I would frequently be asked to run over to the studio to help out. Every time I did, I always took an extra couple of minutes to sit in the green room with Nancy and pick her brain about the TV business. She used to tell me how she remembered being a one-man band news reporter in South Carolina and having to measure her on-camera height with the lighting equipment before she rolled on a take. A couple of years after that, when she was the host of Nashville Star, she invited me down to Tennessee to be backstage for a taping of the show. Nancy always had great charm and was very willing to give me any advice I was searching for. At one point, to help me out she introduced me to her agent at the time, Ken Linder, who is legendary in the TV agent biz. When you have someone like Nancy in your life that is willing to go out of her way to help you, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity and be gracious to that person in return. After all, they see something in you that other people might not.
The great thing about having a mentor is they can save you years of frustration by giving you simple advice or action steps you would have never thought of. If you don’t currently have mentors in your life don’t panic. The first person you reach out to probably won’t become a lifelong mentor, but keep trying and reach out to people you respect and admire. I remember when I was a news anchor in Clarksburg, WV. While watching the Pittsburgh, PA news one morning while preparing for my own show, I happen to recognize one of the anchors. She was a woman I used to watch in my hometown of St. Louis, MO. Her name was Wendy Bell and she was a former feature reporter for a show called Show Me St. Louis. I loved watching her because her personality was infectious, her storytelling was hilarious and people loved watching her. Since I knew we were both now in the business and she was nearby, I simply went to the Pittsburgh TV station website, found her contact info and sent her a very complimentary and honest email that explained how I would love to get some mentoring from her. Needless to say, she was flattered and for the next year, once a month, I visited her morning show in Pittsburgh. Each visit she spent several hours with me critiquing my stories, helping better my presentation and motivating me to go after everything I wanted.
Having a mentor and coach is without a doubt one of the best things you could ever do to help your hosting career hit a new level of excellence. Start researching, start evaluating and take that step! If you’re low on funds, do the home exercises first and save up for one of the workshops or boot camps. Remember, this is your life and your career. That may mean you need to stay in a few nights from going out to help pay for it, but I promise you, it’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make!
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUCCCESS
Doing the above steps are definitely important to your development as a host and on-camera personality. But even more than those, there is one area of personal development that you must do for yourself to set the stage for success in your career and life, and that is to surround yourself with successful people!
All of us have this unique trait to our social development in that we tend to become
like the people we surround ourselves with. Research has shown that if you take the 5 people closest to you and average them (their personalities, attitudes and values) you get YOURSELF. Whether it’s our self-esteem, health or income… this rule generally holds true.
Most people who know me well, know that I’m very particular about who I allow into my inner circle. If you’re going to turn into the people you surround yourself with, then success needs to be part of their personality. Who are you surrounding yourself with and why? When you hang out with someone on a regular basis, whether you know it or not these people are developing your life. I challenge you to take an inventory of the people that you allow to affect your daily life and see if they’re giving you the best chance of succeeding or not.
I’m not trying to get you to break up relationships or defriend anyone in your life, all I’m trying to say is that you need to be critical of the people and conditions you allow into your life… so that success naturally emerges from your interactions with them.
As an example, one of my coaching clients and very good friends is Ms. Figure Olympia Nicole Wilkins. Nicole is the #1 figure competitor in the world and can often be seen gracing the covers of the top fitness magazines. When we’re together, I see why she is so successful. She is very detailed, punctual and driven. She is constantly trying to improve not only her physique, but her professional skills, marketing skills and attitude in general. Her work ethic is infectious and I find that when we are around each other, there is a definite feeling of success in the room. It’s great to have people like that around you. They push you, inspire you and make you want to be better at whatever it is you’re doing.
Your success comes from a myriad of things. When you’re young, you likely identify your talent, then in school you work on developing that talent, then in your career you look for opportunities to use that talent and then you eventually find the connections that will merge that talent with someone that can use it. By setting the conditions for success, you’re allowing it to happen on its own.
There are 2 crucial questions you need to be asking yourself right now:
1) Who do I need to become so I can take advantage of the opportunities?
2) What people do I need to surround myself with so I become who I want to become?”
If you have successful friends already, fantastic! You’re literally in good company and setting yourself up for major growth in your life and career. If you don’t, this is easily one of the toughest concepts to accept on the road to success. Because it means that some of the people you like and who like you… are actually holding you back, and you need to let go of some of them to reach your goals.
I know this may sound difficult at first, but let me explain how you do this. Don’t start by kicking people out of your life. This is definitely not the way to go. First, start finding successful people to add to your circle as often as possible. The people you love are still in your life, but as you add more successful people in your life and spend more and more time learning from and associating with them, the slow transition away from the negative influences which be much easier to swallow for those friends.
If you’re not having the success you want in your life, it’s almost certain that don’t have “successful” people in your circle. There is no better time to start than right now.
1. Make a list of the people you’d like to add to your inner circle. You may know them, or not. They likely already have the success you’d like to create. Identify 3 people you’re going to befriend over the next 3 months. Reach out, ask if they’d have lunch with you, and ask them a few questions.
2. Create a list of 3 people you’d like to get as mentors. Your goal is to get 1 of them as your mentor. When they give you advice, do what they say, and report back the results to them. That can really solidify the mentoring relationship.