UK: VITAL SIGNS - Close-up and personal.

UK: VITAL SIGNS - Close-up and personal. - Most of you may think you'll never make it to the small screen but think again. These days, nobody above the Plimsoll line of senior management is away from the camera for long. A presentation to the management

by PETER YORK, in his persona as Peter Wallis, is managing directorof consultants SRU e-mail: peter@sru.co.uk.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Most of you may think you'll never make it to the small screen but think again. These days, nobody above the Plimsoll line of senior management is away from the camera for long. A presentation to the management conference will like as not include footage of 'me with Ed and the guys at the Pittsburgh office' or the uncut version of your stirring video address to your division. The time will come when you have to answer to the local television news for anything from a spill to a shop opening.

And when you get up there in a real global company, you'll be on Bloomberg and CNBC in their endless worldwide loops.

If presentation matters in life, it's hugely more important on TV because, in a five-minute hit with no context and no personal knowledge, how you seem is all you'll be. What your business does; how it behaves; and how you and your colleagues present yourselves are all open to scrutiny. Your financial results may be vital, but just communicating them isn't enough.

They relate in an ever-faster feedback loop to that mass of relationships and impressions that make up corporate reputation.

Your first sight of yourself on real TV - particularly if you haven't been 'trained' - can be traumatic. Everyone has seen themselves on video now but it doesn't remotely prepare you for your impact on a 9 o'clock news story or a fly-on-the-wall documentary. Trainers can only do so much.

They can prepare you for Today or Paxman by explaining how interviewing tricks work, how to stonewall. They can run you through your story on video, throwing tough questions and telling you to dress soberly. But they can't and won't address whether your version of 'sober' looks dumb or provincial on camera, or if your native accent and intonation suggest dodgy estate agent, railway clerk or out-of-touch toff. And they're certainly not going to tell you if your face doesn't fit and the camera will never love it. These are questions you will have to work out for yourself in the age of Business Television.

Being on TV isn't natural and it doesn't come naturally but, like sincerity, if you can fake it, you've got it made. So, rule one, remember TV is an 'intimate' medium: you don't address it like a public meeting. An interview is supposed to look like a conversation. Don't use the jargon of your trade or try to blind people with science. (But don't render it into baby talk either; people are savvy now.)

Don't try a new accent. The 'official' voice goes down badly on TV. If you've got a serious intelligibility problem, you should have had it fixed by now, but your accent shouldn't be changed on the wing. If you're Yorkshire, stay with it.

Remember where to put your eyes and hands. Eyes shouldn't look shifty - rolling up at the lights or following the cameras. A level gaze at an interviewer says straight-talking, sincere. And don't let your hands do the talking. As for looks, TV isn't the place to experiment with a new you. Don't wear anything you haven't lived in a bit, or you'll feel uncomfortable.

TV is not the place to test-drive new teeth or toupees. And don't do anything out of character - too young, too modish, too formal. The ideal is 'me at my best'.

Concentrate on the head and shoulders down to the point of the lapels.

Shirts, ties and haircuts are the key. Keep shirts plain because subtlety doesn't show on TV and you're not competing with Jonathan Ross. Keep to conventional collar designs, and choose a plainish tie in a contrast colour.

Once again the camera misses subtle detail (you'd need a lingering close-up to see those discreet Hermes patterns). Don't wear golf-club diagonal stripes or you will look like a rep'. And don't do tiny respectable knots on thin ties. They look repressed and old-fashioned.

Get your hair decently cut - but not the day before. If you're in the Arthur Scargill comb-over habit, now is the time to face facts - viewers will be so riveted by the deployment of your strands they won't hear a word you say. Bald is fine; just make sure you're powdered.

Moustaches are problematic. Ditching his was one of Peter Mandelson's greatest career moves. As for beards, they often send not-for-profit messages.

Is that what you want to say?

On grown-up TV, they'll make you up, and you'll need it. Under TV lights, you'll look paler, redder, shinier, spottier than you ever do in real life. Don't say 'just a touch,' in a manly way. Let the make-up people do what you need. Let TV help you get in touch with your feminine side!

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