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How to Nail Your Hosting Audition!


Eye Contact: As a host, we are supposed to deliver information into the camera. That’s kind of the major thing we do! However, it is a common misconception when auditioning that you should look into the camera the entire time. This will read as completely unnatural. When you are hosting, you are being yourself, sharing an event, product, etc. We want to have a believable experience of you as if you were speaking to us in real life. So let me ask you, how often do you talk to people and just stare at them? Think about it ... NEVER! People don’t do that. They occasionally will take a glance around to gather their thoughts. If someone just stared at you the whole time, you’d most likely freak out. The same is true when you’re on camera. Giving your audience an occasional break in eye contact with the camera will be calming to us as the viewer. Just as it is in real life.

2.  Using Your Environment: This tip piggybacks on the point above and actually adds another level. When you are on location for a hosting job(or even if you are simply auditioning/testing and the audition copy has you on-location), it can be super powerful to create your environment by looking around in the first ten seconds or so of the read to show us that you are actually someplace in the world ... even if you’re simply in an audition room or studio. If it’s an audition, it adds another layer to the reader and allows us to feel like we are there with you. Take the line “I’m at the base of the most active volcano on all of the Hawaiian Islands.” If you take a second to look around and up while you are delivering that first line, it brings the audience to the base of the volcano with you. It doesn’t matter if it’s an audition in front of a blank wall; our brain will start to see the volcanic rock and ash around you. The human brain’s capacity for imagination is amazing. Take advantage of it!

3.  What to Do with Your Hands: Be sure to have your hands “in the world” of the frame the entire time you are on camera. A good way to do this is to have the hands loosely clasped, crossed over each other (bunny hands), or in a diamond shape (my least favorite, but an option). You mostly just want to leave your hands in a good resting position, one you can adjust whenever necessary. You’re usually framed from the waist up, or with three-quarters of your body in the frame. Having your hands resting right around your belly button allows for them to be in the frame the whole time. That positions them to make gestures within the frame. If your hands start down by your sides, that often means you’ll be bringing them continually in and out of frame as you make natural gestures, which can be visually disruptive and a jarring experience for viewers. Also, be mindful of not making many gestures too close to your face. That can be incredibly distracting as well to your audience. Lastly, try to avoid using repetitive hand gestures that can start to look like a tic. Whatever you do with your hands, definitely don’t point your finger at us! People don’t like to be pointed at ... in life, and definitely not on camera. That’s why you often see political candidates during speeches do what would be a point, but their pointer finger is tucked in, not extended out. They have been trained not to point during their speeches! The same is true for us as hosts. Again, keep your hands in frame, be mindful of repetitive hand gestures, stay away from too many movements close to your face, and don’t point at us!

4. The Power of “Utters & Mutters”: One of my mentors, (and a dear friend) Carolyne Barry, taught me the power of “utters and mutters,” and it was a game-changer for me in my career. Let’s first define the term. “Utters and mutters” refer to those single words or sounds that you can put anywhere into your scripted copy to make it your own. Even if you’ve been instructed to stay on script for your appearance and avoid any unscripted banter, you can always do an utter or mutter. This can mean a difference as minimal as the one between “Las Vegas has become the hottest place on the planet for amazing restaurants” and the uttered and muttered version “Now, Las Vegas has become the hottest place on the planet for amazing restaurants. Mmmm!” You have not changed the script. You’ve just added a word or sound to connect it more to you in the moment. But here is the trick: you can’t pre-plan these moments. My recommendation is, once you get your script, put five to ten in your back pocket that feel inspirational and appropriate to the content at hand. Please don’t choose and place them in your script in advance, otherwise, they will become a schtick and actually hurt you in an audition. Not only will they lose their spontaneity (the whole reason for them!), it will look like you are a Johnny One Note only capable of pre-planning one fun choice. If you do a different choice with your utter or mutter every time, that’s when they have magical power. Trust me, they can be MAGIC!

As hosts, we are not just reporters. Yes, we are often providing information that could sometimes be seen as news. But we are more than that. We are a vessel for providing our audience with an experience by giving them access to people, products, and information that can be educational, entertaining, and even transformative. Of course, we also have to be entertaining throughout that process. We aren’t just “presenting” information. The goal is to give the viewer an authentic experience of YOU while still delivering the copy or communicating the information required for the segment or spot. So ... you must have opinions. This doesn’t mean changing the words. This means that we need to understand how you feel about the things that you are saying by the way you say them. We need to know if you are excited, perplexed, intrigued, inquisitive, or even playfully frustrated.* We want to have an experience of you and feel like we are getting to know you. Your job is to communicate the information while simultaneously creating a relationship with your viewers. That can only be done if we get to see who you are by the way you say things and what makes you tick!

*I recommend never going more negative than playful frustration, which means being slightly annoyed but still having a sense of humor about it unless you are doing a rant piece. It’s too dangerous and can backfire on you by making you look unlikable.

This is an excerpt from her book. For more on the main areas of media training for a media appearance, check out the "The Ultimate On-Camera Guidebook" by Jacquie Jordan and Shannon O'Dowd.

Shannon O’Dowd is an on-camera host, commercial spokesperson, & media training/on-camera instructor. Shannon has been working on both sides of the camera for well over a decade. 

She eats, sleeps, and breathes on-camera training and coaching. Shannon literally wrote the book on how to prepare and embellish your on-camera performance. She even aids in finding talent managers, agents by focusing on building out your resume, headshots, and sizzle reel. Having on-camera training can get you ready for any appearance. 

She goes above and beyond for her clients and teaches up and coming professionals and established talent all over the Los Angeles area. Reach out! She wants to continue to build a thriving community of entertainers.

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