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7 tips to help you prepare for a live television report, from Finnish correspondent Mika Hentunen

Updated: Dec 18, 2023


Mika Hentunen of YLE Finnish Broadcasting spoke to Global Business Journalism program students at Tsinghua University.
Mika Hentunen speaks at Tsinghua University. (GBJ photo by Rick Dunham)


By CORAZON SCHEPPY

Global Business Journalism reporter


You might be doing live reporting on television one day. It’s like becoming the director of your own story. But how? The essential preparations for completing a successful live reporting can be overwhelming for beginners to grasp. In a Nov. 23 lecture to Global Business Journalism students at Tsinghua University, Mika Hentunen, an Asia correspondent for YLE Finnish television who has three decades of reporting experience, shared live reporting tips for students and young journalists to prepare for a live TV report.


Here are Mika Hentunen's seven top tips for TV live shots:


#1 Know the topic


There might be short notice and time is very limited. If you have to be live in one hour or tomorrow, the first thing to do is to study and define the topic as much as you can, Hentunen advised. 


Try to tell in one sentence what your upcoming live report is about, Hentunen emphasized the importance of knowing what you want to say to your audience. 


“Understand your topic, know exactly what the issue is that you are reporting on,” said Hentunen.


#2 Define your audience


Have in mind who will be in your audience and what is most relevant to them. To help your audience remember what you’re telling them, try to incorporate catchphrases and punchlines when you are reporting. Hentunen suggested to ask around or perform a keyword search to identity the terms that could attract the most attention from your audience. 


“It’s all about audience participation and relationship with the audience,” said Hentunen. “Have in mind what you want to tell and who you want to reach.”


#3 Know the format


Take action to be sure of the television format you are working with. Have also should have in mind the precise duration of your liveshot. Is the format a Q&A with a studio host or reporting on-site when you have 60 seconds to talk about what has happened? Is the Q&A two or three questions? Be prepared.


“It increases audience participation if you can combine it with several networks and media, which creates visibility for your brand,” said Hentunen.


Also, remember to discuss the content with the producer, from questions to answers and their length. At the same time keep in mind that appearance matters. Decide what to wear. Think about your “camera looks.”


“Be as precise as possible,” said Hentunen. 


Mika Hentunen spoke to Global Business Journalism students at Tsinghua University.
During coverage of the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, Mika Hentunen went live from a Singapore hotel that featured a giant Trump-Kim hamburger on its menu. (GBJ photo by Rick Dunham)

#4 Practice, memorize, practice


It does take time to reach perfection. Hentunen advised that you should “start practicing whenever you get the subject.”


Try to memorize key parts of what you are about to say. Say them aloud and repeat the phrases. Use palm cards or other devices to improve your memory if needed. Write down some key words. When practicing, measure time and think about how you are going to answer questions. If you only have 30 seconds, what is the best answer? If you have a minute, how will you say it differently?


#5 Know your surroundings


Before you go live, a few things on the you should have a checklist of items related to your surroundings. Check where you will be doing it. if you’re doing live outdoors, confirm the weather conditions. 


Check the audio and video connections. Make sure the microphone and backdrop are working properly. If you are live via the internet, make sure your internet service is working smoothly.


Check the lighting. You don’t want shadows on your face or light that is too bright. 


Use makeup or face powder to cover shine if needed. 


#6 Focus


Make sure you feel comfortable. Let’s say you’re backstage, or on the streets waiting to be on live. Try to keep warm, have water and snacks available. Additionally, have a chair where you can sit in, so that you don’t have to stand for 30 minutes before going live for 60 seconds. 


Don’t get distracted. It means if you’re backstage with other guests you shouldn’t talk casually for too long. Concentrate on your job. Maintain your focus.


“Repeat to yourself what you want to say,” said Hentunen. 


#7 Relax


Relax and breathe. Breathe calmly and smile – unless your story relates to death and tragedy. Depending on the subject, smiling is always better than not smiling.


“A different mindset is that when you need to be talkative, think of it as a discussion,” shared Hentunen.


Finally, you are on live. Try to forget about the camer and be yourself. There are different ways to act like yourself, but Hentunen suggests that you “talk to a friend” using simple language. 


Mika Hentunen spoke to Global Business Journalism students at Tsinghua University.
Mika Hentunen went live from Iowa with Finnish-American voters during the U.S. presidential election. (GBJ photo by Rick Dunham)

 

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