Dan Dowling, The Broadcast Meteorologist blogger, posted some useful advice yesterday for aspiring weathercasters about how to deal with inevitable on-camera jitters as they start their careers. The advice is worthwhile for all students or professional meteorologists looking to advance their careers–not just those who want to be on television.
Dowling points out that a lot weathercasters knew from an early age that they wanted to be meteorologists, but not many of them knew until much later that they were going into broadcasting. As a result, they developed their scientific skills from the start but not the confidence and polish that they’ll needed to communicate to an audience.
It takes time to develop effective on-camera manner, Dowling says, just like it takes time to learn how to write reports or to analyze weather observations properly, because all of these skills stem from maturation of deeper qualities, whether an ear for language and logic to write well, or mathematical understanding to use models and observations, or, in the case of presentation, solid belief in your own abilities:
You can work on talking slower, or stop fidgeting with your hands, or trying to smile more, but it likely all stems from a lack of being comfortable and confident. It’s also a challenge to teach out of a student because it’s usually something that just takes time. Just like jumping in a pool of cold water, it just takes time to get used to, and there is not a lot else you can do to speed up the process. If you are in high school, now is the time to start building your confidence. The students who get started sooner end up coming to college better equipped for the opportunities they will find there.
The blog relates a couple examples of successful Lyndon State College meteorology grads who got involved in broadcasting in high school, but specific experience of this kind not the only way to work on communication and confidence:
It all starts by pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. If it’s a little scary, you are probably headed in the right direction. Try acting or singing in a play, or being in a band or chorus. Get out in front of people. Play a sport. Get involved with a speaking or debate club. Whatever you do, make it fun.
The interesting thing about this advice is that it applies in many meteorological jobs, not just broadcasting. Dowling’s points echo what experienced meteorologists have been telling attendees year after year at the AMS Student Conference: don’t neglect your communications skills. Employers are looking for the ability to write and speak well if you’re going into business or consulting, not to mention any sort of job interacting with the public.
It’s difficult to develop such versatility during student years, when you’re packing in the math and science (here’s an example of a teacher who tries to make it possible by integrating communication practice into the science curriculum). But it’s a lot harder to catch up quickly on fundamental skills like writing and public speaking later in life.