This 2016 presentation by CNN’s Tom Foreman is a master class in live delivery. Though here he enjoys the use of Virtual Reality (VR) technology, the dynamics that distinguish his performance are applicable to almost any live situation in studio or out — and especially to one that involves relating to a screen or objects behind you.
What to Watch
Watch the piece once to get the gist of it, and then study Foreman with the sound turned down so that you can focus on the ways that he gestures and moves.
He is working without a stick mic. Few things are as important as being free to move and gesture. Research has shown that expressive people are liked and trusted more than people who are not expressive. When you gesture, you use more facial expression, your speech tends to be more conversational, your memory is better and you even use language more creatively. You will almost always communicate more effectively when your hands are free to support what you are saying.
He is relaxed and moving below the waist. Even if you are having to stay on a mark, you’ll look most comfortable standing if you relax your knees and allow yourself to shift your weight from time to time — just as you would in conversation at a party or a meeting. In fact, one of the most important keys to looking comfortable when you are standing is allowing yourself to relax and move below the waist.
He works consistently in the direction of his point-of-focus. Notice how he leans toward the image behind him as he discusses it, and how he leans toward the camera when he is addressing viewers or Jake Tapper. When people want to show we are interested in something or to demand attention, we move toward our point-of-focus. Foreman embodies his interest in the screen and in the conversation by moving toward them.
He is comfortable breaking eye contact and turning away from the camera. This enables him to use the images behind him dynamically, as opposed to having them there as background to his posing.
He takes time to see the things he is describing. He’s not just pointing at them. He’s seeing them and using them, even though it means looking away from the camera. Because he is actively engaged helping us understand something, the fact that he is looking away does not break his fundamental connection with the audience.
He embodies his analogy. He doesn’t just describe the movement of the garden hose. He acts it out.
He is comfortable with large, open gestures. Research has shown that when your body language is open and expansive you feel more confident and others experience you as more powerful.
When he’s not gesturing, he varies what he does with his hands. Sometimes he clasps them, sometimes he holds them at his sides, and sometimes he puts them in his pockets. The key, as with other aspects of delivery, is variety.
Altogether, Foreman is physically at ease and dynamic in a way appropriate to almost any live situation or venue.
Next post, we’ll look at how he follows through on it all vocally.