Standing to deliver as a solo anchor is one thing. Working on your feet with a coanchor is its own special challenge. While it’s not the easiest thing to look comfortable on your own, the challenge is somehow compounded when you have to look comfortable with someone else.
Few pull it off as consistently or effectively as ESPN’s Hannah Storm, seen in the clip above working with another tremendously talented communicator, Sage Steele.
There are a number of things that make this team so effective on their feet.
They are relaxed and moving throughout the segment. Neither of these women ever gets locked into one position. They shift their feet. They change their positions. It’s one of the main reasons they look so very much at home.
They authentically split their attention between the camera and each other. Anchor teams often look stiff and unnatural when standing because they are unsure about where they should look and how often they should shift their attention from camera to coanchor. The answer (demonstrated beautifully here). You should manage eye contact they way you would in animated conversation with a couple of people. You are constantly making good eye contact with both — and watching both for a reaction to what is being said.
They are comfortable in close proximity to each other. The fact that they are constantly moving helps with this. Also, they never let the space between them become a barrier. Even if you are standing further apart from your coanchor, you should usually work aggressively into the space between you. Otherwise, it becomes a sort of invisible barrier that can make the shot look formal and uncomfortable.
They pick up their cues without talking over each other. The key to pacing a tandem sequence effectively is not always so much talking fast as it is picking up the cues as the conversation flows from one person to another. Instead of just taking turns speaking, you get the feeling that Storm and Steele are really listening to each other and enthusiastically building the conversation as they process what they are hearing and respond to it. When you are working with another anchor it should never feel like you are just talking your turn. It should feel like you are listening and responding and building on what you hear.
Their volume and activity level are compatible. Researchers call this “interactional synchrony.” It’s the way that physical and vocal levels flow from one person to the other.
They are on the same emotional page. Emotion flows back and forth between them as effectively as gesture and speech.
They can laugh at themselves and each other. Few things are as boring as a couple of anchors so preoccupied with achieving some kind of perfection that they take themselves too seriously. Storm and Steele would rather have fun together than be perfect, and it makes all the difference.
These anchors are having fun in these examples because they are doing sports, but the dynamics of great tandem performance would be exactly the same in most serious of circumstances. As long as they continue to listen and respond so authentically to each other, this team will be great together whatever they are reporting.