If you dream of presenting on TV then you probably imagine Philip Schofield’s job or presiding over a prime time entertainment show, maybe presenting a hard-hitting factual series? Chances are you are not holding out for the job of presenting on a shopping channel. However such a presenting job is more challenging than any high profile TV show.
Presenter Miceal Murphy offers us today’s article – offering up his experience of getting a presenter role on QVC.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Miceal (pronounced ME-HALL) Murphy. [As if getting work in TV isn’t hard enough, I had to go and have a name that is unpronounceable and difficult to remember even when it has been explained to you!]
My name notwithstanding, I have worked in TV as a presenter for 7 years now, with a hiatus of a couple of years in the middle, but more on that later.
In the main I have worked mainly in the areas of daytime TV and light entertainment with the odd foray into any other area I could talk my way into. I am a jobbing presenter after all.
Currently, I am very fortunate, and I say that with total humility, to be working as a presenter on the UK’s number one shopping channel, QVC. I know many of you working in the industry, or hoping to, may have some preconceived ideas about what working on a shopping channel like QVC may be like but I am here to let you know that to do the job will takes every single skill and ounce of talent you have, and then some. For me, it is the best, most rewarding job I have had in TV to date.
Working for QVC, on any given day I will find myself meeting with producers and directors, speaking to Buyers (the guys who buy the products we sell) and Planners (the people who decide when we sell the products).
I’ll be prepping (researching) all my products before going on air, getting to know a guest to build an on-air rapport and to find out more about their product, working in-studio presenting directly to camera sans autocue – possibly on my own, but more often with a guest.
I’ll be handling a lot of talkback from the gallery (this is live TV after all!), taking hard counts and soft counts, rapping items, taking the show into and out of breaks, coming up with creative ideas and suggestions not just for the items on air but also for the business as whole, conducting interviews, speaking to live callers on-air and responding to live Tweets whilst not only sounding interesting and interested, but also trying to appear calm, professional and seamless throughout.
This isn’t even everything we do, but it gives you some idea of the number of plates you need to keep spinning as a live studio presenter working for a Shopping Channel of the calibre of QVC.
With this in mind, anyone who says presenting for a Shopping Channel is not quality work has obviously never worked live on air for one!
I have been on-air at QVC for a year now and not only have I had to utilise every TV presenting skill I have learned in the preceding six years but I have also had to learn quite a few new ones, and learn them fast.
In my opinion, you will never have a TV presenting job that will require you to have such a breadth of skills ever again. It is a truly exhilarating and fulfilling environment to work in if you love TV.
There are so many things I could say about working as a presenter on a Shopping Channel like QVC, but I know most of you will be more interested in how you can get in there, so I have decided the best thing to do is to pose some of the questions you may have and just give you some honest and direct answers to them.
Presenting on a Shopping Channel doesn’t seem very glamorous, or is it?
So you think presenting on a Shopping Channel isn’t glamorous and perhaps not that much fun, well you’re
wrong. In the last year alone I have interviewed or worked with a host of celebrities including:
Dolly Parton. See my interview here.
Ronan Keating. See Interview
Katherine Jenkins. See Interview
Jackie Evancho (winner of Americas Got Talent). See Interview
Libera (The South London Boy Choir). Watch a clip
Camilla Kerslake – See Interview
Matthew Morrison (Mr. Shu from Glee)
Mary Byrne (X-factor Finalist)
You get the idea.
How did you first get into presenting on TV?
I graduated from university with an honors degree in Computing Science but decided to found a theatre company called Kabosh in Belfast rather than get a proper job. That was the start of my career as an actor.
One of the jobs I got was to perform in a comedy sketch show being commissioned for Ulster Television (regional ITV) and produced by a Belfast based production company called Green Inc. Several years later I had moved to Dublin and was becoming more and more disenchanted with the whole acting scene and thought I would move into an area of greater stability, and I kid you not, I thought I would find that stability in TV Presenting.
By chance a brand new daytime TV show had just been commissioned by RTE (the Irish National Broadcaster) in Dublin and was being produced by the same production company that I had worked with many years previously. I had just taped a presenting showreel and I dropped it off at their reception. For some reason I decided not to mention our having worked together in the past (do not ever make this mistake, always use every tool at your disposal to get your foot in the door!). Luckily the Exec Producer, Stephen Stewart remembered me and called me that evening. I went in a day or two later and had a meeting with the series producer and that was that. I was working in TV. I caught a lucky break.
How difficult – or easy – have you found it to get consistent work on screen?
I was lucky for the first few years with my first daytime TV job in Ireland, but then I decided to take the plunge, give everything up and move to London. I had some great meetings and some very positive feedback, but no work. Eventually I became demoralised and decided to give the whole TV lark up as a bad lot, which I did for a couple of years.
I went off to do things that interested me, one of which was to study Chocolate Making – random I know, but it is this that led me back into working in television, and specifically QVC.
So, if I could give one piece of advice I would say make sure that outside of your TV work you do things that interest or stimulate you, because you never know when that passion for something else could lead you into a job in TV.
You are now presenting on QVC. How did you get that gig?
Well this was not as straightforward as finding a contact and sending a showreel, and in fact I wasn’t really looking to get back into TV (I know this is going to be gauling to those of you who are out there fighting the good fight every day)..
As I mentioned before, I went off and did some training as a Chocolatier and had set up my own Chocolate Making Events company providing events and experiences for corporate and private clients in London, Brighton, Birmingham and Manchester, where I hosted chocolate tastings and taught people how to make their own handmade chocolates. I also taught chocolate classes as well as Cupcake decorating and Sugarcraft classes for friends of mine, both of whom are former TV Presenters, who own a company called The Cocoa Box.
One day I happened to mention to these friends that I could do with a bit of extra income and they suggested that I contact QVC to see if I could get work as a Guest Presenter (usually an expert in their field who represents a brand), as one of them had worked there doing this in the past.
I sent my details off, and as luck would have it QVC had a new Belgian chocolate brand launching on the channel. Taking into account my chocolatier background and my TV presenting background they invited me in to audition. I got the job as a guest presenter and after only one or two times on air they asked me if I would be interested in being considered for a role as a fulltime presenter.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Did you have any preconceptions about TV shopping channels before you got the job?
I really had no idea what to expect and I am one of those strange breed of people who loves to work, so I didn’t bring any preconceived ideas with me, I was just happy to be offered the work!
I knew that others in the industry had some preconceived ideas about working for a shopping channel, but that was there issue, not mine. Besides I had seen enough as a guest presenter to know what a great place QVC was to work and the kind of standards they maintained in their live output.
What skills do you need to do that kind of on-screen work?
This is actually a big question as I think you will need every skill you’ve got. Different presenting jobs in TV require different skills but I honestly believe that working as a presenter on a Shopping Channel requires all the skills!! Everything from excellent people skills to listening skills to an ability to multi-task.
Never underestimate the usefulness of any skills you have in your armoury as a TV presenter.
Use everything you have at your disposal and if you meet anyone in the industry that you consider to be talented, learn everything you can from them.
Always remain voraciously curious. By that I mean always ask questions, especially the obvious ones because they may not be obvious to everyone!
What kind of challenges does presenting on the likes of QVC throw up for a presenter?
Working as a presenter for QVC requires more skills than any other type of TV presenting. That in itself is a challenge, but its what keeps me turning up to work every day.
Do you think you need an agent to get on in TV?
Hmm thats an interesting question. I don’t have an agent, at the moment. I have had in the past. Sometimes I think the expectations of those of us wanting to work in TV are so great that agents can never live up to them. We think that if we can just get that great agent everything will be fine.
I think it is more important to go out there and make contacts and be seen and acquire skills that will help you (these don’t necessarily have to be technial or TV skills per se – see my chocolatier training above). These are the things that are going to get you jobs. Agents are the people who can try to help you get your foot in the door through contacts or be your ‘wingman’ and have your back just to make sure everything is above board when you do. I think if you think about an agent in these terms they are really useful.
I would also be careful of trying to get the big agent with the big celebrity names. Agents are running a business, and whilst it would be flattering to be taken on by a ‘big agent’, they are looking to have clients on their books who are working. If their big names are working a lot then it stands to reason that they are going to be doing a lot of work for them, so you won’t necessarily get the attention you want or think you deserve to get your career going.
What advice would you give aspiring TV presenters?
Don’t be afraid to try new things, you never know where it may lead you. Also, the piece of advice I gave earlier about staying curious will stand you in good stead.
Think about it, if you are always in the habit of asking questions, isn’t that exactly what you would be doing if you were interviewing somebody? Or, indeed, in the context of working on a Shopping Channel like QVC, if you are selling a product ask the questions a viewer would ask – What is it? What does it do? Why would I want it? How do I use it? Where would I wear it? What is it going to do for me?
Please remember, though, as curious as your are, it is just as important to always LISTEN!
Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @Miceal_Murphy
Or check out my website: http://miceal.com/
Finally, best of luck to all of you. If I have learned anything it is that luck really does play a big part in getting that job! Be Lucky.