From the Blog: Media Training: Tips from the Pros

From the Blog: Media Training: Tips from the Pros

Top tier bartending has always been (and will always be!) about great tasting cocktails and warm hospitality. However, today’s bartenders need more than encyclopedic knowledge of drinks past, present, and future to become an influencer (a “Mover & Shaker” if you will), on the cocktail scene. They need to be comfortable on camera.

We asked Tobin Ellis and our very own April Wachtel, two top bartenders with years of on-camera experience, to share their top media training tips and tricks for bartending on camera, on live tv, and even how they give comfortable, confident presentations to packed rooms full of their peers. Take your bartending career to the next level with a little media training and inject a little confidence and charisma into your next on-camera performance.


How to Bartend on Camera

How do you prepare for an on-camera cocktail spot?

April Wachtel: Know the key messages you're trying to get in. Rehearse them in front of a mirror if you have to, then do everything possible to feel relaxed when you go on. Most importantly, come out smiling. If you start off with nervous energy, your interviewer will mirror that back and viewers can feel that.
Tobin: I bring everything. Absolutely everything. Yes, even my own ice. And I keep it simple and executable.

What do you focus on while you're talking to camera?

Tobin: Having fun, connecting with the host or one person on the other side of the camera, not breaking anything.
April: Always ask your host where they want you to look and commit to it. Sometimes it's only at them, sometimes it's straight into the camera, or looking from camera to camera.

What's the single most important thing to remember when speaking on camera?

Tobin: On camera, always speak to just one person on the other side of the camera, intimately. Connect with them.

How do you present cocktails on camera when so much of the drink is about taste or aroma?

Tobin: I generally don’t. I find that is a form of overselling and also usually pretty boring, so I don’t put other people through it. Instead I focus on the medium (TV=visual) and highlight all visual opportunities. And choose interesting ingredients that I can tell stories about. If I need to explain an ingredient I try to make it simple, instead of trying to sound self-important and smarter than the audience. Lose the words “delicious” and ‘amazing’ from your vocabulary. Every single thing is not ‘delicious’ or ‘amazing.’ You ruin your credibility when you oversell things verbally.

What are three things you should always avoid doing or saying on camera?

  1. This idea “we” are making cocktails.  “We’re going to take our shaker…” = nails on a chalkboard, for everybody. It’s not OUR shaker, it’s yours and WE aren’t making the drink, you are.
  2. Awkward shaking. You’re not a dog taking a pee while being watched. Look up, make some eye contact, and smile for f-ck’s sake.
  3. Saying “this is a really delicious cocktail.” It reeks of insecurity. Just make the drink and present and let the host/audience decide how good it is or isn’t.
April: Because we work in the spirits industry, I would strongly urge people not to promote over-consumption. If you're considering a serious career in any industry, you probably don't want videos out there of you ripping shots (or pushing them on other people.) Be aware that a lot of people of many ages will see this content over time, so act classy.

Any helpful at-home tips bartenders can use to get better at on-camera mixology?

Tobin: They say the camera adds 10 pounds. What they don’t tell you is that it removes about 50% of your personality.
You really have to animate yourself and dial up the energy level, hold the pregnant pauses, gesticulate bigger, and “be big” to come across on screen. TV is not the place for subtlety unless you’ve got three cameras and one of them is an XCU follow on you. Also learn about 3-point lighting. Badly lit video from a house lamp with the shade removed is painful to watch.
April: Just like any pro, practice in front of a mirror and record yourself. If you really want to get serious, have a friend interrupt you and ask you questions to help you prep for hosts interrupting you because they will, and often.


Bartending on Live TV

Do you treat live spots differently from recorded video spots?

April: I treat all video as if it were live, or I’m very explicit about what is unusable footage. Film crews often records you while you think you're off camera, and they might publish the content without realizing you don't want to be seen leaning, messing up a garnish, touching your hair, etc.


Do you have any pre-game exercises or tricks you do right before you go on camera?

Tobin: Check for food in my teeth. Poop. Not in that order. That’s about it. Dead serious.


How to Give a Great Bartending or Liquor Presentation

Any public speaking tips for presentations or conferences?

April: People feed off of your energy, so that first moment makes or breaks it.
Tobin: You should have already rehearsed and timed your presentation many times at home. It should flow. Make your slides like Steve Jobs doing a keynote instead of Bill Gates giving a powerpoint. Steve knew to make visuals that enhance what he’s saying, not a list of boring bullet points. They are in the room, assume they trust you know what you’re talking about. Learn how to use a mic.


Cocktail Presentation Best Practices

  1. Use slides simply as digital note cards, to remind you of the progression, topics of each new point, and timing

  2. Never read your own bullet points (or a script)

  3. Respect your audience’s time by making sure they walk away with at least a few solid nuggets

  4. Always start by telling them what’s in it for them. (WIIFM)

  5. Skip the verbal resume. Nobody cares but you

  6. Smile and be funny

  7. Slow down your speech, we almost all talk too fast


Media Training for Bartenders

Presence, moxie, the “it” factor; call it what you will, more and more top bartenders are stepping out from behind the bar and standing in front of the camera to share cocktail recipes, trade secrets, spirit info, and more. And people love it. Bartenders and brands that embrace online video, podcasts, and cocktail tutorials are the new influencers. Level up your on-camera persona and join the online conversation. You might just have something interesting to say that we all need to hear.

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