Lisa McAskill, MC for the 2015 SA Prayer Breakfast, talks to Wendy Rush about some of the highlights of her career, her top tips for delivering a successful presentation, and why she loves the opportunity to share what she has learned.
How did you come to work in the media – was it something you always wanted to do?
It all started with me getting some modelling work while I was still in high school. My plan was to become a teacher but I deferred, thinking the whole modelling thing might only last a year but it continued on for over a decade! It was all very exciting and gave me an introduction to the media industry. I was fortunate to have been around when the industry was booming. I soon worked out that I enjoyed the more interactive side of working to camera and by the time I was thirty I’d been in about fifty TV commercials, presented on all the morning programs, and had worked on a couple of pilot projects for children’s shows so I was well placed when the Postcards audition came up.
Can you remember the first presentation you ever gave? How did you feel and what did you learn from that experience?
My first speaking presentation was to a group of surgeons at a pharmaceutical conference being held in Adelaide at the Wine Centre. I was booked to showcase the “Best of the State” (talk about jumping in full on …not a big one ha ha). I can remember waking up feeling physically sick every morning in the lead up. But I prepared thoroughly with video clips, interesting information, even a quiz and prizes and the feedback was encouraging. It’s a great feeling to know that you have an audience’s interest, and to hear them laugh in the right places! Ha Ha! From this first experience I learnt that when I spoke from memory and didn’t use my notes I was most engaging. This was a great lesson in trusting myself and my knowledge and what I had to bring.
Most of us remember you from the popular South Australian television series Postcards. How did you come to be a presenter on the show? How did you prepare for the role?
The audition came up through my model agency Tanya Powell. I had regularly worked modelling and presenting on Channel 9’s morning program, Adelaide Today, so I did have an advantage as I was known and recommended to the producers. I had to memorize a paragraph- length piece and present it walking and talking to camera. It was about kangaroos and a waterhole, but the audition was held in Wellington Square. I then had a trial day out with the crew and was immediately thrown in the deep end having to interview a curator at an art exhibition at Carrick Hill. I had ten minutes or so to learn a piece to camera and deliver it on the spot. I think I got it in the first take and the story even went to air! I had the job – which then lasted for fourteen years! So to be honest I didn’t really do any prep, my previous experience was an advantage and from there I just learnt on the job.
What is your best/worst/funniest/scariest memory of your time on Postcards?
I was kind of the stunt person on the show. In my first couple of weeks I had to cable hang glide, do acrobatics in a glider and learn to belly dance on camera! Probably the scariest was learning to water ski on camera because whenever I’d attempted it in the past I had come away injured! There were a few frightening moments when I was pretty scared in helicopters too! I’m still amazed at what I can do when there’s a camera rolling!
I am naturally a fairly shy, reserved person, happiest reading a book actually so how I landed this job ……. guess it was the white lie I told in the interview, where I said that I was adventurous!
Challenging your fear is very empowering and for me it’s where faith has played a role in giving me the courage and I guess a sense of calm/peace to attempt all these things and with gusto!
When did you discover that presenting was something you enjoyed and wanted to make a career out of?
I attended acting classes for a number of years and what this taught me was actually not to act, that just being your natural, authentic self was what was most engaging for an audience. This suited me. I actually really like people and the opportunity to work in a creative team and travel the State interviewing fascinating characters was such a blessing!
They say that most people fear presenting more than anything else. When faced with the prospect of presenting to a group of people, what are one or two things we can do to help alleviate that fear?
Firstly you need to shift the focus from yourself and onto your information or the message you are bringing to the audience.
Preparation is key, you need to spend some time really thinking and working on what it is you are going to speak about. Most people will start to prepare just the day before and this is where nerves can get the better of you. If you’ve spent a lot of time on something it shifts to a point where you are excited to be able to tell others about it! The best presenters look like they are just making it up on the spot but usually they have spent at least a few hours if not days working on their presentation.
Practicing it out loud is the other key. Most people write in a far more formal style than they speak, so by practicing it out loud you can hear “how it sounds” (and you may end up changing your notes accordingly). Doing this will make your presentation more natural and engaging.
Once you’ve put in the work, and have your notes as back up you can then rely on your instinct in the moment to take the presentation to where it needs to go.
How long have you been training others and when did you decide that you wanted to share what you had learned?
Over the years I had taught deportment and acting at model agencies but I started looking at it seriously after coming back from a two year stint living in Stockholm for my husband’s business. Remarkably, even though I had left the country, I still kept my Postcards job! I came back to Australia to visit family a couple of times and while I was here we would film a run of Postcards stories and then I would record the voice overs in my walk in robe back in Stockholm and send the tapes back.
This highlighted the fact that there were very few people at the time prepared with the skills or show reel to impress the producers and take over my job! So after some extra confirmation and encouragement from one of my ex-producers working at the ABC (who was also complaining of the difficulty in finding presenters) I decided to set up a television presenting course. In 2010 I started teaching this at SA Casting and then in 2011 set it up under my own banner. It has evolved from there to working with a diverse clientele, with other workshops on dealing with the media, public speaking and video production.
I particularly enjoy mentoring and helping participants get show reels and video together to promote themselves and their businesses. I have people of all ages and careers attending my TV and Web Presenting Course because the skills are very transferrable – from journalism students, to CEO’s, people who want to set up You Tube channels, people who need to present in their jobs and those who just want to be in TV commercials.
How important is your Christian faith to your life and to your work?
My Christian faith gives me that extra strength and confidence when I doubt my own. The focus shifts off self when you believe you are not in this alone and it’s part of your destiny. Prayer calms and anchors me and gives me courage. And I always pray that I will be a blessing to others by sharing what I know and for the insight to know just how to help and work with someone.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I get to meet and work with such a diverse and wonderful mix of people, from eighteen year olds aspiring to be famous through to university students, researchers, and business people in their sixties just to name a few! And I love working with a creative team of videographers, editors, sound engineers and make up artists with the common goal of producing something wonderful! It’s very rewarding to feel you’ve helped someone gain the confidence and skills to move forward, reach their potential and get them closer to achieving what they maybe only ever dreamt of!
Any other reflections on your life, faith or career?
“A candle loses nothing of its light when lighting another”
I love this quote because some people are afraid of sharing what they know for fear that someone might do it better and take opportunity from them. In my experience, sharing what I have learned over thirty years in the media industry has only brought me greater opportunities to extend my talents and potential and meet and work with some amazing people.
And I believe the best is still yet to come!!
Lisa McAskill is an experienced presenter with a successful career in the television, modelling, film and training industries. During her 30 year career she has:
- Presented on Channel 9’s Postcards program for 14 years
- Presented on numerous local morning programs, corporate and training videos
- Featured in more than 70 local, national and international television commercials
- Been a successful model for 20 years
- Worked in production for Grundy’s Wheel of Fortune
Lisa’s technical skills and experience are underpinned by a lifetime passion for teaching. She is delighted to now share her knowledge through her training and workshop programs.
See more at lisamcaskill.com.au