A guest posting by Steve Clements
Co-Owner, Executive Speak/Write, Inc.
In the “good ole days” (a few years ago), there were two types of people—those who appeared on television, and those who didn’t. The people who didn’t “perform” criticized every statement, habit, tic and inappropriate line of those who did.
Then the world changed! Business leaders began appearing on streaming Internet video. Travel budgets were slashed and teleconferencing emerged as an inexpensive tool to do business without leaving town. Corporations turned to films and documentaries to tell their stories. Visual representation became synonymous with doing business.
Now everyone is a performer, having to create and maintain business relationships basically “on television.” Yes, the camera is different. Now it is situated in front of the corporate videographer, or mounted on your computer, or hanging from the ceiling in a hi-tech conference room with a screen big enough for several people to interact at one time. But the reality still stands. The ability to perform for the camera has become a necessary business skill.
So what do you need to know? The following 12 tips are just a start, but a very good start to helping you become your “in-person,” self-possessed, charming self while looking into a cold piece of metal and glass, called “a camera lens.”
1. Avoid staring into the camera and looking “possessed.” Blink. Be natural.
2. Glance down when you do look away. An upward eye movement conveys a “gazing at the ceiling” image, while that “to the sides” motion comes across as shifty and dishonest.
3. Pretend that strange looking object is really a person—a friend. Instead of talking stiffly to “A CAMERA,” talk to it as though it were your restaurant companion on a Saturday night. It will make you a more natural speaker.
4. Print your notes in a large font so you don’t have to bend to read them. Otherwise, leaning over to read that smaller type will bring that “clump of bed hair” or bald spot you spent 15 minutes hiding this morning into large focus on the screen.
5. If you’re not being interviewed, consider using a teleprompter. It takes just a little practice to get used to, but it can make the whole experience much easier on you and more enjoyable for your audience.
6. Be sure to follow the suggestions of your director and/or crew. It’s their job to set lighting and position you at just the right distance from the camera for your best look. Feel free to ask someone to “stand-in” for you so that you can take a peek at how you’ll look from the camera’s point of view.
7. Try to be “the best you”— the you who converses with friends and co-workers.
8. Put you – and your audience – at ease if you lose a word or become tongue-tied. Get angry and you make the audience uncomfortable. Joke or just move on, and the whole world laughs with you.
9. Dress for the camera. Bold stripes and patterns will strobe (that “waaaaaah look”), detracting your viewers from you and your message. Men, business-casual clothing is perfectly acceptable (just think about what you’d wear the first time you’re meeting a new client). But, if a jacket and tie are your style or your message is of a very serious nature, wear a solid jacket (a slight strip is acceptable but not plaid) and a subtle tie.
10. Women, the same goes for you. Avoid geometrics or any other strong pattern Wear solid colors that complement your own coloring, and keep your accessories simple and not shiny. Otherwise you too risk the “waaaaah look.”
11. Avoid the Richard Nixon or Morticia look! Unless it’s the style you want, men should be recently shaven to prevent “five o’clock shadow.” Women should use light makeup and subtle lipstick to ward off the garish look on television.
12. Maintain an animated and pleasant expression. Don’t let your face “go dead.”
Remember, these dozen points are just the start. You can’t become comfortable without training and practice. Invest the time. Find an experienced media/presentation coach who can help you with taping, critiques and re-doing as often as possible until you are at ease with the medium. Your business may depend on your performance in front of the camera. And, by the way, welcome to television!