Presenting to a video camera is similar in some ways to giving a live presentation but in other key ways it is very different. Here are a few tips to guaranteeing that you look like a rock star when it’s your turn.
I really shouldn’t even need to say this but obviously video is an important part of the marketing world today. Think you don’t need to ever go in front of a camera yourself? Think again. Explainer videos, recorded product demonstrations, and even narrated presentations give a wide reach with an on-demand medium. But watching several minutes of slide after slide, even when narrated well, gets boring. Adding a personal touch by alternating between slides and shots of a live person talking make the end result far more engaging. Assuming of course, that you don’t look like a carboard cutout. Here are a few tips to avoid that.
- Know What To Say
You don’t want to appear unprofessional, so unless you are actually a stand-up comic in real life, you are going to want to have a script to work with. Nothing looks worse in a recorded video than “umm”ing, repeating yourself, forgetting key points, and appearing disjointed. Should you read the script? No. Unless you are a TV personality and used to reading from a teleprompter, you will come off wooden at best and it will usually be obvious that you are reading from a script. Write out the script, yes, read through it a few times. Then make up a single page of notes that you can read from (more on that later). Bullets only – just speaking prompts so you don’t forget the flow or any key points. Use that as an aid, but not something to read.
- Practice, Practice, Practice
Don’t assume that because you wrote the script and read through it a few times that you will sail through the recording. Try reading off the notes a few times. Most importantly, record yourself during one of your practice runs, and then watch it. Have someone else watch it too – someone who is not afraid to give you critical feedback. “Wow, that looks great” is not helpful feedback. Find someone who will pick it apart. Do you have any unconscious habits? Do you fidget? Do you say “umm” between each sentence? Many people do these things without even being aware of it. If you don’t have access to the actual environment that you will be recording in that’s o.k., even doing a few dry runs at home in front of your cellphone will let you know what you look like and sound like. A few practice sessions is good, but some people will even do 20 or 30 dry runs. You can only get better with each practice.
- Setup For Success
Make sure that you get some practice time at least once in the actual environment that you will be recording in. Whether it is a studio or a conference room or just your office. Make up a large poster board with your key bullets on it and attach it just above or below the camera to look at. Make sure you can see it easily, but try not to stare at it. Crisp and concise bullet points will help here – large and simple so that you can see them out of the corner of your eye. If you absolutely have to look at the poster, at least keep it as close to the camera as possible. If you actually have access to a teleprompter this is even better because then you never have to take your eyes off the camera. But again, unless you have experience reading from a script directly, only put your bullet points on the teleprompter.
- Be Alive
Keeping up a good level of energy can be difficult when you are presenting to a camera. It’s not live, it has no reactions or emotions, it gives you no feedback. Do not present to a live audience. Yes, that helps make you less dry, but it will be obvious that you are looking at something or someone off camera.
Pretending that you are presenting to the camera person can help, but only if they are directly behind the camera. If they are off to the side you won’t be able to help looking at them and away from the camera, and it will show on the video. Without anyone to present to, you are just going to have to mentally think of the camera as a person so that when you talk to it you feel like you are talking to someone. This is where practice will be particularly important.
The obvious exception to the “no audience’ rule is when you are, in fact, presenting to an audience – one that we can see and/or hear. Then it’s o.k. to look at the audience and not always at the camera because then we are recording you speaking to the audience, not to the camera. But in that case it is important to see the audience or else it will just look like you are speaking to empty space off-camera.
These are a few key things to remember when you have to go in front of a camera. You may not ever be great, or perhaps you might, but with a little practice and a few key tricks you can certainly get better. There’s a great line in the movie “All That Jazz” where the director tells a struggling dancer, “I can’t make you a great dancer. I don’t even know if I can make you a good dancer. But, if you keep trying and don’t quit, I know I can make you a better dancer.” And better is a good start.