On-camera Presentation Framework: Visual Staging

When you watch videos on Vimeo, YouTube or websites, you’ll notice a variety of background contexts for speakers, some of which are conducive and some of which are distracting. For example, you might observe baby owl wallpaper in the background, piles of books and paper, orange paint on the walls, personal portraits, or even doors and windows behind the speaker. This staged background for your online video shoot is “visual staging,” and this is the third core element of the On-camera Presentation framework (see graphic below) that we’ll explore next.


The guiding principle when it comes to visual staging is to remove distractions that could upstage your content. Your message (verbal and nonverbal) is the most important piece in an online video. If the clothing you wear, the desk behind you, the equipment on the floor, or the cluttered bookcase grab attention and focus viewers away from you and your message, your visual stage needs to be remedied. Let’s explore some of the things you can do to ensure that your message is the central element of your video.

First, look through the monitor before recording to view the camera frame as a potential viewer would. You’ll observe excessive jewelry that competes for attention, the mini refrigerator in the shot that could be moved out of frame, the plant that sticks over the head of the presenter that makes her look like she’s wearing antennas, or the speaker wearing a black shirt sitting on a black chair that makes him look like Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars. When you just look at the scene in real life, you’re missing the perspective of the viewer who sees only what’s in frame.

If, however, you are shooting a medical video, it is appropriate to have medical equipment in the background or to shoot on location in a medical context. Additionally, if you’re talking about travel, it’s appropriate to have a globe in the background, etc. However, when there is so much visual noise and competition in the background, it is useful to employ a backdrop to bring neutrality to the scene and make the speaker “pop” instead of the background. You can use a professional studio’s background or on a shoestring budget, invest in a solid color fabric that can be weighted and hung behind you, etc.

Clothing also contributes to the visual staging. Avoid wearing clothing that will call attention to itself. For example, black can be absorbed by a darker background and white can reflect light. Extremely loud colors, stripes, and logos can draw our focus and distract our attention. Overall, it’s best to wear solid, muted colors on-camera.

Overall, visual staging needs to keep the presenter the main event, and support the speaker’s content, not compete with it. If you follow these simple tips and techniques, you will be well on your way to staging a successful video.

What say you?

Presentation Framework: On-camera Presence

Have you ever watched an online video and immediately clicked off the video or rolled your eyes at the presenter on your mobile device or computer? If you did, you experienced what it’s like when an online video presenter is unsuccessful at building on-camera presence with you, the viewer.

This post will continue to explore the framework model of on-camera presentations by focusing on the second core element, “on-camera presence.” Our last post addressed the first core element, message design.

On-camera presence includes a wide variety of delivery elements. Through establishing and building presence, you create rapport with the viewer and build credibility in their eyes. How is credibility established? Quite simply through your ability to look directly into camera lens and establish eye contact. This connection is the most powerful, and even though the speaker needs to imagine their viewers are immediately in front of them, it can feel very real to viewers.

Additional components of establishing presence include coming across as personable, informal, and natural onscreen. Because the more natural you can be, the more effective you can be. The best way to do this is to use informal language and a conversational tone. If, however, gestures seem contrived, speakers appear to be reading a script verbatim, or the like, the relationship between speaker and viewer feels distanced, and a connection is not made.

There are many other elements which contribute to successful establishment of presence. Vocal variety and conversational tone, as well as confident body posture and attentive focus all contribute positively to presence.

One of the best ways to establish relationship with your off screen viewers is to rehearse delivering your message to real people in a real context. Tranfer that experience to the camera frame, and you will find that your delivery is much more natural. Natural will have greater reach and impact.

In order for viewers to receive your message, whether you’re attempting to entertain, inform, or educate them, the relationship starts by building a persona that is likable to viewers. If we like what we see, we will listen to you, and we may just act on it.

What say you?

On-Camera Presentation Framework: Message Design

I remember when fonts first emerged on the word processing scene. Because we now had the world (or keys) at our fingertips and could display text however we wished, we did just that. After a short stint of reading documents with multiple fonts on one page, however, we realized the necessity for ground rules and–shall we say–acceptable protocol.

This same notion reared its head once again in the transition from classroom training to e-learning. All was fair game in the beginning as learning and coursework were transitioned online. As time went on, however, we realized that applying certain principles and strategies to online learning made it more effective while other techniques were less effective.

In today’s world, once again, we find ourselves in that place of change as a new medium explodes with growing popularity–online video. Online video is becoming the new medium for communicating, informing, entertaining, educating, and even marketing. The challenge, however, is that most professionals and individuals do not have experience or training presenting on-camera, framing a shot, or staging an effective backdrop.


In response to this need, our company has found the above model helpful with clients. This model serves as a guiding framework for developing the skill sets for presenting effectively in video. The model is called “4 Core Elements of On-camera Presentations.”

This post will be dedicated to the first core element, message design. Message design includes many areas from content to language choice and supporting visuals to opening hooks. At its heart, message design is about placing yourself in the shoes of the viewer and asking what should this video include, address, or teach from the viewer’s perspective? Because after all, it’s ultimately all about the viewer.

Message design also includes your content outline for your video presentation. To begin, you want to isolate and identify the effect you want to produce in viewers with your video. This effect is also the impact, shown above on the model with the outstretched arrows. Then, working backward you can draft your video script to include the components that will bring about that effect.

Message Design also includes openers that hook your audience’s attention which means it’s not just “Hi, I’m XXX.” Keep in mind, that in the video world, you will always be competing for viewer attention. Even after you’ve successfully grabbed a viewer’s attention, we still have to maintain it. Openers can be startling statements, humorous visuals, though-provoking questions, pithy quotations, surprising statistics, etc. Just remember, you need to hook your viewer in those first few seconds.

Other aspects of message design include word choice/language, transitions, participatory cues, including supporting visuals where clarification is needed, concision and not repetition, overall content organization, and a “memorable” last impression. Thanks to the recency effect, if you’ve managed to persuade your viewer into watching the duration of your video, the last thing viewers see is what they’ll remember most.

Stay tuned for discussion in future posts of other key elements for skill development in on-camera presentations.

What do you think might be missing from this model? What say you?

Video Snippets: Our Preferred Teacher?

Volleyball Serve_crop

We have a child who recently joined the school’s volleyball team to have some fun, try it out, and hopefully, learn some competitive strategy along the way. What was most interesting to me, however, is the method and medium through which the coaches chose to aid and elevate the skill level of overhand serving in their players.

They sent a YouTube link.

All volleyball team mates received an email from their coaches, along with a link to a specific YouTube video which demonstrated the steps to a successful overhand serve. The video modelled a coach’s skill whose cumulative expertise had won her “Coach of the Year,” not once, but seven times. Now, that’s expertise available at your fingertips.

When you watch the video you can see why she has been such a successful coach and why her teams do well. She breaks down the overhand serve into its component parts, each building on the last. These skill sub-sets are then explained, modelled and practiced by the kids as they work their way toward mastery of the overhand serve. Players also receive encouraging or corrective feedback from their coach, and then incorporate what they learn into the next sequence.

More and more, we see user-generated content being produced by those with mobile devices. Not only is video providing us with a way to capitalize on and leverage the global expertise of others, but also offers advantages in re-playability. Because videos can be paused and then watched again, they are extremely helpful for teaching short tasks or skills because with visual repetition, they can be made accessible to anyone anywhere–provided, of course, there is Internet access.

Many of us would admit that if we want to learn how to do something like “remove wet road white paint off our car,” we’ve probably searched YouTube first. I, too, must admit that when I needed a reminder on how to cook raw beets, I did not reach for the cook book. I didn’t even call my mom. Instead . . . you guessed it, I watched a YouTube video. These short, step-by-step instructional videos help in moments of need and can sometimes clarify instruction in less time.

What implications do micro-videos have for us?

We need to ensure that our videos are what our viewers need and want, and let the viewers’ needs drive design. Videos should be short, clear, fun, memorable, and get the job done. So the next time you need to do something with raw beets, improve your overhand volleyball serve, or perform a specific task, selecting the right Vimeo or YouTube video . . . might just be all you need.

What say you?