Thanksgiving

In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we pause to reflect on all things for which we are truly grateful. As Roman philosopher and orator, Cicero, so aptly said long ago, “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.”

The Thanksgiving Holiday is certainly a time to pause and reflect and be reminded of the importance of being thankful. Yet there is more to be thankful for than you might initially think. In the 1863 Proclamation of Thanksgiving, President Abraham Lincoln first declared to the nation that the last Thursday in November be set aside as a unified day of thankfulness to God for all the bounty before us.

What you may not have realized is that we also owe thanks  to a lady by the name of Sarah Hale. Mrs. Hale was a magazine editor and had lobbied for 15 years to have an annual Thanksgiving National holiday that would include both the North and the South on the same day. Before the national Thanksgiving holiday was established by President Lincoln, each state had its own Thanksgiving Day. In a letter to President Lincoln on September 28, 1863, Sarah petitioned him to hold Thanksgiving “on the same day, in all the States” in order “to become permanently, an American custom and institution.” President Lincoln responded to her letter right away.

Sarah deserves our thanks for modelling the fruits of persistence and determination, for holding the vision of a unified nation, and for never giving up on what she thought best for a country. In your Thanksgiving celebrations this year, be thankful for Mrs. Hale and her efforts on our behalf to bring a nation together under a roof of thankfulness.

Below is a partial excerpt from the October 3, 1863  Proclamation by the President of the United States of America:

” . . . It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficient Father who dwelleth in the heavens . . .”

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday full of thankfulness.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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What to Wear on Video

Working with online video, the question I get asked most often is, “What should I wear on video?”

That is a great question.

There are several simple things you can do to make sure you look good on-camera, and to ensure your message is communicated without visual distraction. First, you want to wear colors that will “pop” on camera. What this means is that brighter, solid colors come across better on camera, as everything on-screen is more washed out than in real life. Bright, solid colors like blue, burgundy, purple, and reds, for example, work best.

If you’re not using a chroma-key screen or “green screen” backdrop, you can also wear green. If you are presenting in front of a green screen and wearing green, however; you can disappear along with the backdrop in post-production when the special effects to remove the background behind you is replaced with another image.

You also want to steer away from wearing lots of black and white. Using black and white as accent colors in smaller sections of your clothing is workable. Otherwise, wearing mostly black can easily be absorbed by darker backgrounds or furniture, and white clothing reflects light toward the camera.

That said, the general principle of not allowing your clothes to draw attention to themselves still applies. Avoid logos and loud, obvious patterns–wearing only very limited patterns. Watch out for vertical stripes, polka dots or bold plaid, for example. Save those for off-camera fun! Another item to keep an eye on is big, shiny jewelry that may be visually distracting to viewers. I once advised a client during a shoot to remove her watch because as she gestured on-camera, it was so fancy and large that it called our attention away from what she was saying.

Gold necklaces and other sparkle jewelry can also create glares under the lights and on-camera, so watch the screen monitor to catch these and remove them, or playback your video to try to spot them if you’re shooting by yourself. This will help you catch visual distractions, so you don’t have to come back to the set and re-shoot.

Most people don’t often consider that what they wear on-camera can make a difference, but by thinking through a few simple guidelines, you can significantly improve the likelihood that your viewers are watching what you say . . . and NOT what you’re wearing.

What say you?

Video Presentation Tips: Rx for your Voice

There are a myriad of things which contribute to a presenter’s effectiveness on video. Some of them are overlooked because they seem almost invisible. Yet regardless of how seemingly unimportant they might be, there’s one element that is vitally important.

Your voice.

Your vocal tone, quality, pitch, inflection, resonance, and authority is such an integral part of your video presentation. In fact, your voice carries more influence than you might think. Voices can reveal confidence and credibility, they can grab interest and attention, and they can make messages personable and memorable. This blog will be the first in a short series on using voice in video.

There are several ways to maximize your voice in video. To begin, just as an athlete benefits from a warm up before a race or cardio activity, the voice also benefits from warm-ups. This is because your vocal cords are muscles too. When you first wake up the morning of a video shoot, warm up your voice by humming. This is less harsh on your voice than speaking and a healthy, gradual way to warm up your voice. As you get closer to the video shoot time, you can also sing softly–even if you think you can’t sing–because singing is actually less harsh on your vocal cords than speaking. Speak repetitive vowel sounds to warm up your voice; for example, you can say “Ahh, Ahh, Ahh, or Iii, Iii, Iii, or Eee, Eee, Eee.”

During the video shoot, if you find your mouth is dry, it is best to drink room temperature water. Extreme hot temperatures or very cold drinks can constrict your vocal cords. Additionally, if you are someone whose mouth creates clicks when you speak (some click louder than others), eating some bites of green apples can coat your throat and a little orange or citrus will moisten your mouth. There are also some throat sprays you can use to help minimize the mouth clicking or consonant pops. Recording with a pop filter on your microphone can also help eliminate the popping of consonants.

Lastly, even though your microphone amplifies the audio for you and you don’t have to project your voice like you would in a stage play, you still need proper breath support. Your diaphragm is designed to give you the most breath support by breathing from your abdomen. When you’re laying on your back, your body will naturally breathe this way. So you can observe how much deeper your breath support can be when you speak from there when on-camera.

Tune in for more on how you can maximize your voice in video presentations in future blogs.

What are some voice tips that have worked for you?

On-Camera Presentation Framework: Technical Quality

You might be a world-class presenter on-camera, but if we can’t hear you or the lighting is poor, your credibility in the eyes of viewers may suffer. Technical aspects to creating an online video play a major role in the effectiveness of your video.

This technical aspect brings us to the last core element of the On-Camera Presentation Framework–“Technical Quality.” There are many aspects of video that contribute to this core element which can include lighting, audio, and camera quality, to name a few.

core_elements_model_final

To begin, audio is one of the most important aspects of technical quality. If the quality is poor, it can turn off viewers. In some ways, audio is even more important than good video. If viewers can, at least, hear and understand you, viewers can comprehend your message. If viewers can see you, but not hear you, you’ve lost the opportunity to communicate your message effectively.

To ensure you have quality audio, avoid using the microphone off your recording device because this can make you sound like you’re in a cave. The exception to this is if the speaker is standing very close to the recording device. Instead, invest in a lapel microphone to record your audio. Test your levels beforehand by listening to rehearsal playbacks with headphones to ensure you are recording at the appropriate  level.

Technical quality also has to do with the recording equipment you’re using. In today’s world, you can shoot decent videos right from a tablet. Mount your tablet on a tripod for steady video. You can purchase adapter parts online to attach to your tripod which will hold the tablet video camera steady. Quality video cameras and higher-end smart phones also do the job well. Be sure to check playback for quality.

When creating video, you’ll need lots of light, and that’s an understatement. Make sure you light the speaker’s face really well in order to delineate it from the background. Watch for hot spots on the forehead or sides of the face. You want to work to balance the light on the speaker. Additionally, ensure the speaker’s face is not in shadows or near a window to avoid sun glare. Even inexpensive LED lights from local hardware stores can light your set well.

If you follow these principles to ensure that you not only have a good quality lapel microphone, that your volume levels are set, and that you have plenty of light directed at the speaker,  you will be more effective communicating your video message, and hopefully, you’ll be able to do so in far less “takes.”

What say you?