Video Presentations: The Power of Conversational Delivery

In the last blog, we highlighted the importance of coming across in a personable way when you present on video. Establishing eye contact with viewers through the camera lens is one way to accomplish this.

Another way to connect with viewers and communicate in a personable way is to be conversational.

If someone were to coach your next video presentation and remind you to relax and “talk” as if your viewers were right there with you in your living room, it might seem laughable to you. However, you coach has–in fact–hit upon an ingredient that will make your videos more successful.

If the viewer feels like you are having a conversation with them, that you are talking with them as if it was just the two of you in your living room, their natural communication instincts will engage and they will be more inclined to be attentive.

The real question, however, is how do we achieve that conversational quality?

In our everyday, normal lives we all know how to do this naturally. We share thoughts formed as words, we listen to other’s responses, and we respond to other’s comments. Words are in the moment, spontaneous, informal, and real.

The obvious challenge with video is that the reality of the video is artificial, while the effect needs to be real. Sure, it’s staged and yes, it’s been scripted. However, the real trick is communicating your message in such a way that we retain the freshness of the moment as if that line or sentence is just being thought of at that time.

There are several ways to come across conversationally, and we’ll explore more of these ways in the coming posts. For now, let’s focus on one strategy in particular. To be more conversational, script your message ahead of time. The task of carving out time before your video shoot day to carefully think through what you’ll say, and more importantly, how you say it is vital. In this process of thoughtful preparation, you’ll become more familiar with the content and how to recall it.

After scripting your message and thoughts in a way that feels smooth and genuine, practice out loud several times by initially just reading it. Next, identify the key main points and/or sub-points that must be communicated. To help remind you what to say, you can even post these key points on posters or paper notes right next to your lens or use a teleprompter.

Before you shoot your video, rehearse your script by looking at the camera and choosing the words that you speak at the time that you speak them. Your preparation in writing the script down helps your preparation process, but doesn’t necessarily need to be read verbatim when you record your video. This is one way to ensure that your message will be extemporaneous, and of course, conversational.

Stay tuned for future posts on additional tips you can use to be more conversational on camera.

What say you?

The Personable Factor: On-camera Eye Contact

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When viewers perceive you as “personable” in video presentations, it’s a good thing–a very good thing. In fact, it’s apparently even more important than we thought.

According to a proceedings paper presented at the Learning at Scale Conference (a conference dedicated to promoting scientific exchange of interdisciplinary research), the quality of being “personable” on-camera is even more important than technical quality. This tells us that the messenger is key to delivering the message, because a personable speaker engages an audience.

We all know what it means to be personable. You’ve likely met many personable people in your lifetime. We recognize these individuals as immediately likable, socially and interpersonally adept, friendly, a good listener, someone who connects well with others, gives us their full attention, and the list goes on.

So if this element is so important for video presentations, how do we best achieve it?

One characteristic of being personable on video is the ability to establish great eye contact. I know what you’re thinking. How do we create a sense of connection and eye contact with an invisible audience?

The single best way to establish eye contact with your viewers is to always look directly at the camera lens. When you look directly at the lens, we feel as if you are talking right to us. This is a key ingredient to being personable.

I realize the cold, camera lens is not exactly the most comfortable or preferred spot to focus your eyes, but you need to place yourself in the shoes of the viewer. The viewer wants to feel connected to you, to feel like you’re looking at them and talking right to them. When viewers feel connected, they engage with your message.

To help you overcome the awkwardness of looking at a sterile lens, imagine a friend or someone you know standing right in front of the camera lens. This will help to remind you that you are ultimately talking to real people–just across time and space. Viewers are still there on the other side of the media, reacting and listening to you.

So the next time you’re speaking on video, and you feel the urge to look away, look down, or hide under a bed . . . just remember that looking at the camera lens will help you connect with your audience, and ultimately, make you (and your message) more effective!

Stay tuned for future posts as we explore additional ways to be personable on video . . .

What say you?

The Rise of Online Video Tutorials

Need to make a quilt, but need some guidance? Youtube can help. Interested in learning the secrets to performing on stage from someone who has been there? Masterclass.com is your answer. Wish you could learn how to better prepare for acting auditions? Check out curious.com. Want to learn how to set up a video shoot? Visit lynda.com.

Video tutorials are on the rise with competitors targeting both corporate and academic sectors. Essentially, these are courses you watch. Leveraging the popularity and convenience of learning anytime and anywhere, why wouldn’t you consider purchasing a subscription for you or your staff to view video tutorials on your topics of choice? The beauty of video tutorials is that they are available when and where you need them, and yes, right at your fingertips.

There are certainly benefits to learning via video. Some of the obvious ones include the ability to easily replay them, their on-demand access, the opportunity to pause when needed, and the luxury to complete them at one’s own pace. The challenge may be ensuring learners’ real-world application of concepts and principles as close to the time of learning as possible. Additionally, the ability to talk and write about what one has learned is essential for transferring new mental models from working memory to long-term memory. However, these activities are not always included with online video tutorials.

Each provider of video tutorials offers their own niche for potential buyers of lifelong learning. For example, curious.com, offers brief previews for free so you can get a taste of their offerings as diverse as media negotiation to body language for public speaking. Lynda.com offers video tutorials on a variety of subjects as well, also providing handouts and outlines and the opportunity to take notes online. Masterclass.com affords the opportunity to interface and learn from celebrities the likes of Serena Williams or James Patterson to teach you tennis or how to be a novelist respectively. For educators and students, atomiclearning.com offers videos for K12 and Higher Ed faculty, staff, and students, including how to use popular software for teaching and learning.

In today’s digital age, learning from video tutorials is clearly exploding. Video’s accessibility, the ability to chunk visual content, and self-directed replay and review all combine together to make them, well, . . . absolutely irresistible. Let’s do our part to ensure that they are the best video instruction possible so we can set the standard for quality instruction via video.

What say you?

So You’ve Been Asked to Speak on Video?

So you’ve been asked to speak on video and post it online . . . now what?

Sometimes knowing where to start is the most difficult part. Not only is there the swelling angst of camera anxiety, the rapidly approaching deadline that shouts “we needed it yesterday,” the overwhelming feeling of where to begin, the technical know-how gap, and of course–if we’re being really honest–a delicate ego and image to preserve after all.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll tackle these obstacles to help you conquer the camera, and create online videos that are both professional and effective.

As a place to begin, some of the best video presentations emerge from a need or a core problem in your current business or situation. Make sure you identify this need so your online video can hit its target. This is why I challenge you to begin by identifying your target audience. Is your target audience internal colleagues? Staff? External customers? Students? Constituents? Clients? For example, if you are a professor teaching an online course, your target audience is the students enrolled in your course. So what is it they need from you?

This next step then determines what your target audience needs. Video is best at leveraging movement, presence, and storytelling. Which of these elements would help you address their needs? Using the online course example, students need to get to know you as their online instructor, to develop a rapport with you–albeit virtually–and to recognize your credibility and content expertise. Therefore, creating an online video to introduce students to you, your background, and course expectations is an example of using video to address a specific need for a specific, target audience.

After determining your audience and their need, your next step is to identify your Central Goal. The Central Goal is the ultimate impact you wish to achieve with your online video, condensed into one sentence. To help you identify it, consider the following questions: What impact do you want to achieve? Do you want customers to buy more “XX more gidgets” after watching the video? Do you want to increase your Twitter following? Do you want to attract more patients? Do you want to increase your clientele by XX%? Boil down the impact in one concise statement.

Concision is of the most difficult parts to writing a Central Idea. Imagine pitching your sales product to someone in an elevator. As you know, you have only a few seconds before that elevator door opens, so your pitch must be concise. The Central Goal needs to be just as concise. It is in the process of paring it down, that you get at the core of why you’re creating an online video and what you really hope to achieve with it as a result. Concision leads to clarity.

After all, if you don’t know why you’re presenting on video or what you hope to achieve with it at the deepest level . . . you’ll miss everytime.

Tune in next week for more tips . . .

What are your biggest concerns about speaking on video?

The Force of “Story” Awakens

When we first watched the original Star Wars movie when it was released in the 70’s, my peers and I were just kids. The tables have since turned and it feels rather nostalgic on the eve of the release of the 7th movie to have our own kids who want to watch the movie now.

Given the hype with the premiere of The Force Awakens this week and its official opening in theatres by the end of this week, the blockbuster Star Wars’ epic reminds us of one powerful element that continues to engage, captivate, and awaken the human spirit–that is, the power of story.

Through film, book, presentation, article, poem, or song–good stories through the ages continue to grip us, focus our attention, immerse us in plot, make us laugh, and make us cry.

The power of story even translates across mediums and genre. Elements of story can even be applied to online video. For example, as you design your shots and scripts, consider how you might share your message with elements of story. As legendary film director Steven Spielberg once said about himself, “I’m a storyteller.” Films and stories like Star Wars are rich with conflict and scenes, action and emotion, heroes and villains, and mounting tension and resolution–all of which capture our hearts again and again. How else could something which began through oral culture still work its magic across media, genres, and generations?

As you work on your online videos, consider incorporating elements of story–appropriate to your content–through some of the following ways:

  • Show different camera angles and contextual shots to establish a sense of place.
  • Set up a problem or challenge to be resolved.
  • Introduce different personalities to us in your videos to grow your cast of “characters.”
  • Include emotional appeal in your scripting and delivery.
  • Show mounting tension as you are attempting to resolve an initial challenge or problem.
  • Briefly walk through the consequences of making incorrect choices in the content about which you’re informing, instructing, or marketing to us.
  • End with a satisfying resolution of the conflict.

If you have your Star Wars ticket already, enjoy the show! Just remember . . . that the art of story and its captivating magic is not just for film. The power of story offers us lessons widely applicable to much more than just a two hour experience in a theatre seat.

Speaking on Video: Outlines or Teleprompter?

When you speak on video, the challenge is always remembering what you want to say in order to deliver your message effectively. That is not easily done. You may experience camera anxiety, you may be nervous and forgetful about your content, and you may default into “reading” mode.

The bottom line is that regardless of your on-camera experience or familiarity with the topic, you’ll want to always prepare what you will say ahead of time. Dedicate preparation time to think through your comments beforehand, as individuals who believe they can “wing it” often end up consuming precious studio time, not to mention, wasting the time of video crew, post-production staff, and yourself. Time after all, is money.

Once you’ve carved out time to think through your message for video, clients usually ask whether they should speak from an outline or deliver from a script. There are some people who can successfully read from a script via teleprompter because they are able to read without sounding like they’re “reading.” If this is you, you are one of the lucky ones.

For those who can successfully read conversationally from a teleprompter, they sound as if they are speaking extemporaneously, even though they’re reading full sentences scrolling in front of them. This creates a genuine tone, believability, and a realism that is engaging to viewers pulled in by the authenticity of the message.

The key to sounding like you’re not reading is in the script writing. Script in such a way that your words, phrasing, and sentences are constructed the way you would normally speak. To help you achieve this effect, read your script out loud and edit appropriately.

For individuals who tend to sound like they’re “reading,” speaking from an outline is a better alternative. Outline your central idea and then supporting sub-points to develop your central idea. Place your outline as close as possible to the lens, so that you can be reminded of what to say. This way, you know where you’re headed, but your spoken words will be what comes to you at the time. This extemporaneous kind of speaking will help you come across more naturally, and engage and maintain your viewers’ attention more effectively.

What questions do you have about speaking from outlines or a teleprompter?

Presenting on Video: More Rx Vocal Tips

Using your voice is such an integral part of video presentations that it deserves more attention than you’d think. This post is devoted to exploring additional tips and tricks to ensure your voice is up to par, so you can sound great for your viewers.

Keeping hydrated is one of the key tips to ensuring your voice doesn’t crack during “takes,” or cause you to make vocal mistakes that lengthen your shoot with more “takes” than you wanted. The all-time best way to keep your vocal cords hydrated is by drinking water. Room temperature water is best, as chilled water can constrict your throat. Stay away from caffeinated drinks too, and of course, alcoholic beverages, as they can really dry out your vocal cords.

Contant clearing of your throat is also rough on your throat and can stress vocal chords. If you find that you’re someone who habitually clears your throat, try light swallowing instead when you feel that urge. Soft humming is also a way to get past the throat tickle, but helps you remove the urge in a healthier way. Humming is also a great way to warm-up your voice and keep your cords working for you, not against you.

The wonderful thing about video is that you don’t need to shout or project a theatre voice for the camera. Thankfully, your microphone does all the amplification for you. Of course, you’ll still need breath support from your diaphragm in your lower abdomen to have a resonant voice, but you won’t have to strain your voice by pushing your own volume.

Sometimes speakers’ voices on video have a static to them or noisy ambience, this can sometimes be attributed to what happens when the video is compressed. Be careful when you reduce your video’s file size and bandwidth, so that it doesn’t compress your audio in a way that makes the speaker’s voice filled with static or tinny sounding.

Finally, remember that a credible, confident, and solid voice comes from good posture. Surprising, I know . . . but true. Slouching can constrict your voice and your breath support, neither of which is helpful to a video presenter on-camera.

Applying these few simple tips can ensure that your voice is ready to go . . . the next time you present on video.

What voice tips have you used successfully?

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!

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?