What You Should Know About Being On Camera

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As a former model, I know that there are two important facial features that sell print ads.

Eyes and mouth.

This is where personality, intrigue, attitude, emotion, interest, and curiosity emerge from. These human dimension features either pull us toward the ad and the product or push us away.

When you present on video, these same two facial features are also critically important. If we cannot see both your eyes or watch your mouth moving, we will not connect as well with you as viewers. Why is this important? Because you are the carrier of the message. If we are not drawn to you, we may not hear what you have to say. This week we’ll  focus on the importance of making sure both eyes can be seen on camera, and next week we’ll focus on the importance of not blocking your mouth in the camera frame (happens all the time when people lean forward or gesture excessively).

As the old adage says, the eyes truly are the “window to the soul.” By establishing eye contact with another, we can sense mood, attitude, emotion, enthusiasm, apathy, energy, engagement, disappointment, interest, disinterest, and the list goes on.

The same is true for video.

When you present on camera, we want to be able to see your eyes to make that vital connection. As babies, we are drawn to faces to sub-consciously determine cues about what is happening. Obstacles that may hinder this connection include poor lighting, poor positioning on camera, inappropriately placed rollover text or icons added in post-production, or hand gestures or body movements that block viewers’ contact with your eyes. Let’s explore these one by one.

Lighting is really important, as good video requires lots of light. When you’re recording yourself on video, make sure your face is lit well from the front, which will likely require a side light to remove shadows from the face. If the presenter is in the dark, viewers won’t be able to make that “invisible” eye contact or feel like you’re looking at us.

Another obstacle is that some presenters may also have awkward positioning that doesn’t allow us to see a presenter’s eyes all of the time they are speaking on camera. If they are turned to the side, or worse, their back to us in parts, we are missing vital communication cues with the on-camera presenter. So make sure the presenter is looking at the lens, and viewers are able to see both eyes within the frame.

In the editing process, sometimes text or other images also get added to the bottom, top, or sides of the screen. Or if your video is overlaid on a video platform frame, certain icons may be added as well. Again, test the playback to make sure your eyes are not covered by these emblems, or modify if they are, as this can be a frustrating experience for viewers.

One last obstacle I often see is unintentional gestures. Unknowingly enthusiastic or presenters who gesture excessively may cover portions of their face when they speak on camera. People easily foget that they are talking within a framed boundary and that by moving their hands as they normally would, they actually may raise them too high and partially cover an important source of connection with viewers — their eyes. When you first come on a video set, ask how big your camera frame is so you know approximately where to place your arms when you gesture. Then, keep gestures below your neck so viewers can always see your eyes when you’re speaking. Adding add cut-away shots, B roll, and supporting visuals into your video add many benefits to your overall video, and obviously, these segments would not require an on-camera presenter to provide eye contact with the lens, A.K.A., the viewer.

Overall, when you present on video, remember the importance of eye contact when you first establish a connection with others – even if your audience is off camera.

So don’t start speaking, until your videographer says he/she can “see the whites of your eyes.”

What say you?

Online Video: The “Slight Shift” Difference

I had an editor once request I change a word in my title because, as he explained it, a singular word can either “kill or boost readership” depending on the word, of course.

Now that’s powerful.

Most of us would be in a hurry to shrug off any difference a slight adjustment might make on a bigger outcome. Yet analytics tell us a different story. Research studies prove otherwise as well.

Apparently, one word can make a difference.

Magazine editors know this truth well. The image selected to grace the cover of a magazine can determine whether or not a magazine sells well. Book editors know that a book’s title can make the difference in whether or not the book has the potential to be a bestseller.

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These minor adjustments are all slight shifts and may seem minute, but ultimately . . . they can make a big difference.

Let’s apply this notion to online video. Some of the widespread beliefs about video are: “online video doesn’t have to be high quality”; “just get it done and post it on YouTube”; “don’t sweat the small stuff”; “viewers of online video are used to low quality”; “just turn on the video camera and start talking”; etc.

Yet there’s definitely something missing in this thinking.

As it turns out, little things can make an impact. For example, by directing your eye contact right at the camera lens, you can connect with viewers in a more powerful and compelling way. By smiling when it’s appropriate in your content, you establish rapport with your viewer, increase likability, and may be watched longer because you’re perceived as inviting and friendly. By taking the time to frame your shot and remove potential distracting background items from view, you help to direct focus on the speaker and his/her message.

Have you noticed a pattern?

All of these adjustments are slight shifts. Slight shifts in the way an online presenter on video comes across, slight shifts in on-camera presence, slight shifts that don’t take that long to make . . . yet, which ultimately . . . make a big difference.

 

What are the collective “slight shifts” you can make in your video presentations?

Why You Need to Invite Viewers (of video) To Participate

Last week, we explored the power of fostering a participative community in today’s multimedia-rich age. Today’s consumers, customers, and users now expect to participate in the process of learning, viewing, voting, competing, entertaining, etc.

Period.

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Our technological age has ushered in this desire for end-users to connect and participate with those “inside” the media they consume. Time and space are no longer barriers in our virtual world. Also gone are the days of passive observers. Because the technological capability is available, we expect to be given the opportunity to participate.

So how does this apply to creating online video presentations?

When you present on video, whether you are teaching, selling, informing, or entertaining, you are addressing a virtual audience that wants to be part of the experience. Let’s explore some of the ways you might involve viewers.

  1. Ask Questions in Your Video
    Asking rhetorical questions in your video presentation and pausing briefly to allow viewers to think about their response is one way to involve viewers. Rhetorical questions can be useful on the front-end, as closing punctuation, or even throughout your video.
  2. Invite Posts and Comments
    Requesting viewers communicate what they want to hear, comment on what you’ve discussed, ask questions, and add their own suggestions to your ideas are all ways to solicit comments and engage viewers.
  3. Request Photos from Viewers
    You can also request viewers send images of how they’ve applied what you’ve shared. For example, if you’ve created a video to show customers how to make a gluten-free cake, ask them to send a photo of the cake they made using your instructions or encourage them to post the image on social media.
  4. Encourage Viewers to Create a Video
    In response to what you’ve shared on your video, encourage viewers to create their own videos to demonstrate ideas, showcase what they’ve learned, or ask direct questions.
  5. Notice your Language – Keep it Personal and Informal
    When you are presenting on video, you can include more personal pronouns in your delivery so we are once again reminded that you are really talking to us. Additionally, you can include phrases such as “now you might be thinking, . . .” In this way, you are reaching out to viewers and including what they might be thinking in your video.

Just because we can’t physically see our audience in video, doesn’t mean we can’t involve them, invite them to participate, and of course, connect with them. A virtual audience member for online videos is still a real viewer.  And yes, they want to be part of your video experience. So make sure . . . they receive an invitation.

What are your ideas for including viewers in online video presentations?

The Common Mistake Presenters Make On Video

What is the most common mistake video presenters make? After coaching various clients on video presentations, the most common mistake I see is actually quite simple. As is often the case with many mistakes, it’s also one presenters don’t realize they’re making.

The mistake is that people present on video as if they were in a large face-to-face environment.

It’s easy to see why. It’s only natural to take what we know from the real world and map it on to video. However, presenting in person to a live audience uses a very different space, presence, and medium than presenting to a limited camera frame.

For example, when most people present on camera, they often think they can just talk as they normally would in conversation or a speech. Contrary to popular opinion, presenters should not just press record and start talking. Rambling on about your subject area of choice is not the best use of the video medium. So including the usual “interesting” tangents and sub-topic trails in video presentations is the first mistake.

Yes, it’s important to keep your video presentation conversational, but in video, it’s even more important to be succinct. Video presentations need to be short and to the point in order to keep viewers watching. It needs to be conversational, but tighter.

So make your point and move on. We can always replay your video, if needed.

Another example can be seen in video presenters’ body movement. In front of a live audience, speakers are used to being able to move from one side of the room to the other, and this movement can serve as transitions between points. Even moving toward an audience can serve as a point of emphasis.

In video, however, the camera provides the movement. Depending on your content and message, video presenters remain in the same spot, while the camera varies the shot. For example, the camera may show a wide shot initially, then a close-up, and then  a medium shot. The camera also provides movement with camera angles which provides a dynamic flow.

A third example of this common mistake can be seen in hand gestures. The camera frame is much smaller than a face-to-face room, and gestures need to be visible in the camera frame to be seen. If gestures are jerky movements that come into the camera’s view and then exit just as quickly, this can be very distracting to viewers.

Instead, video presenters need to realize that their presentation space is now smaller and rectangular. Your communication space is limited to the confines of the camera lens. Ask your videographer, “how big is my frame?” to best leverage the camera medium and realize where your gestures should be placed to be seen.

So the next time you need to present on video, keep these tips in mind. Make sure you’re not the one making the “common mistake” . . .

What say you?

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?

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?

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?

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.

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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?