12 tips for presenting on camera

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You prepare. Practice. Revise. Prepare some more. Practice again.

You have a solid presentation ready to go. Yet somehow, it all falls flat when the camera rolls. And you just don’t know why.

When presenting on camera, what you don’t know can hurt you. Fortunately, there are a few trade secrets that can make the difference between mayhem and magic.

With the help of trusted colleagues Glenn Gautier (executive producer, 2+Communications) and media trainer Scott Morgan (The Morgan Group), I offer 12 tips (plus a bonus) that will ensure the audience hangs on your every word.

Remember, appearance matters

1. Take care with color. Be sensitive about the colors you choose to wear: Avoid green (if you will be speaking against a green screen), black, white, or bright red. Another no-no: shiny fabrics or busy patterns such as houndstooth. Women look good in jewel tones with simple, matte jewelry. Men look better in pastel colored shirts, navy blue blazers, and simple ties. Pro tip: Everyone looks good in powder blue.

2. Avoid wardrobe malfunctions. In addition to color, there are other wardrobe issues that can undermine your performance. Consider the following:

  • How does the fabric move if you shift in your seat or get up and move about? Will it rustle when you move, creating audio problems?
  • How does it drape when you sit? Will you look poised, or paunchy (with fabric clustering at your waist)? Does it drape like a tent?
  • Is there an unobtrusive place for a microphone to be placed? How about a belt or waistband where the battery can be attached?

3. Makeup. Daytime makeup is usually fine for ladies. Gentlemen, you may need a transparent power to reduce shine. Invest in a makeup artist. They are not that expensive, and it is money well spent.

Strong platform skills

4. Practice good posture. Sit up straight just as your mother told you to do. It is so easy to get too comfortable and sit back in the chair. Though it may be relaxing, on camera you can look like a sack of potatoes.

Gentlemen, if you wear a jacket, sit on the tails so you don’t appear to be hunched over. Ladies, make sure you are wearing something that allows you to both sit and get in and out of the chair like a lady.

5. Use your hands. We think we need to sit on our hands when speaking on camera, concerned that that we will look nervous and out of control.

Gestures are a very powerful aspect of self-expression. Keep your elbows bent around your midsection. That way your hands will be above your waist and below your shoulders-visible but not in the way.

6. Keep a sparkle in your eyes. When being recorded, there can be lots of retakes, so how do you keep the sparkle when you restart?

Close your eyes tilt your head forward taking a deep breath. Calm your mind and focus on the opening statement you want to make. Exhale, pick your head up, open your eyes and start. Guaranteed to look bright and engaged.

7. Remember to blink. It is easy to get mesmerized by the black hole of the camera lens and appear to be staring into space. Remember to blink at the end of each sentence.

8. Talk to the camera. Where are you supposed to look? Directly at the camera? Off camera, as you talk to someone else?

Find out where you are supposed to look. If on-camera work is new to you, here’s a warning: Speaking to a camera can be daunting. Create an imaginary audience for yourself, and strive to connect with your listeners.

[RELATED: Find out about our November event that has instruction for your entire communications team.]

9. The camera loves a smile. The most important tip of all: Begin and end with a smile. Morgan’s own special secret just for you blog readers: Speak the entire time through a smile. It lifts your face and your enthusiasm (even when discussing serious topics) and helps puts a twinkle in your eye.

Essential voice and delivery skills

10. Breathe. It may be an involuntary reaction, but for some reason when speaking in front of camera speakers “get on a roll” and forget to breathe.

The end of each sentence is also a good place to take a breath. Morgan suggests that the best technique is to breathe slowly and deeply through your nostrils. It is silent and helps moderate your pace.

11. Keep it conversational. Don’t worry about being word-perfect.

Speak in a conversational tone. The tendency is to stress too many words in a sentence; to help mimic natural speech, emphasize only one word per sentence.

12. Reboot. Flubbed up? Not to worry, it happens.

Take your lead from the pros: Pause, and pick up again with a complete thought. Remember, no apologies needed, keep a good sense of humor, stay focused, and forge ahead.

One more tip for good measure

13. Hold that smile. Done saying what you have to say? Continue to look directly into the camera lens with that smile as you count to 10 (letting the camera crew get some final footage and wrap up the shot).

As Gautier so aptly puts it: “Remember, your message is not about you, it’s about sharing information with your audience. Take a breath, and focus on the people who will be watching you.”

Stephanie Scotti is a strategic communication advisor specializing in high-stake presentations. A version of this article first appeared on SmartBrief’sSmartBlog on Leadership. 

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