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10 Ways to Prepare for Your On-Camera Appearance

Ready for your close up?

In this age of remote working and digital-first communication we’re all on-camera now more than ever before – whether we like it or not. From the now ubiquitous video conferencing, webinar panels and shoot and share social video through to brand video featuring employees – video is everywhere in business. And while we’re all pretty down with Zoom or the odd candid social moment, it’s another thing when you need to face the camera for website brand or evergreen video projects.

We’ve interviewed an incredible range of people – from Founder and CEO level through to private individuals on deeply personal subjects. Some people are naturally confident and articulate in this space while others find it difficult. There is one universal truth – unless you are an actor or trained presenter – appearing confident and eloquent on camera is challenging.

There are some simple techniques that can help you get more comfortable – even confident – for your next on-camera appearance. These tips are geared more towards a professionally crewed interview scenario but you can apply them to a range of less formal, more everyday video presentations.

1. UNDERSTAND YOUR FEAR

It’s a good idea to take time to explore why you’re apprehensive about appearing on camera. Some people are naturally camera-shy or have a fear of public speaking. Others have a fear of ‘getting it wrong’. Of course these feelings are perfectly natural and can actually enhance your on camera performance – and it is a performance. Apprehension can enliven, sharpen and bring focus. Acknowledging and understanding why you feel fear is a powerful step towards overcoming it. Share how you’re feeling with your interviewer or director – they understand and have ways of helping you through (some of these will be covered below).

2. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY

Appearing on camera is way less scary if you’ve done some preparation. Consider the main things you want your audience to take away. Plan out your speaking points and make some notes. Some people like to draft out full sentences and memorise them – which is fine if you practice and don’t wind up sounding “rote” or panic when you forget the last sentence.

It might be useful to connect with the interviewer/director about the questions they are likely to ask (don’t be shy to make suggestions) and get a copy of the script if there is one.

This might sound obvious but consider your audience when preparing in terms of content, tone and delivery.

3. PRACTICE IMPERFECTION

Practice out loud a few times. This will help iron out areas you’re less confident in and identify any tricky pronunciation or grammar snags. Don’t worry about getting the exact wording – it’s much better to allow a little colloquialism and improvisation– this helps create a more real and authentic delivery.

10 Ways to Prepare for Your On-Camera Appearance

4. BODY LANGUAGE

The way you present physically communicates so much about you. Folded arms can make you look defensive/aggressive. Get those shoulders down and open your heart.

5. EXPRESS YOURSELF

This is a performance. Use your hands – expressive hands and eyes help with the energy of your delivery (but don’t overdo it). When appropriate, laughter or a genuine smile is gold . Another good trick is to lower your voice and raise the volume. Bingo – instant confidence.

If you have to deliver directly to the camera (called a “piece to camera” or PTC) it helps to think of the lens as the eyes of a trusted friend or colleague who is truly listening. Think connection, warmth and directness.

6. BE HUMAN

On authenticity – don’t stress about making mistakes. You are human and small stumbles courageously rectified can help your audience like you. Make your language chatty and conversational. People probably won’t remember exactly what you said but they will remember how you said it. A good interviewer/director will help you relax and engage. And they’ll also assure you that there’s always scope in edit to rescue difficult delivery. The edit lends its own magic.

7. KEEP IT SHORT

The world is in digital overload and attention spans are getting shorter. Audiences don’t want long, rambling delivery or explanations. Neither do interviewers. In the business we call it a “grab” – a pithy or succinct delivery always works on video.

8. JARGON

Don’t worry about the on-set technical jargon. Your director will tell you where to be, where to move (marks), where to look (eyeline) and help with other performance notes. They may advise you of the shot size (close up, mid shot) or frame if they feel it’s relevant or could help you with performance.

10 Ways to Prepare for Your On-Camera Appearance

9. DRESS THE PART

All the clichés spring to mind here but there’s a truth to “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Image and appearance matter – especially for a visual medium like video.

Think about your audience and the overall image you want to present. Make sure your clothing and footwear choice is comfortable and works for the shoot scenario – for example if you’re walking or demonstrating. Dressing comfortably also helps you feel good and focus on your delivery – and not your tight pants. Some simple recommendations are: –

Wear Solid Colours. The camera loves rich tones – avoid bold patterns and multi-colours. Bright white can make it tricky for the videographer to balance skin tone and black can accentuate under-eye circles and shadows. Go for something close by all means – off-white or charcoal work just fine.

Avoid distracting patterns. You want the focus to be on you not your tie. Tight, repetitive patterns (pinstripes, herringbone, houndstooth and fine checks) can also create a moire effect on camera where they appear to strobe and dance. Be mindful of wearing logos unless they’re relevant or your own.

Beware of shiny fabrics. Silk, satin and shiny fabrics reflect light and shimmer when you move.

Go for Clean Lines and Fitted Shapes. Keep it simple. Not only will you be more comfortable but – here’s another cliché – the camera really does add ten pounds. Keep away from puffy, baggy or boxy looks unless you’re a skater. Or a rapper. Or you want to look really puffy, baggy or boxy.

Don’t Take the Weather With You. Your video presentation may be evergreen and viewed throughout the seasons and across the world. Best to dress generic and trans-seasonal. It’s not boring – your performance will bring the brilliance.

Have Options. Take a couple of clothing options – tops and jackets. And bear in mind it can get hot under those lights and when you’re under pressure. Make sure you can take a layer off if you really need to. If you wear makeup – have it with you. A brush or comb is a good idea too.

10 Ways to Prepare for Your On-Camera Appearance

10. BREATHE

Try to relax. You want to foster a mindset of conversation and enjoyment.

Allow plenty of time to get to location, check your appearance, use the bathroom.

Don’t neck too much coffee beforehand (unless this is your usual thing).

Keep hydrated and sip water throughout the interview if you need to.

Finally, if you’re struggling let the director or interviewer know (trust me, they know already). They’re there to support you and your part in the wider project and have ways of putting you at ease and helping you through. Be yourself. Imperfections are always forgivable when your performance comes from a place of authenticity, purpose or passion.

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Lou Harness

Author Lou Harness

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