To look good on camera, all you have to do is relax and be yourself. Right? Wrong.
Anyone who has ever seen the infamous video of Senator Marco Rubio taking a desperate sip of water during his State of the Union response in 2013 knows what I’m talking about.
If even presidential candidates can get that deer-in-the-headlights look, imagine those who have even less experience stepping in front of a camera lens?
Coming across as your best self on camera can be challenging if not downright intimidatingfor most people.
The fact is that many speakers, educators, and trainers forget that oncamera presentations are very different from those given in person.
For starters, a virtual audience is surrounded by many distractions and can easily tune you out at any moment.
Without the instant feedback of your audience’s facial expressions and posture, presenting on-camera can be difficult for the very reason that you’re actually talking to an inanimate object.
To help you avoid those stiff and unnatural camera appearances that seem more like a bad infomercial than an effective presentation, we’ve compiled expert tips on channeling your inner presenter and having fun while doing it.
1. Be energetic
In her book Camera Ready, expert on-camera presenter Manoush Zomorodi writes of the need to find your “energy sweet spot” when presenting on video.
Just like people find that the camera makes them look 10 pounds heavier than they really are, the camera can also accentuate other not-so-attractive features such as a monotone voice and a low energy demeanor. All too often, we see people who are perfectly engaging in person appear dull and boring on camera. Or, alternatively, we see people who are intimidated by the camera appear especially nervous, confused, and unprepared.
To counteract this, Zomorodi suggests finding the camera-friendly version of yourself. While Oprah advises presenting your “best self” on camera, Zomorodi challenges presenters to be themselves, but “bigger.”
One way to do this is to speak clearly and enunciate. Video marketing producer Gerry Tacovksy writes that it is also necessary to “reframe your nerves” so that you channel them into a feeling of outward excitement rather than pushing them down until they become knots in your stomach.
Zomorodi goes further than this and suggests that nerves are essential to performing well because they provide the energy and focus you need to “pop” on camera.
So, if you find yourself moving your leg or feet nervously, channel that energy instead into projecting your voice. Or if you find yourself thinking about the butterflies in your stomach, focus instead on the present moment.
2. Stick to the topic
One of the most common mistakes of firsttime oncamera presenters is rambling and going off on tangents. The best way to avoid this is to organize your thoughts before you go on camera.
Think of your the main point you want to make and summarize it in a sentence. Then, write three or four more sentences to support this point. In just a short paragraph, you now have an
outline of the most important concepts you want to touch upon in your video.
Another common error that is sure to repel your viewers is using excessive jargon and overly technical terms. Since your primary objective is to captivate your audience with a message that is easy to grasp in a matter of secondsthink of all those people who might be listening to you while also driving, cooking, and multitasking in generaluse simple and clear language that even a fifth-grader could understand. This does not entail dumbing down your message, but simply making it understandable for any person outside of your industry.
3. Remember to smile
Since the camera lens is known for accentuating certain aspects of your appearance, be sure to project an inviting yet calm and composed demeanour. If your facial expression belies even a hint of irritation, boredom or distraction, your viewers will notice it immediatelyand probably make snap judgements about your personality and credibility.
One way to steer clear of this common misstep is to practice presenting in front of a mirror. Although some people cringe at the thought of hearing and looking at themselves while they speak, it will help you detect those inadvertent facial expressions and gestures you weren’t even aware of before. Just remember to achieve an adequate balance between enthusiasm and sensibility.
4. Look directly into the camera
Most in-person presenters have been trained to sweep a room with their eyes in order to engage their audience more effectively. On camera, however, this same technique would certainly make you look insane.
Instead, you should look straight at the camera and keep a steady gaze. Although you may feel uncomfortable at first staring at a piece of glass, imagine it is a potential customer, an employee, a student or simply a friend.
As you would in person, make sure to make good eye contact and avoid shifting your eyes to other placesunless you want to look down briefly at your notes.
Also, you want to try to avoid the blank stare. This may be difficult given that you’re not looking at an actual person, but you could practice “smiling with your eyes,” as Tyra Banks once coined. First, imagine something that makes you happy (your loved ones or your pet). Then, slightly narrow your eyes, as seen in the image below.
5. Grab the audience’s attention early on
Just like with any piece of communication nowadays, you want to captivate your audience from the very beginning. Long introductions that only feed the presenter’s self-importance are simply going to detract from your message instead of add to it.
When you get right to the point with a snappy introduction, you are much more likely to grab your audience’s attentionand keep it if you also ensure the rest of the video is well-edited and well-paced.
6. Prepare for your on-camera presentation
You might think that just because you know everything there is to know about your topic, it will turn out okay if you just wing it. This is just asking for trouble.
Again, recognizing the fact that off-camera presentations are not the same as on-camera ones, you should be prepared to deliver conversational phrases written out beforehand in paragraph form, with supporting points.
For example, you could start with a sentence that summarizes why you’re appearing on camera. Next, you could follow this with three supporting points and a concluding thought. You may keep expanding on each of these individual points by applying the same concept at each of the lower levels. In this way, you will end up with an outline of your oncamera presentation.
7. Make sure you’re dressed for success
Although you might not want to hear this, most people will initially focus more on what you look like than on what you’re saying. If you pass this firstalbeit superficialtest of credibility, then you can rest assured credible to say.
One of the first things you have to take care of is your hair. Frizzy hair, like other flaws, is accentuated on camera, so you want to make sure you use a bit of body lotion and rub it through your hair, in the case of men, and some hairspray or pomade, in the case of women.
Men, like women, must also invest in a bit of makeup to look good on camera. Some translucent powder, concealer, hairspray and lip balm can go a long way in helping men look their best.
Women, on the other hand, must go even further and use a primer, followed by some foundation, concealer, natural eye makeup, blush and blot powder.
All this may seem superficial, but it is crucial to keeping your audience from being distracted by bags under your eyes or a shiny forehead.
Finally, when it comes to what to wear, go for something not too elaborate yet flattering. Also, make sure you choose colors that will contrast against any background. Jewel tones, for example, are known to look good on almost any skin tone.
At all costs, avoid dull and boring colors such as browns, grays and whites. Since some patterns can appear to “vibrate” on video, also stay away from stripes and checkers.
So, now that you know how to look good on camera, the rest is up to you. All you have to do to keep a captive audience is to provide your unique, value-added insight in a compelling and credible mannerand your viewers are likely to stick with you until the end.