How to appear personable, natural and inviting on camera
by Susan Daniels, Associate in Public Speaking [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Know your audience.
Just as in “live” presentations, you are recording for a specific audience. Know who they are. You’ll have a different purpose presenting to the Board of Trustees than you’ll have sending an “I miss you” video to your grandkids in Arizona. If your audience members are new (and probably a bit nervous) students, imagine your favorite person inside the camera lens. Talk to that person. You’ll automatically look warmer. Smiling helps.
Define your main purpose.
Once you identify your audience, decide what your main purpose will be with this video. To instruct? To reassure? To inspire? Persuade? To simply entertain? If you don’t know who you’re speaking to or what your purpose is by speaking to them, it will show up as anxiety. Anxious speakers often appear as if they are robots reciting words, or they appear ultra-serious or confused. Sometimes nerves show up as uncontrolled giggling, fake smiling or apologizing. Defining your purpose helps you attach emotions to your words. By showing us how you feel, you’ll be guiding the audience to understand what they’re feeling while they watch your presentation.
Just as with “live presentations,” in order to look personable and inviting on camera, you must make eye contact with your audience. Practice recording your talk while looking deep into the camera, as if you have a good friend who lives inside the lens. That’s your audience. Then play it back. Does it look like you’re talking directly to the audience or are your eyes slightly above or below them? Each computer/camera is different, so adjust as necessary. The important thing is to practice and play it back so you look like you’re looking right at the audience.
Many speakers make the mistake of trying to seem “natural” and “unintimidating” by apologizing to the audience, right from the start. Does this sound familiar: “Hi, everybody. OK, so I’m new to this, so this is actually my first recorded video and I’m TERRIBLE at this, ha-ha?” OR “Hi, everybody. Sorry for the pre-recorded video. I know you hate these as much as I do, but can you say Pandemic? Who knew???” Apologizing broadcasts to the audience, “I’m nervous,” or “This is not going to be pleasant to watch,” or “I’m not the leader.” Start your recorded message/presentation upbeat, confident and strong, with your purpose in mind and with the first word you planned. Don’t wing it. And whatever you do, don’t apologize!
Memorize as much as possible.
Audiences need eye contact (see above). If you appear to be reading, you lose credibility. Imagine how you’d feel if someone read to you: “We care about you at Amherst College. Don’t worry; you’re going to have fun and make lifelong friends.” Not so welcoming, right? The most authentic appearing eye contact comes when a speaker memorizes the presentation. You can have bulleted notes nearby if you need reminding where you are in the script, but don’t write full sentences. Look down to see where you are and then give the full sentence into the camera--especially the first and last sentences.
Rehearse with someone who’s watching you in real-time.
Practice makes perfect, yes? It’s the most important presentation-preparation step. I am happy to rehearse with you and give you encouraging feedback. Send me an email and I will look forward to Zooming with you!