Video is becoming almost as ubiquitous as email in business. YouTube, websites, cell phone messages and video conferencing are more the norm rather than the exception. Just as you had to learn to write brief concise emails in the business environment, you also need to master the skills of short video clips. Having taught public speaking for fifteen years, I have some tips that will improve your virtual “face-to-face” impressions.
1. Be yourself. Of all the advice I can give you this is the most important. You want to present yourself in a confident, knowledgeable manner and avoid coming across as phony or anxious. This is accomplished by talking with your audience. Obviously you will be talking and there will be an audience. The key word in the sentence is “with.” As much as you can, put yourself in the mindset of conversing with the people who are watching the video or conference call.
2. Groom as you would for an in-person meeting. Straighten your clothing, brush your hair, and look at yourself in the mirror. If you wear makeup, do some touchup. This serves two purposes. You look put together to your audience and you feel more comfortable when the mirror says you look your best.
3. Check out your background. Before the conference or videotaping begins check out what’s behind you. The setting of your presentation needs to be appropriate. I understand in a videoconference your face will fill most of the audience’s screen, but that Grateful Dead poster over your left shoulder will be a distraction. Position yourself and the camera to minimize diversions.
4. Look at the camera not the computer screen. There is a natural tendency to stare at what’s on your monitor. When you do, you are looking down from the camera and you lose eye contact with your audience. Think about talking with someone who never looks you in the eye. What are your judgments about that person? Do they seem shy? Secretive? Unsure of themselves? Stick an arrow at the top of your screen pointing to the camera lens to remind yourself to focus on your audience.
5. Watch your body language. I know you are probably sitting in a cubicle or at home alone. But the eye of the camera will show your posture; Sit up straight, lean in a bit and smile. This tip goes back to Tip 1… be conversational. You don’t go in your supervisor’s office and slide down in the chair and put our feet up. By looking professional and engaged, you draw your audience in to what you are saying.
6. Practice your Opening. Your goal is to start strong and grab your audience’s attention. Give some thought as to how to encourage viewers to care about what you are going to say. Begin with a surprising statistic or fact… ask a rhetorical question… tell them why is it important to listen to you. Answer the question “What’s in it for me” for your audience. It is easy for a video audience to become distracted. Give them a reason to listen.
7. Show your enthusiasm. If you’re not excited about your topic, I can absolutely guarantee your audience will tune you out. Use controlled hand gestures to emphasize your points. Be animated and smile. Yes, I realize this is the second mention of smiling. Eye contact and smiling are two important ways we engage others when talking. Use them both.
8. Practice may not make perfect. But it will make you aware of what you want to say. Give up on perfection and shoot for knowledgeable. Do not attempt to memorize what you plan to say. Practice until you have a clear idea of what you want your audience to know. Reviewing the material repeatedly helps you become familiar with your key points. It’s OK to refer to the presentation on screen, but the goal of practice is to avoid talking to your monitor. Remember the audience is behind the camera -that’s where you want to focus.
It’s natural to be a bit nervous when speaking to a camera. You have little feedback about how your presentation is coming across to your viewers. Following these tips will help you bridge the gap between “real” and “virtual” audiences. You will be seen as competent, knowledgeable and an asset to your team.