Fifteen years ago you didn’t need a web site for your small business. Ten years ago you didn’t need a strong social media presence. Five years ago you didn’t need to have videos on your web site or on your Facebook feed. And last year you didn’t need to have videos featuring principle players in your company, like the CEO, on those videos.
In 2016 online video is the single most important tool for building a relationship with a target market. People consume video even more than written content. For example, this very article is available as a video and as a written post and more people will watch the video. The most popular search engine on the web is Google, but YouTube is the second most popular place to search for web content. And your videos need to be relatable, because people do business with people and companies that they know, like, and trust. If your video presence is weak, you lose trust factor.
Consider that everyone on the planet has participated in countless face to face interactions, so everybody can read body language, eye contact, and speech patterns to one degree or another. If you’re nervous on camera or sending the wrong signals via body language and speech patterns, it can come across as shifty and deceptive. And unless you’re used to being on camera, you might not even know when you’re creating “negative vibes.”
Whether you’re a solopreneur or a Fortune 100 CEO, your presence on video is more important today than ever before and you need to come across as relatable, honest, believable, and you need to come across as an authority in your industry. If you’re bad on video, you need to fix things and these areas of focus will help you say the right things in the right way.
1. Look at the camera
Video is an extension of interpersonal communications and it serves the same kind of purpose as a face to face conversation. If you’re talking with someone and whenever they’re talking, they glance away, your natural reaction is that they’re being evasive or they aren’t interested in you in the first place. You need to make and keep eye contact with your viewer. If you occasionally look away (maybe to reference a cue card or just out of habit) you should use editing to hide that. You could show a picture or a slide with text that reinforces what you’re saying and hide those times you break eye contact.
Frequently video professionals will film business people looking off camera “interview style” because it’s a bit easier than getting someone to look into a lens. That’s easier on the videographer… and it works to a degree, but it just doesn’t connect like direct eye contact does. Don’t use this ‘cheat.’
2. Sound good
One dead giveaway that you’re doing a low budget video production is weak audio, or echoey room tone. If you use the on-camera mic you’re asking for people to not take you seriously. While I never advise bad lighting or soft focus, people can look past that in a video. But bad audio it the unforgivable sin in video. Ironically, the fix could be as simple as a $22 lapel mic that has a 20′ cord. Expensive wireless mics are nice but not critical. Just make sure you sound good.
3. Wear makeup
This is a hang up for a lot of guys but regardless whether you’ve ever worn makeup before or not, if you’re being filmed in an environment indoors or outside, that has enough light to capture a good video image, you will “shine” without some sort of powder makeup. Get a pressed powder or a loose powder that matches your skin tone and make sure you don’t shine. It will look bad and you will probably even look like you’re nervous and sweating if there’ sandy shine.
4. Be well lit
Cameras capturing professional video need more light than informal snapshots and video. With “normal” indoor lighting the video will look noisy or grainy. That’s why all TV productions and movies add light to scenes.
5. Use editing to cut your mistakes
That may sound obvious but many people trying to deliver scripts for the first time, are under the impression that they need to memorize their speech, like they did in school, so they don’t make any mistakes. While that’s fine, most of the time you don’t have to bother with that level of preparation. Most people can work from cue cards or a simple teleprompter (using an iPad and teleprompting software) and do a pretty good job. And when you do make a little mistake, pause, go back a sentence or two, and start again. Editing can cover the mistake by cutting away to a picture of something relevant (this is called b-roll). And if you leave SMALL mistakes in place, that’s okay too. Those little mistakes make you seem more approachable and normal.
6. Use b-roll to illustrate points but DON’T narrate a slideshow
B-roll is still images, video, or text slides that further illustrate what’s being said by the speaker as they speak. B-roll takes the place of the full image on screen and it’s critical to enhance production values, illustrate the talking points, and keep viewers from being bored by just watching a talking head for minutes on end. And as we covered in the previous point, it can be used to hide mistakes and retakes.
7. The camera captures energy
One of the great things that can be conveyed best with video is emotion. You can’t convey that same level of excitement with just words and pictures. So you should use this to your advantage. If you’re talking about a cool product or service your company offers, or a feature of something you’re teaching, go ahead and be excited about it. Emotions are contagious. And that works both ways… If you’re scared to be on camera and you’re concentrating hard to deliver the script and you look serious or nervous, your audience won’t feel relaxed, comfortable, or especially trusting.
8. Use lower thirds to highlight your credentials
Lower thirds are text with graphics that are superimposed on the lower third of the image and usually contain a person’s name and title. Because of their use in TV news, we usually just accept the text as fact. So if the lower third says “Susan Edwards, Dietician and Weight Loss Expert” that will convey authority. If she comes on camera and says, “Hi, I’m Susan Edwards and I’m a Dietician and Weight Loss Expert,” there is far less credibility. Use lower thirds to your advantage!
9. Avoid busy or distracting backgrounds
It makes sense for many presenters to be in an environment that conveys authority. Doing a video from your offices can be impressive, but it can be distracting too. Busy backgrounds and activity of others in the frame can be so distracting that people don’t pay attention to the primary spokesperson on camera. Keep the scene simple.
10. Smile while you talk
As we covered already, videos can convey emotion. One of the best instructions used to coach on camera spokespeople is, talk through your smile. It takes a bit of concentration, but maintaining eye contact and smiling while you talk are the two most important body language cues you can give on video to connect with your audience.
11. Use relatable language
The days of formal language for presenting on video are long past. Talking with contractions and occasionally incorrect grammar, is the kind of thing that will make you seem relaxed and real. Reading a script that’s grammatically correct in sentence structure will make you seem stilted and distant. When you write an article or blog post, you should use proper grammar and sentence structure. When you write a script to be read from a teleprompter, you should make it sound like you’re talking to a friend.
12. Hand position is important
This hangs people up quite a bit and since all of us have had hands our whole lives, you would think this would be easy. You should have your arms bent at the elbows and your hand should be open and loose. You should not point at the camera because that is an aggressive gesture. Your hands should not be folded together either. One common practice with on camera presenters is to touch all of your fingertips together while keeping your hands open. This “touching tips” method is easy and allows you to think about the script and not your hand position. If you are seated at a desk or standing behind a table, you can place your hands on that desk or table but your fists should not be clenched. and be sure to keep your hands out of your pockets. If you do want to gesture with your hands to emphasize a spoken point, you can do that, but be sure not to overdo it. Also, if you just you’re at the camera, do it with an open hand and your palm facing upward. Loose, open hand position is unthreatening and keeps you from looking nervous.
13. Deliver your message while standing
There’s nothing particularly magical about a standing presentation vs a seated presentation except that it’ season to get the seated one wrong. If you’re sitting too far back you can look awkward. Too far forward and you look nervous or aggressive. And then there’s the thing about where to put your hands. That’s easy to get wrong when seated.
When you’re standing, the only thing you need to make sure you avoid is rocking or teetering. Standing looks professional. So stand and deliver!
14. Don’t cover more than 3 points in a general message
Obviously if you’re doing a training video, there could be dozens of points. That’s fine if it’s what you need to cover the topic. But if you’re delivering some sort of general message, you shouldn’t be giving your audience too much to remember. If you could make it just 1 or 2 important things and wrap up your message with a simple call to action, you’re doing great. The more you exceed 3 talking points, the more likely you’ll muddy your message and people won’t remember anything you said.
15. Shorter is better. A simple meet and greet message should be no more than 3 minutes
If the purpose of your video is a “Welcome” video or one that’s intended to help the audience get to know the person, it’s important to keep the message around 2 minutes. 3 minutes is the max! Just like having too many talking points, if you go too long, you’ll lose the audience before the all-important closing message.
Let’s say you’re the boss. You do fine with day to day employee interaction and you’re even great addressing the board of directors, but on camera you just come across as low energy. You need to know that about yourself. In that case it’s worth practicing and spending a lot of time on retakes until you capture a message that has energy and makes you relatable. And if ‘low energy on camera’ describes you, then your message should be just 30 seconds or so. Hit one key message and smile. Then have your other employees do the rest of the messaging for you.
Video is a mission-critical tool for online business communication. People will always do business first with those they know, like, and trust. A couple years ago video was a secret weapon to build trust. Now, everybody is doing it and you can’t risk doing it wrong.