Tips for Presenting to a Camera: On-Screen

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Many speakers, educators and instructors today are being asked to present to a camera in addition to presenting to live audiences. As video becomes ever more prominent as a standard communication medium, it is important to recognize and utilize best practices for presenting to a camera. Here are some key tips for on-screen behaviors. 

Effective Presentation Behaviors

Posture and Body Language
Sit and stand up straight. Sit on the forward third of the chair bottom with your legs at a 90-degree angle and your feet flat on the floor. This keeps your diaphragm free so that you can breathe properly and speak dynamically. It also gives you a firm base, thereby reducing any unnecessary movement. 

When standing, place your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms comfortably at your side. To stand up straight, imagine a string attached to the top of your head pulling it up. 

Avoid too much movement. Movement is exaggerated on camera and can be distracting to the viewer. Watch newscasters, and you will see that their gestures are quite muted. Use natural gestures, and avoid movement that isn’t purposeful. Also, be aware of the range and framing of your camera shot. Only move the parts of your body that are in the shot. The tighter the shot, the smaller your gestures should be. 

Facial Expressions 
Unless you are delivering bad news, you should smile. Smiling warms up your visual presentation, and it also warms up your voice. If you want to appear approachable, nod your head while speaking. 

Eye Contact 
Make sure that you are looking directly into the camera lens. If you cannot see your audience, imagine they are across from you as you look into the camera. If your eyes are focused elsewhere, they will feel as if you are not connecting with them. 

Delivering Your Message 
Engage your emotions 
Engage your passion and emotions on your topic, and you will keep your audience with you. With the short attention spans of much of our audience today, they will turn you off quickly if you are robotic or lethargic. Allow your passion to come through the screen. 

Practice in front of a mirror or on home video 
Nothing takes the place of practice, and saying it “out loud” is the best form of practice. By recording yourself and then watching it, you can correct any idiosyncrasies or unnatural movements you dislike. Get some feedback or coaching from someone who is skilled in on-camera presentations. Remember that feedback is the breakfast of champions.

Pretend you're having a conversation with someone when you have no live audience 
One of the hardest psychological aspects of filming in a closed studio with no audience is that you get no verbal or visual feedback. What helps us relax in front of a live audience is when we look out and make eye contact with someone who's nodding in approval, smiling, or intently listening. When speaking to a camera, it can feel like you're in a black hole. Visualizing someone having a conversation with you over coffee can make it easier, and make you seem more relaxed.

Minimize stress on the day of your presentation 
Try to have your day planned out before the presentation with a minimum of stressful activities. Stress will show up on camera! Take some time to calm yourself before going “on stage.”

Breath...and Hydrate 
If you feel yourself starting to trip over your words, take a moment and take several deep breaths from the diaphragm. Make sure there's water available (preferably room temperature or slightly warmer, with lemon) to keep your throat moist. 

Part one of this article, "Tips for Presenting to a Camera: Presentation," can be found here. Part three will be in the Octover 2014 newsletter.

By Rich Meiss ©

2014 Meiss Education Institute. Used with permission.