When presenting to camera, how can you make sure to get the best out of what you have to deliver and keep your corporate video production engaging?
There are some great articles and books about presenting to a live audience, and a lot of those skills apply here (for some great online resources on presenting I'll have a 'Further Reading' section in part 2 of this blog). We also did a blog post on the different forms of presentation videos. But few article have tackled the unique challenges of presenting to camera.
Let's look at what makes presenting to camera different to being on stage or in front of an audience. Understanding this will help to unravel the unique challenges that you will be faced with as you look down the dark, cold lens of the camera.
The obvious difference is that there is no immediate audience in front of you, just the camera operator and, in the case of interviews, the interviewer. This might make it easier for those who freeze up at the mere mention of presenting in front of an audience, but it can also be difficult to gauge your audience engagement from moment to moment because you are not there in front them. Even great stage presenters can get lost in front of the camera; they can’t use techniques like asking questions and adding a few light hearted comments to manage the audience’s energy. It’s like a comedian telling jokes to a statue. To complicate matters, in a 3D space like a lecture room, an audience can choose to look somewhere else but on a 2D screen, you’re always the centre of attention.
Let’s take a look at some practical tools to help you create an engaging video presence.
The great thing about video interviews and presentations is that you don’t have to get it right the first time. Generally, depending on how complex the presentation is, you get several takes, so that you’ll have some time to get it right. It helps to discuss this with the director, interviewer or company you are working with, they can often recommend how much time you will need based on your experience with being in front of the camera.
And, if the budget allows it, I highly recommend the use of multiple cameras, that way you can have the one camera (the master) focusing on your presentation, while the other camera (roaming camera) captures B-roll (or cutaways as is referred to in the film industry), such as closeups of your hand and different angles of your presentation. This lets the editor to seamlessly arrange all the best moments and cut around any slip ups you make using the cutaways. This is the way most professional video interviews and presentations are constructed and one of the best ways to get professional results if you’re not an experienced presenter.
Also, if the interviewer is in the video, the camera crew will probably shoot noddies. These are shots of the interviewer (or other people on camera with you) nodding in reaction to your response. Noddies, like other cutaways, are used to smooth out the edit and create a seamless flow.
Eye contact is particularly important in an intimate medium like video. The first step to get it right is to ignore the camera. With an interview you attention should always be on the interviewer and let the camera do all the work around you. With a straight to camera piece imagine the camera as being the target person for your presentation. Don’t think of an audience, think of the one person. If it helps give that person a name. This creates a more intimate connection with your viewer because it personalises your delivery.
The camera never lies and every little body posture, every expression are picked up by the camera. You can’t fake your way around this: if you’re too self-conscious you come out looking stiff and awkward and if you’re too spontaneous you can end up losing your way and looking lost and confused.
One way to achieve a natural balance is to run through one or two takes following the script as much as possible, then throw away the script and just go for it. Knowing that you have completed a version you can use can relieve your tension and give you more confidence resulting in a more natural delivery.
Another helpful technique employed by camera operators and directors is to just start a relaxed conversation before the camera starts rolling, that way the launch to the interview or presentation is more natural and seamless.
Usually, with the last couple of takes (time allowing) I get the presenters to just have fun with it. By that point you’re either so exhausted or so relieved to be almost done that you’ll sail through it. You might find you’ll get a more natural delivery then. Again, don’t worry about making mistakes, because if you are using multiple takes with cutaways, the editor will be able to make it work, but it does make it easier on the editor when you stick to the basic structure of the script.
Following up from the last point, avoid reading directly from the script because if you focus on the script, you will lose your viewer. Practise to the point where you know the structure of the material really well and just allow that whole body, and not just your brain and your mouth, to do the delivery. Embody your presentation. This means giving your own personality to the material; it’s how you engage the audience. If you want a backup there can be an option to use a teleprompter, but we generally discourage this as reading from a teleprompter can look odd.
Straight to camera pieces are usually no longer than 2 to 3 minutes. If you are planning something longer, think about how you can break up the talking with B-roll footage, presentation slides, graphics or even a practical presentation. Remember, video is an action orientated format, a still face to the camera will never maintain interest for very long.
Take your time saying what you need to say. Don’t rush and don’t forget to smile every now and then.
That's it for this month. Next month I will write about a few quick practical pointers that will help you with presenting in front of the camera.
In the meantime feel free to check out some of the interview videos we have done on our work page.
See you then.