13 tips for looking your best on video

Nervous about appearing on camera? This advice from presentation pros can help you get your message across without jitters.

You prepare. Practice. Revise. Prepare some more. Practice again. You have a solid presentation ready to go. And yet somehow . . . it all falls flat when the camera rolls. And you just don’t know why.

When presenting “on camera,” what you don’t know can hurt you. Fortunately, trusted colleagues Glenn Gautier (Executive Producer, 2+Communications), and TV host and media trainer Scott Morgan (The Morgan Group) share a few trade secrets that can make the difference between mayhem and magic.

Below are 13 on-camera presentation tips that will ensure the camera hangs on your every word.

Appearance:

1. Use color with caution. Be careful about the colors you choose to wear: Avoid green (if you will be speaking against a green screen), black, white, or bright red. Another no-no: shiny fabrics or busy patterns like houndstooth. Women look good in jewel tones with simple matte jewelry. Men look better in pastel colored shirts, navy blue blazers, and simple ties.

Tip: Everyone looks good in powder blue.

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2. Avoid wardrobe malfunctions. In addition to color, there are other wardrobe issues that can upstage your performance.

Tip: Consider the following:

  • How does the fabric move if you shift in your seat or get up and move about? Will it rustle when you move, creating audio problems?
  • How does it drape when you sit? Will you look poised? Paunchy (with fabric clustering at your waist)? Does it drape like a tent?
  • Is there an unobtrusive place for a microphone to be placed? How about a belt or waistband where the battery can be attached?

3. Makeup. Daytime makeup is usually fine for ladies. Gentlemen, you may need a transparent power to reduce shine.

Tip: Invest in a make-up artist. They are not that expensive, and it’s money well spent!

Body language:

4. Practice good posture. Sit up straight just like your mother told you. It’s easy to get too comfortable and sit back in the chair. While it may be relaxing, on camera you can look like a sack of potatoes.

Tip: Gentlemen, if you wear a jacket, sit on the tails so you don’t appear to be hunched over. Ladies, make sure you are wearing something that allows you to both sit and get in and out of the chair like a lady.

5. Use your hands. We frequently think we need to sit on our hands when speaking on camera, concerned that we will look nervous and out of control.

Tip: Gestures are a very powerful aspect of self-expression. Keep your elbows bent around the mid-section of your body. That way your hands will be above your waist and below your shoulders-visible but not in the way!

6. Keep a sparkle in your eyes. When being recorded you may have to go through lots of retakes, so how do you keep the sparkle when you restart?

Tip: Close your eyes and tilt your head forward while taking a deep breath. Calm your mind and focus on the opening statement you want to make. Exhale, pick your head up, open your eyes and start. You’re guaranteed to look bright and engaged.

7. Remember to blink. Don’t get mesmerized by the black hole of the camera lens. You’ll appear to be staring into space.

Tip: Remember to blink at the end of each sentence.

8. Talk to the camera. Where are you supposed to look? Directly at the camera? Off camera, as you talk to someone else?

Tip: Find out where to look. If on-camera work new for you, here’s a warning: Speaking to a camera can be daunting. Create an imaginary audience for yourself and strive to connect with your listeners.

9. The camera loves a smile! Begin and end with a smile.

Tip: Morgan’s own special secret just for you blog readers: Speak the entire time through a smile. It lifts your face and your enthusiasm (even when discussing serious topics) and helps puts a twinkle in your eye.

10. HOLD that smile. Done saying what you have to say? Continue to look directly into the camera lens with that smile as you count to 10 (letting the camera crew get some final footage and wrap up the shot).

Voice and delivery:

11. Breathe. This may be an involuntary reaction, but sometimes when speaking in front of a camera, speakers “get on a roll” and forget to breathe.

Tip: The end of each sentence is a good place to take a breath. Morgan suggests that the best technique is to breathe slowly and deeply through your nostrils. It’s silent and helps moderate your pace.

12. Keep it conversational. Don’t worry about being word perfect.

Tip: Speak in an informal tone. The tendency is to stress too many words in a sentence. To help mimic natural speech, emphasize only one word per sentence.

13. Reboot. Flubbed up? Don’t worry, it happens!

Tip: Take your lead from the pros, pause and pick up again with a complete thought. Remember, no apologies needed, keep a good sense of humor, stay focused and forge ahead.

As Gautier so aptly puts it: “Remember, your message is not about you, it’s about sharing information with your audience. Take a breath and focus on the people who will be watching you.”

Stephanie Scotti is a strategic communication advisor specializing in high stakes presentations. She has 25+ years of coaching experience and eight years of experience teaching presentation skills for Duke University. She has coached more than 3,000 individuals in professional practices, Fortune 500 companies and high levels of government. Learn more at professionallyspeakingblog.com and www.professionallyspeaking.net, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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