4 tips to train a camera-shy executive

A camera can make even the most confident executive tight-lipped. Use these pointers to get any executive camera-ready.

You’re a communicator wielding a camera, and you want your expert to practice speaking in front of it. She’s doing an elaborate version of “talk to the hand,” saying she needs to leave training early to go to an essential meeting (uh-huh), and using delay tactics like asking a lot of questions about less important matters.

That sudden fascination with meetings and minutia likely means one thing: She’s camera-shy.

“How can I encourage camera-shy experts to break out of their shells?” asked one registrant at my June 19 workshop for communicators. Here are three tactics to prep your experts for media interviews, speeches or public presentations:

1. Explain that discomfort is normal. Cameras are the great equalizer. Nobody likes them. More precisely, no one, from the best broadcasters to newbies, likes how they look or sound on camera. Make sure your expert knows discomfort is normal, and something she has in common with people she admires.

2. Explain why you’re using a camera in practice. I don’t use cameras in practice to help my trainees create picture-perfect, broadcast-quality productions. I use them for two reasons trainees can appreciate more readily:

  • To help them see themselves in action—something they can’t get any other way.
  • To help catch things we can correct and improve upon.

Establish goals and don’t assume your expert knows why the camera is there.

3. Don’t confuse shy with introverted, and vice versa. Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” offers some tips on this in a post. The skinny: “Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.”

You’ll do better if you tell an introverted expert ahead of time that camera practice will be in a safe environment, and in some cases, if you train her alone. For the shy trainee, let her be the first person to give feedback on her video. She’ll be much more honest and negative than you could ever be, which lets you come back in and correct misimpressions.

4. Help the expert embrace the playback. I’ve seen trainees wince, cover their eyes, or slide under the table while they watch their videos. To allay their discomfort, make the process constructive rather than destructive. Give them guidance on what to look for and how to learn from it. I give all my trainees 10 things to look for in the video, and walk through it with them.

Denise Graveline is the president of don’t get caught, a communications consultancy. A version of this article originally appeared on the don’t get caught blog.


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