Guest Post: Wendy Scharfman
Video is everywhere. YouTube, websites, training and product videos, corporate and marketing videos, media interviews… the list goes on. How do we get ready for our close-up? Video now gives us the ability to reach vast numbers of people in unprecedented ways. As in any public speaking event, you want to capitalize on the opportunity to communicate your thoughts and ideas with “savoir-faire” – to say it like you mean it all in a sound bite, with confidence, grace, a little panache and some universal humor thrown in for good measure – ALL THIS, without tripping over your tongue, losing your train of thought, or looking like a deer caught in the headlights.
Piece of cake? Not exactly. When done well, we make it look so facile and relaxed. But haven’t we all seen those stiff, wincingly uncomfortable, monotone excuses for a video product? Here are some necessary tips for making your video stand out that will place you rightfully in the spotlight.
- PREPARE your message. What is it you really want to say for this particular video? Narrow it down to no more than 3 points and be sure you know which is the most important. Imagine it as a newspaper headline – short, sweet and precisely to the point. And memorize these three points. Practice repeating them using some examples and supportive phrases. Soon you’ll find your script is pretty much written. If this is for an interview, now you’ve got your talking points. Ingrain them in your brain.
- Focus. Literally. As in where you look. Remember THE CAMERA IS ALWAYS THE AUDIENCE. So, if you’re talking directly to the audience, tilt your head up slightly (trick of the trade – this will hide a double chin!) and position the camera a little above your eye level. That’s your focus. In an interview, always focus on the person interviewing you, not the camera – make it a conversation.
- Relax and smile. Nerves are nasty little critters. But an inhale and exhale followed with a soft smile (NOT one that’s ear to ear) can really help you fake it ‘til you make it. Be sure you’re breathing regularly in the course of taping. Do not hold your breath. Trust me, it will wreak havoc on your ability to speak and add a whole lot of stiffness to your demeanor. Also, blink on occasion. It’s a natural lubricant for your eyes and will help you stay “bright eyed” – you’ll look less “robotic”. Think of it as a smile in your eyes with a little mischief behind them. It will give you confidence.
- Body language. A little movement is fine; too much movement makes you appear nervous. By all means use your hands! But try and keep them below chest level, no wider than your shoulders and don’t flail. Hands can enhance decisive statements and support nuance in your speaking dynamics, but don’t overuse them. And don’t even think about running your hands through your hair. If you’re standing during your taping, watch the rocking back and forth. Try and stand comfortably with your feet about six inches apart, your weight equally distributed and your shoulders relaxed. And don’t stand on the balls of your feet, you run the risk of losing your balance. When sitting, lean just slightly forward, shoulders down and then sit as tall as you can but without stiffness. Breathe…
- Appearance. No stripes, checks, neon colors or optical illusions in your clothing. No white, red (on camera it bleeds, really) or too much black. Solid colors but not uniformed and get out the iron (wrinkles show!). Dress appropriately for the occasion and make sure it fits! As for make-up, ladies, use it sparingly. Avoid a lot UNDER the eyes (none is best) and choose a shade of powder slightly lighter than your skin tone. Gents, a little powder takes away the shininess, which includes any baldpates! And if you button your suit, it will keep your tie in place (Helpful Heloise…).
- Delivery. This is when you get to play with your voice and your style of speaking. Add some energy, dynamic and nuance. No monotones allowed. Remember, it’s also a conversation with some great storytelling – you and the audience or you and the interviewer. Add some universal humor (not a joke) – if you make us laugh, we’ll listen better. Also try out a few analogies, quotes and action words. And make sure you have a positive perspective. After all, you want to be seen as the expert at what you do by effectuating positive change. Be sure to hydrate but do your lip licking before the camera is turned on. It’s very distracting.
- Hire a media trainer. The rehearsing, practice and ultimate camera performance can be greatly enhanced with a coach. A coach or trainer will have the skill and expertise to lead you in the right direction, provide you with content suggestions and delivery techniques, and help with the tough questions you may not ask yourself. The video is out there for all to see – invest in making it a great one.
Wendy Scharfman is a communication coach, teacher and speaker. She is the founder of Coaching for Effective Communication, a business she created to help her clients become dynamic, confident speakers who can inspire action by delivering a message that matters.