What you don't know can hurt you: 12 tips for presenting on-camera - SmartBrief

All Articles Leadership Communication What you don't know can hurt you: 12 tips for presenting on-camera

What you don’t know can hurt you: 12 tips for presenting on-camera

5 min read


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, there are a few trade secrets that can make the difference between mayhem and magic. With the help of trusted colleagues Glenn Gautier (executive producer, 2+Communications), and TV host, media trainer Scott Morgan (The Morgan Group) below are 12 tips (plus a bonus!) that will ensure the camera hangs on your every word.



Remember, appearance matters

1. Use caution with color. Be sensitive 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. Pro tip: Everyone looks good in powder blue.

2. Avoid wardrobe malfunctions. In addition to color, there are other wardrobe issues that can upstage your performance. Pro 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. Pro tip: Invest is a makeup artist. They are not that expensive and it is money well spent!

Strong platform skills

4. Practice good posture. Sit up straight just like your mother told you. It is so 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! Pro 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 think we need to sit on our hands when speaking on-camera, concerned that that we will look nervous and out of control. Pro 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, there can be lots of retakes, so how do you keep the sparkle when you restart? Pro tip: Close your eyes tilt your head forward 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. Guaranteed to look bright and engaged.

7. Remember to blink. It is easy to get mesmerized by the black hole of the camera lens and appear to be staring into space. Pro 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? Pro tip: Find out where you are supposed to look. If on-camera work is a new skill 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! The most important tip of all: begin and end with a smile. 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.

Essential voice and delivery skills

10. Breathe. It may be an involuntary reaction, but for some reason when speaking in front of camera speakers “get on a roll” and forget to breathe. Pro tip: The end of each sentence is also a good place to take a breath. Morgan suggests that the best technique is to breathe slow and deep through your nostrils. It is silent and helps moderate your pace.

11. Keep it conversational. Don’t worry about being word-perfect. Pro tip: Speak in a conversational tone. The tendency is to stress too many words in a sentence; to help mimic natural speech, emphasize only one word per sentence.

12. Reboot. Flubbed up! Not to worry, it happens! Pro 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.

One more for good measure

13. 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).

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-stake presentations. She has 25-plus years experience of coaching experience and eight years teaching presentation skills for Duke University. She has provided presentation coaching to over 3,000 individuals in professional practices, Fortune 500 companies, high-level government officials and international business executives. Learn more at ProfessionallySpeaking.net and ProfessionallySpeakingBlog.com.

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader.