Top tips for presenting to camera
September 17th, 2013
This article is geared toward anyone who has little or no experience presenting to camera. Perhaps you are an employer – or employee – of a business that’s looking to produce a corporate video, and someone suggested it would be better to have someone from within be the face of the business for that video. And they have selected you.
What do you need to do to prepare for presenting to a camera, what do you need to expect on the day of video production, and what top tips should you know to get your presentation done just right?
1. At Ceres Productions we strongly recommend that you prepare a script, even if it is a set of bullet points to be covered – a kind of checklist – that you can tick off as you go through your presentation on the day. We recommend this, no matter how well you may know your subject. There’s nothing worse than removing that lapel microphone, satisfied that it’s all over, only to realise you didn’t mention a salient point and you have to start all over again.
2. Another reason why its best to work from a script or at least know the points you need to cover is that you may need to get it all done in one seamless take. So we recommend you know beforehand the kind of video you will be presenting for. Will part of your presentation become voice-over, masked by other visual material, will there be more than one frame-size of you to give the editor more options to work with, or will there be no option to edit out a fluffed line or cut to another take for a portion of the presentation? Knowing whether you will have the option of doing what is called a ‘pick-up’ will allow you to better understand the degree of preparation that will be required of you.
3. Have someone you trust with you on the day, preferably someone who is familiar with the material you will be covering and can advise you should there be any last minute changes or can pick up on any minor slip-ups of information, is strongly recommended.
4. Know whether you will be presenting straight to camera or whether you will be directing your gaze off-camera, as if speaking to an interviewer. There are benefits and drawbacks from doing either, and what it really boils down to is the style of video you or your business may be looking for. Talking directly to camera can be quite inhibiting and there is the risk of looking like a deer caught in headlights. The benefit, if it is done right, is that it can provide a more personable and direct style of communicating, as the viewer will feel you are addressing them directly. You may also have the benefit of being able to use an autocue – see more information on this later. The benefit of directing your gaze just off-camera is that you are able to address someone directly (another good reason to have someone with you that you trust), and your tone and presentation may come across more natural and conversational.
5. Whichever you decided, to keep your gaze on the camera or on someone just off-camera, ensure that your gaze remains fixed there. Beware of your eyes flicking away from your focal point, as the camera (and your audience) will pick it up and it will be a distraction to what you’re saying. The surest way of keeping this to a minimum is to remove any distractions in your line of sight. There should be no other people in your field of vision and the camera operator should stay as still as possible and have his eyes firmly on his camera’s frame and not on you.
6. Accept the fact that you will have to wear some make-up. Unless you are outdoors and in very cool conditions, you will perspire, if not from nerves then from the lights that ensure you look good on camera. All that will be required is a little matte powder on your nose, cheeks and forehead. Even professional presenters perspire.
7. Know your environment so you know what you will be contending with. Will you be indoors, and therefore requiring the aforementioned lighting? Or will you be outside where there are more uncontrollable distractions, including more chances of noise pollution that will require you to project your voice a bit more?
8. Wherever you film, ensure you are not wearing any fabric with detailed patterns on it, or close lines or tight stripes, as this can cause a fluttering effect on the recorded image that can be distracting in the final edit.
9. Elocution: Remember to enunciate your words, and don’t mumble. Most importantly, vary your tone but not your volume.
10. If you have someone prompting you with questions, then know whether their voice will be included in the finished edit or not. If not then you will need to provide full answers to questions. Ensure that your answers are contextually relevant, so that anyone who has not heard the question will still understand the point you are making in the context in which it was asked.
11. Own your frame-size. Know how much of your body is in shot, how much of your arms and hands are visible. The smaller you are in the frame, the more expressive you can be. The tighter the shot, the more you should constrain your movement. Whatever you do, keep it natural.
Finally, if you are addressing the camera directly, then you may have the option of using an auto-cue, as noted above. If so, you will then have probably produced a script. Preparation with that more full-fledged script should be a case of ‘rehearse, rinse, and repeat!’ What we mean by this is that you should read the script aloud, abbreviating words as you go along, adjusting the script to your style of speaking rather than your writing style; cut out the fluff; and then start again. When presenting through the autocue, don’t fall into the trap of simply reading the script but imagine the camera is a single person with whom you are having a conversation. Here it becomes even more important than ever to vary your tone of voice, to smile, and especially to relax. Pace yourself, don’t rush. All the above points of presenting to camera should also apply.