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Meiss Education Institute

Tips for Presenting to a Camera
By Rich Meiss

Many speakers, educators and instructors today are being asked to present to a camera in addition to presenting to live audiences. As video becomes ever more prominent as a standard communication medium, it is important to recognize and utilize best practices for presenting to a camera. Here are some key tips for making that happen. 

Preparation Tips: Making the Best Visual Impressions 

Lighting and Background
Avoid using rooms that have no outside light, if possible. Use daylight balanced light to even out your skin tones. If outside light is not available, light yourself from the front to keep shadows from falling on your face. 

Recognize that whatever is visible behind you can be visually distracting. Keep your background as clean and simple as you can. A mess behind you or on a bookshelf can send a negative message about you. If you have a blank white wall, consider placing a dark sheet on the wall, and adding a picture or plant for some visual interest. 

Wear well-pressed, clean, and well-fitting clothing. Wear solid colors, but avoid black and white clothing. Wear clothing that complements you color-wise and fits you well. Avoid clothing with small prints or patterns - they can "vibrate" on video.If you will be standing, make sure the shoes you wear are comfortable. Also, avoid large or loose-fitting jewelry that can make noise. 

Use blotting papers or a light powder to remove any shine on your skin. A shiny face or forehead can be distracting and send a wrong message that you are nervous. Lighting can affect how your makeup looks on camera. Test how your makeup looks by videotaping and reviewing. 

Have a mirror nearby to make sure your hair is looking good. A shine in your hair can actually look quite nice. There are lots of products that will help you achieve this effect. 

Effective Presentation Behaviors: Posture and Body Language

Sit and stand up straight. Sit on the forward third of the chair bottom with your legs at a 90-degree angle and your feet flat on the floor. This keeps your diaphragm free so that you can breathe properly and speak dynamically. It also gives you a firm base, thereby reducing any unnecessary movement. 

When standing, place your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms comfortably at your side. To stand up straight, imagine a string attached to the top of your head pulling it up. 

Avoid too much movement. Movement is exaggerated on camera and can be distracting to the viewer. Watch newscasters, and you will see that their gestures are quite muted. Use natural gestures, and avoid movement that isn’t purposeful . Also, be aware of the range and framing of your camera shot. Only move the parts of your body that are in the shot. The tighter the shot, the smaller your gestures should be. 

Facial Expressions 
Unlessss you are delivering bad news, you should smile. Smiling warms up your visual presentation, and it also warms up your voice. If you want to appear approachable, nod your head while speaking. 

Eye Contact 
Make sure that you are looking directly into the camera lens. If you cannot see your audience, imagine they are across from you as you look into the camera. If your eyes are focused elsewhere, they will feel as if you are not connecting with them. 

Delivering Your Message 

Engage your emotions 
Engage your passion and emotions on your topic, and you will keep your audience with you. With the short attention spans of much of our audience today, they will turn you off quickly if you are robotic or lethargic. Allow your passion to come through the screen. 

Practice in front of a mirror or on home vide
Nothing takes the place of practice, and saying it “out loud” is the best form of practice. By recording yourself and then watching it, you can correct any idiosyncrasies or unnatural movements you dislike. Get some feedback or coaching from someone who is skilled in on-camera presentations. Remember that feedback is the breakfast of champions.

Pretend you're having a conversation with someone when you have no live audience 
One of the hardest psychological aspects of filming in a closed studio with no audience is that you get no verbal or visual feedback. What helps us relax in front of a live audience is when we look out and make eye contact with someone who's nodding in approval, smiling, and/or intently listening. When speaking to a camera, it can feel like you're in a black hole. Visualizing someone having a conversation with you over coffee can make it easier, and make you seem more relaxed.

Minimize stress on the day of your presentation 
Try to have your day planned out before the presentation with a minimum of stressful activities. Stress will show up on camera! Take some time to calm yourself before going “on stage”.

Breath...and Hydrate 
If you feel yourself starting to trip over your words, take a moment and take several deep breaths from the diaphragm. Make sure there's water available (preferably room temperature or slightly warmer, with lemon), to keep your throat moist. 

Using Visuals on Camera: Preparing Slides 

PowerPoint presentations used for compressed video follow most of the same guidelines as any slide presentation. The main thing to remember in creating slides for compressed video is that webcast viewers will be seeing your slides on a computer monitor. Simple and readable visuals work best. 

General Slide Suggestions 

Imagine a television screen when planning the layout/format. Use a horizontal or landscape format.
  • Use no more than five lines of type and five words per line. Slides with too many words are hard to read. 
  • San-serif fonts are easier to read on screen (Arial, Helvetica, Geneva, Verdana, etc.). 
  • Align text to the left margin. Type is easier to read flush-left. If only one or two words are used, centering the text is fine. 
PowerPoint Slide Formatting
  • Use simple graphics. Elaborate graphics are difficult to see. 
  • Contrasting colors are easier to distinguish from each other than those that are too similar. 
  • Limit your content to only one idea per slide 
  • Leaving space around the slide’s border will ensure that images or text won’t be cut off or skewed when converted for television screens. 
  • Avoid using sound. When used in compressed video presentations, sounds are often distracting or annoying to the viewer. 
  • Avoid using animations unnecessarily. Movement does not translate well on the compressed video screen because there is a delay in the signal. M. 
Suggestions for Easy-to-Read Slides
  • Upper and lower case letters are easier on the eyes than all capital letters. 
  • As a rule, red is not a good color for television. 
  • Gradient backgrounds make reading the slide difficult. 
  • Underlining and punctuation are difficult to see on television. 
  • Script or fancy fonts are hard to read even if they are enlarged. 
Presenting Simultaneously to a Live and Online Audience 

An interesting new twist in the world of speaking and educating is managing a live audience and an online audience at the same time. 

Pay attention to the on-line attendees 
Presenters will often roam around and leave the range of the camera, making it a less than ideal experience for those watching remotely. Utilize the whole stage, and connect closely with the people in the room. But be aware of those watching on camera, and speak to them as well. 

Talk directly to the camera
Look into the camera lens. Presenters often look at the picture on their screen (the people watching them), but to the viewer it can appear that you are looking down, away, or off to the side (depending on the placement of the monitor and camera). Try to look through the camera lens to your online audience from time to time. 

Repeat all questions.
The online audience will likely not hear questions that are asked, or responses that are shared in the room. Repeat all questions, and also repeat the gist of the comments shared to keep the online audience involved in the discussion. 

Practice these simple tips so you'll be able to keep your confidence and breeze through your video presentation. Have fun, and enjoy the results! 
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