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Tips for presenting to a camera

Jayne Davids shares her top tips for presenting to camera, to create great videos for learning.

The first time I stood in front of a camera I felt really uneasy. With no audience to engage with, or to get any reaction from, it’s difficult to know whether you’re communicating your message effectively. I’ve since learned there are a few presentation techniques and best practices that will really help you  connect with the audience in an authentic way and build confidence. So here are a few things to consider when doing your piece to camera.

What to wear
Before you start, think about what you’re going to wear. It’s best to avoid tight stripes and tight patterns as these can cause a hazy optical effect called a moire pattern. Make sure you’re portraying the right image and brand as well, but also that you feel comfortable.

Script
A script is not compulsory, but depending on your project and the style of video, a script or an outline of what you want to say may be useful, for example for a product pitch or instructional video. When writing a script, keep it conversational to help you sound natural and authentic. Write it as you would say it e.g. I’m, not I am, and read it out loud to check your message flows. If you’re using a script it will take some practise to not sound like you’re reading one! Smiling can help to hide this and using emoticons in your script can act as a prompt.

Background
Look around to see what will be picked up in your shot. Check your background isn’t distracting. Is everything you see suitable to be in your video? You might need to tidy up. You may want to make adjustments so that the background is relevant to the content, add a sign or a backdrop for example. Position yourself a good distance from the background to avoid shadowing.

Movement
It’s natural to use your hands to express what you’re saying. When presenting to camera use micro movements, so avoid waving your hands and arms about too much. Whether you stand or sit is up to you but some say there’s a different energy when you stand compared to when you sit.

If you choose to stand, anchor from the waist down, by this I mean plant your feet and move from the waist up. Avoid pacing around, rocking backwards and forwards or swaying. If you need to move, do so with a conscious decision to move. The closer to the camera you are, the stiller you need to be. Be aware that some body language postures can make you look defensive or anxious, it’s best not to clasp your hands or cross your legs and arms for example.

Eye contact
When doing a piece to camera, keeping eye contact with your audience is really important, but it needs to be natural. Keep your eyes on the camera lens and don’t forget to blink. If you’re being interviewed, you might look at the interviewer, so work out in advance what format will work best for your project.

Speaking
Plan and rehearse what you’re going to say. In particular, rehearse the first and closing lines and the ‘in a nutshell’ key points that you want to make. Try talking to the camera as if you’re talking to your best friend and only to one person. Chat enthusiastically, punch and express words, avoid being monotone…and smile. Some of the best presenters don’t present, they just talk to you, just explaining a few points.

You may wish to consider using an autocue/teleprompter that sits over the camera lens. When reading an autocue, the further away from the camera you are the better, so it’s not so obvious that you are reading. As I mentioned above, if you’re using an autocue or a script, you’ll need to rehearse this to sound authentic.

Agree with the person behind the camera what your start cue is, for example, you could use a hand signal to count down from three. Smile for a few seconds before starting your first line and continue smiling for three seconds after your closing line too.

Be yourself
It’s important to be YOU, don’t hide behind an invisible veneer, as people won’t ‘get’ who you really are. Trust yourself, be comfortable, do it your way, be natural, passionate and enthusiastic. Being prepared and knowing your stuff will help you to be confident. Don’t worry about making mistakes, they make you human.  Most of all, don’t doubt yourself – you can do this, and the more you practise the easier it gets.

About Jayne Davids

Jayne Davids is a Camtasia Trainer and Video Developer specialising in screencast video tutorials. In addition to offering training, support and tips on using Camtasia she offers video production services too. She’s the owner of Raiveon Ltd and is a TechSmith Recommended Trainer. Find out more at www.raiveon.com or connect with her on twitter @jaynedavids

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