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Before Lights, Camera, Action, It’s Time to Prepare

By June 5, 2019Blog

What happens before you appear on-camera (either for a live performance or a video shoot) largely depends on whether or not you are in control of the content. Do you have creative control over what you’ll be saying, or are you being spoon-fed what to say?

For purposes of this article, let’s assume you have creative control, meaning you have ultimate say over what you will be speaking, and that you will be reading a script off a teleprompter, the device that projects a scrolling script in front of the camera so you can read it during your performance.

Create Your Content

If there is one thing I want you to remember above all else when it comes to creating content, it is this: organize what you plan to say according to the Rule of Three. (For more on the Rule of Three and how it works, see my previous blogs, Mopping up Verbal Drool and Developing Your Core Message.)

In a nutshell, the Rule of Three goes something like this: once you have established your core message, choose your three supporting points. Not two, not four—and definitely not five or six. Three, and only three. Too much information means no staying power.

Here’s both an example of the Rule of Three in use, as well as an explanation of it:

  1. Humans process information in patterns.
  2. Three is the smallest number to create a pattern.
  3. Brevity + Pattern = Memorable Content.

If time allows, you can expand the Rule of Three into subpoints (you guessed it, three subpoints per each of your three main points), but keep in mind how quickly time flies on camera. A two-minute script is often only one page, double-spaced.

Identify Your Viewer

What you want to say and how you want to say it is dictated by your viewer. The tone and level of detail must meet the needs of your audience.

If your topic is technical and you know your audience is very familiar with the terms and concepts involved, you can get away with speaking at a higher level of detail than if you were speaking to an audience without only minimal technical knowledge.

Your tone also depends on your relationship with the viewer. A conversation through a camera is an intimate one, much like talking across the dinner table. But a dinner guest might be a neighbor or your manager or someone you hardly even know—and you probably wouldn’t talk to each of those people in the same way. The same rule applies on camera.

Once you determine who your viewer is and how that will impact your approach, you are ready to write, but make sure you don’t skip the first two steps.

Write the Way You Speak

If you write your entire script without ever saying the words aloud, more than likely you will encounter some unexpected challenges once you try to perform it on camera. Remember, the way the words sound in your head is never the way they sound coming out of your mouth.

A dictation app can take all the guesswork out of writing the way you speak because you are actually speaking your script, minus the typing. If that is too extreme, at least give voice to the words periodically as you type to make sure they flow well. (Note: if you’re worried about interrupting others, secret yourself away to a solitary space to speak your words.)

Remember, your delivery should not require verbal gymnastics. Think in terms of short, action-oriented sentences, and keep an eye out for power pause opportunities for the sake of variety and impact.

Once your script is complete, read it out loud in its entirety. The script should be easy on the ear and comfortable to the tongue. Ask for guidance on the former from colleagues. Easy on the ear means the message is easily understood. Rely on your gut for whether or not it is comfortable to the tongue. Are you able to deliver the words smoothly without getting tripped up? If so, you’re good to go. If you’re in doubt, edit it out.

The Importance of Preparation

Paying attention to the fundamentals of preparation before you go in front of the camera can often make the difference between success and failure, between your message being heard or it landing flat. When you take the time to practice and make adjustments before your performance, you and the audience both win.

Learn More: On-Camera Coach

If you found this information valuable, check out my book, On-Camera Coach: Tools and Techniques for Business Professionals in a Video-Driven World, now available from Wiley Publishing. On-Camera Coach aims to take the mystery out of communicating through the camera and provides specific tips and techniques that can make your message sing—and you, the messenger, feel confident in a job well done.