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Dissecting Some Common Performance Traps

By March 21, 2018Blog

It’s guaranteed to create indigestion and a collective “ugh” in any training session – Playback Time.

When I conduct a class or coaching session focused on performance, I always start with a recording – a presentation given in the raw that sets a baseline for training. Playback time is when we take a look at those recordings and identify what was done well and what could use some refinement.

It may not be the most enjoyable part of the process (despite my efforts to keep it as low-key and relaxed as possible), but I do believe that self-awareness facilitates change and, often, seeing is believing.

Try It at Home

With the proliferation of cameras on a slew of devices, you can catch and correct your own performance issues in the privacy of your own home or office.  It may not be something you look forward to, but it may allow you to diagnosis and fix a problem when the stakes are low.

If you want to give it a try before your next on camera presentation or interview, here’s a quick how-to along with some common performance traps:

  • Using your smartphone, tablet, or other device, take a moment to record yourself on-camera, presenting material or answering some questions you anticipate encountering during your interview.
  • Speak directly into the camera lens, and once you feel like you have a clip that’s long enough to be reviewed, stop recording.
  • I would recommend recording yourself for at least a minute to allow those initial butterflies to subside.

Play Back

Watch the recording of your performance. What did you observe?

Hopefully, you heard a lot of variation in your pitch that reflected the meaning behind your words. Was your speaking rate appropriate for the tone and level of detail, and did you seem aware of how much information your audience could digest at one time?

How about the placement of your pauses? Did they add value to your performance, or did they seem a little off?

For argument’s sake, let’s go over a few common performance pitfalls and see if you can identify any in your own work.

Pauses? What Pauses?

While you might have tried to insert pauses throughout your performance, your playback might have told a different story. Pausing requires us to be comfortable with dead air, something that might not come naturally.

When performing, that two-second stoppage can feel like forever, so we end up shortening our pauses to a length that feels comfortable. Any silence can be deafening to some.

Unfortunately, too short a pause can be so inconsequential that it loses all impact.

On take two, try saying “one thousand one, one thousand two” during a planned pause. You might be surprised how natural that silence seems when played back.

Too Pregnant of a Pause

The flip side of the coin is when the performer tries to pull off a power pause and it simply doesn’t fit within his or her performance style. As we’ve explored before, business and thought leader Jim Collins has a very animated and emotive performance style. Long pauses interspersed with shorter ones seem authentic to his personality and speech pattern.

But you may not be like Jim Collins.

If you watched your video and you felt like your pauses looked contrived, then you need to pause less, shorten the length of your pauses, or both. How much and for how long depends on you, and this is the time to experiment.

Pausing Your Performance

When you pause in your delivery, you need to guard against pausing your performance. While you may not be talking, you are still communicating, and sometimes the message you send during the silence is off-putting. Pauses can be an opportunity to gather your thoughts, but don’t let your audience see you furrow your brow in concentration or stare off camera blankly.

Pauses are also not a time to let loose and relax. That sends the message to your audience that you have temporarily checked out and they can, too.

If your facial expression during your pauses seems off, try this on your next attempt: during your pause, imagine your viewer’s reaction to what you just said. It will help you to stay connected to your content and keep your brain from going on a mini vacation.

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.