Inventor and founding father Benjamin Franklin is famous for saying (among other things), “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He could have just as easily said, “An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure”—and preparation is the name of the game when it comes to performing well on camera.
Practice, Practice, Practice
You may be someone who thrives on spontaneity, but unless you are an absolute on-camera pro, do not try to wing it. While you’re not likely to have access to the studio or location where you will go in front of the lens prior to the recording or live event, you can still practice performing your script, and you can go as low-tech or high-tech as you want.
- Low-tech—This is about as simplistic as it gets. Print your script and practice reading from the printed page. Once you get the flow of the words down, you will have one less thing to worry about when you perform it in the studio.
- Low-tech but a bit more realistic—Print the script in a large font and tape it to a mirror or wall in front of you. You will be able to work not only on how you deliver it vocally, but also on your body language. If you know how you will be framed in studio, think about how that might affect your gestures. Remember, the wider the shot, the more freedom you have to move.
- High-tech—Use a prompter app on your laptop, phone, or tablet to practice reading your script off a teleprompter. The interface may not be exactly the same as the one you will use in the studio, but it will provide a useful approximation. This will also allow you to play with actually looking away from the lens periodically as you would in normal conversation.
- High-tech with playback—Record yourself using your prompter app and then play back your performance. Often you have to see with your own eyes what you are doing wrong in order to correct it, or what you are doing right in order to reinforce it. Better to catch potential issues while practicing than to find out while on set.
Beyond practice, you will want to make sure you address other possible distractions before you head to the studio.
- Your Microphone Matters—If you know in advance you will be using a wireless lavaliere microphone, think about where the microphone can be clipped onto your clothes as well as where the battery pack/transmitter can sit out of sight. The battery pack/transmitter is typically about the size of a pack of cigarettes and can either hang from a belt or waistband or be put in a pocket, provided your pants are baggy enough so there won’t be an unsightly bulge. The microphone, while not heavy, requires something sturdy enough to handle its weight. Lightweight fabrics, such as silk or rayon, tend to fold where the microphone is clipped. The microphone may then rub against the fabric and create extra audio feedback that can’t be edited out. V-neck shirts, blouses, or dresses provide ideal landing spots for microphones, allowing them to be positioned evenly under the chin. Jewel-neck or round-neck tops that come close to the collarbone can pose problems because the microphone gets buried in the hollow of the neck, muffling the sound.
- Troublesome Tresses—Long lustrous locks might be the envy of many, but on camera, they may be your enemy. Hair falling into your eyes can be distracting for your viewer, as can repeated attempts to sweep it away from your face mid performance. If you choose to keep part of your hair falling in front of your shoulder, you run the risk of having it swish against the microphone, ruining a perfect take. The safest avenue is to pull your hair back if you think your style might pose problems. Bangs can also cast unwanted shadows if the lighting can’t be adjusted to accommodate. Even if you have never worn hairspray in your life, invest in a can just for on-camera performances. Keeping bangs away from your face is a must!
- That Pesky Fifth Appendage—Smartphones have become a part of us, and the idea of leaving them behind may seem unimaginable. However, a buzzing, beeping, ringing, or singing smartphone has no place in a studio . . . and I assume you’re not planning to answer your phone in the middle of your performance, are you? Smartphones represent distractions of the highest degree, and you do not need any more distractions while you are managing your way through your on-camera moment. Plus, cell phones can cause interference with the audio. It doesn’t happen all the time, but if it happens during your favorite take, one time is all that matters.
Preparation and practice can go a long way to ensuring your on-camera performance is top notch and that the message you are trying to deliver is heard as intended rather than failing to connect with distracted ears.
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.