All of your preparation—from script writing and wardrobe selection to choosing an appropriate hairstyle and practicing, practicing, practicing—has led to this moment. You are about to go on camera. The countdown is about to begin.
But wait, did you remember to . . .
- Give Yourself the Once-Over—Unless you have a designated makeup person, you are your final line of defense when it comes to your appearance. A member of the crew may notice the piece of spinach in your teeth, but he or she is also focusing on myriad other things and may miss it. Always look in the mirror before you get in front of the camera and give yourself one last once-over. Do you have any hair sticking out? Do you indeed have food in your teeth? Is your nose really shiny? Is your shirt looking rumpled? Take the time to catch the little things so they don’t become irrevocably big things after the fact.
- Get Familiar with Your Performance Space—During one of my training classes, one of the participants stepped in front of the camera to do his baseline performance. He practically cowered under the bright studio lights, acting as though someone were shining a floodlight on him. After a few minutes, he did adjust a bit, but during his entire presentation, he squinted like someone in desperate need of sunglasses. The sometimes-blazing lights are just one of the reasons why it is important to take the time to acclimate to the studio environment. Find out where the director would like you to stand and take note of the way that spot is marked on the floor. Typically, the crew will place a piece of tape on the spot where they would like you to perform for the sake of proper framing and focus. And speaking of framing, make sure to ask the camera operator how you are being framed so you understand what sort of gestures will work and what will not. If you haven’t already done so, ask if you can practice reading your script from the prompter. Don’t just breeze through it quickly; actually read the entire script aloud to simulate how you will perform it. You want to make sure that the lighting doesn’t interfere with your ability to clearly see the words on the prompter. The more time you spend getting familiar with your performance space, the more comfortable you should feel once it is time to record.
- Give the Crew What It Needs for Final Prep—While you are mentally preparing for your performance, the crew is also going through its own checklist. They are busy assessing the sound quality, making sure nothing could potentially interfere with the audio. They are adjusting the camera settings and tweaking the framing. They are looking for errant shadows or other lighting oddities. Often, it feels as though every single member of the crew is hyper-focused on you. It’s enough to make anyone feel paranoid. But rest assured, you are more like a piece of furniture at that point. You are just one more thing in the shot, and the fact that you are living and breathing isn’t of real consequence until the crew is ready to record. They are judging how the light is bouncing off you, not how eloquent you are sounding in rehearsal. You can help them most by being as prepared as you can be, as well as being attentive to their needs.
- Remember when you determined who your ultimate viewer was for this piece? Bring that person to the fore and visualize him or her to help you establish the proper mental mindset.
- Loosen yourself up through movement. Swing your arms. Take some deep breaths. If you are going to step into the shot, practice that move and be sure to land on your mark. A performance that starts stiff stays stiff. If you begin your performance by moving into the shot, you are much more likely to stay loose throughout.
- If you are not going to step into the shot, center yourself during the floor director’s countdown by looking slightly down. Be ready to look up when he or she cues you to start.
With ample preparation and last-minute mindfulness, your performance should go off without a hitch. When the floor director begins his or her countdown and cues you to start, embrace the moment knowing that you have done everything possible to prepare for your time in front of the camera.
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.