When you speak directly to a camera, how many people do you think you’re talking to?

You might say, “Well, it depends.” After all, your performance could be viewed by a roomful of people or an individual sitting at his or her desk.

While this is true in a literal sense, it is not true in a conceptual way, and it brings us to a key difference when presenting to a camera: it’s always an audience of one.

No matter how many people may be watching your performance at any given time, every person feels as though you are talking to just him or her. The conversation between you and your viewer is very intimate—more like talking to someone across the dinner table than from up on stage.

That key mental concept dictates everything you do.

Imagine if someone spoke to you across the dinner table as if he or she was speaking from behind a podium. That person might appear full of bombast, out of touch with what was appropriate for the setting.

Many people who have tried to translate their formal presentation skills to on-camera performance fail for this very reason.

Allow me to share this cautionary tale: I was preparing to interview a professor on a hot topic of the day. Prior to going live, the professor and I had a delightful conversation on set. She was natural, relaxed . . . surely an easy interview subject. Then the red light went on.

Suddenly, she switched into “lecture hall” mode. She tried to project her voice (an unnecessary move given the fact that she was wearing a microphone with levels set in advance during our casual conversation). Her gestures, wide and dramatic, were designed to play to the back of an arena, not to the end of the anchor desk where I sat. That conversational style that I thought would make her interview a breeze was replaced by a soliloquy on steroids. What happened?

The professor tried to give a lecture designed for a large audience when she should have simply tried to talk just to me. Her approach seemed totally out of place for that small news set.

When communicating on camera, you have to understand the closeness of the conversation and respect its boundaries. If you talk at your audience, you risk turning them off and having them tune you out. Instead, you should talk with them, as if you were having a conversation with a friend or colleague . . . one person at a time.

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.