On Camera Tips for Busy Execs
Making Video Work for You
I recently launched a new video series on YouTube, On Camera Tips for Busy Execs. It’s designed to share acting tips, tricks, and techniques with business people who will be speaking on camera, perhaps for the first time. Corporate websites. Training videos. Testimonials. Interviews. Video is incredibly popular and it’s exploded all over the internet, dominating social media. Even Instagram, with its origins as a photo sharing site, has segued into prioritizing video posts over photos.
If businesses don’t already have at least one video on their websites, they’re probably heading in that direction. And hey! Somebody has to make them. Sometimes that takes place in-house, usually within the marketing department. Other times, the project is outsourced to a production house or advertising agency. And while these projects may use professional actors and/or voice talent like me, there are many instances in which an actual employee or corporate executive is featured on camera. If that’s you, then this video series can help you literally put your best face forward on camera.
What's your video's purpose?
Video is not video is not video. It takes a different form and vibe depending on what it’s used for.
Is the video intended to promote the company within its industry, showing how it’s different from its competition? Or instead, to demonstrate how to use a new product? We’ve all seen tutorials on how to assemble your whatzit, whoozit, or other gadget. Maybe the video is purely educational, such as training new employees on the ins and outs of approved corporate behaviors. Totally different purposes.
What's your video's form?
Its form will take on several shapes, depending on what you’re creating: commercial, industrial, tutorial, or virtual tour. Let’s throw in an “other” category – there’s always exceptions to the rule. My point, though, is that form follows function, to borrow an architectural principle. A commercial, for example, is constructed and produced differently than an industrial film because the message, audience, and intention are different.
The commercial embodies a sell cycle, with a problem, solution, supportive points, and a call to action - all within 15-60 seconds. Oh, and it has to be memorable, too. Humor works great in this area! Its intent is to grab the viewers’ attention, impress them with a pain point they may not even realize they’re aware of, tell them why it has to be addressed, and ta-da! present a solution that just happens to be what the commercial is promoting.
In contrast, an industrial video is used within the company and intended to inform or educate the employees. It may resemble a commercial in structure - even in length - if it sits on the internal corporate website, but it more often looks like a presentation, lecture, short film or instructional video. The best-received industrials are often a bit humorous, but by and large, most industrials are straightforward, literally “getting down to business” to communicate what they need employees to understand.
What's the tone of your video?
Another consideration is the tone of the video. Is it intended to be serious or light-hearted? To entertain or impress? Short in length and punchy? Or much longer, perhaps in a series, leading the viewer down a path to reveal answers to the questions the video poses?
I’ve been in one industrial that was created as an interactive video game, with employees choosing a character to play as that character navigates their way through a typical day at work, making mistakes along the way and sidestepping pitfalls if they’ve mastered the video’s lessons. The company even made a board game of the video, with each character a physical standup representation of the real person playing the role. I would have loved to have seen the final result!
On Camera Tips for Busy Execs: Outward vs. Inward-Facing
Another aspect that plays into the shape of the video is whether it’s outward-facing (customer-focused) or inward-facing (for internal use).
Examples of outward or customer-focused videos include:
Commercials (60 seconds or less)
Infomercials (longer commercials that demonstrate the product)
Explainer videos (animated, whiteboard, or live action 1-3 minute videos that are often humorous and serve as a commercial/infomercial hybrid)
Training videos, also called eLearning, for the users of your products
Examples of inward or internal use videos include:
Presentations for internal meetings
Kick-off videos for corporate events
On-boarding welcome messages for new employees or guests to the company
Training videos, also called eLearning
Regularly scheduled messaging, such as “A Word From Our CEO” weekly update emailed to employees or hosted on the internal website
Irregularly posted or emailed messages from Human Resources (HR) or the company administrators to announce policy changes or holiday operations
Formal vs. Casual
While true formality long ago took a back seat to a more casual work environment, both in dress and in presentation styles, it’s still around in spirit. Who hasn’t sat through a lecture disguised as a presentation? Especially if it’s delivered by the top brass. More casual videos use entertainment as a means to persuade, inform, and educate. A much higher probability of retention and perhaps even repeat viewing.
So what is a formal approach? Content delivered directly to the viewer in a concise manner. To paraphrase Sergeant Joe Friday from the 1950s TV show Dragnet:
"The facts, ma'am, just the facts..."
This includes cost/benefit analyses, detailed technical or medical information, or the serious learning style of some training videos: “press the arrow key to go to the next slide.”
More casual videos are designed to elicit responses from the viewers or, in the world of social media, promote engagement with comments and shares within the hosting platform. The subject matter may be treated in a light-hearted manner, even poking fun at itself or its competition. Examples of casual video styles include many commercials or infomercials introducing new products, inspiring or motivational videos advertising travel destinations, or interactive training programs designed to teach viewers by showing them the results of their choices. My experience with the industrial described earlier is one example.
Boost Your Effectiveness on Camera! Understand the Video
You may or may not be involved in actually creating the video from the first steps, but it helps to understand the basic process. As someone delivering the message on camera, it’s important to keep these points in mind:
Purpose or message of the video
Tone and style of the piece
You will want to know the answers to the above, so that you look like the embodiment of the message and in sync with your viewers. That means a video showing the amazing benefits of the latest sports shoe will feature someone who looks like someone who plays or at least REALLY enjoys that sport. If the sports shoe is geared towards a young demographic, then the spokesperson will most likely look, act, and dress like the expected audience, so that viewers identify with the person on screen and trust what they say and recommend.
Sometimes, the person shown on camera is the polar opposite of what you’d expect to see. That commands interest, stirs curiosity, and can be the source of some great humor. Remember the Snickers commercials and their hook, “you’re playing like Betty White out there?” Featuring Betty White, of course!
Put Your Best Face Forward On Camera
Sure, you want to look good on camera, but there’s a lot more to it than just presenting a pretty face. You need to show up as your own best self: genuine, interesting, trustworthy, and likeable. If you’re appearing on behalf of your company or products, being interviewed as an expert, or even participating in a panel discussion of experts, you’ll want to know how to make the camera your friend.
There are plenty of tips from the actor’s world that apply here, things that you can also use to come across as a pro on camera. Even if you’re naturally relaxed and engaging on camera, there are still a few technical know-hows that would come in handy, such as knowing where to place your eyelines and how to move so that you’re compelling on camera and not just twitchy.