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Communicating Through the Lens: On-Camera Presentation Skills Tips

In an effort to save money or reach an international clientele, more and more businesses are conducting sales and business presentations through video conferencing by using Skype, Webinars, or Telepresence. What do you need to do to project a good image and communicate effectively through the camera lens?

Tips for Being Visually Effective on Camera

It is always important to make a good visual impression when presenting to your client. When making an on-camera presentation, even small imperfections can become much more apparent.

Lighting

Never rely on just the light from the computer. Instead, use daylight balanced light to even out your skin tones. Lighting yourself from the front will keep shadows from falling on your face.

Background

Whatever is visible behind you can be visually distracting. Be aware of what is in the "shot," and be sure to keep your background as clean and simple as you can. A mess behind you or on a bookshelf can send a negative message about you. If you have a blank white wall, consider adding a plant for some visual interest.

Wardrobe

Make sure your clothing is well-pressed, clean, and well-fitting. A small stain or wrinkle, which may seem like no big deal in person, can be distracting on screen. Try to wear solid colors, but watch out for black and white clothing, which can be problematic. Clothing with small prints or hound's-tooth patterns can "vibrate" on video. Also, avoid jewelry that can clank against the table and make noise.

Makeup

Whether you are a man or a woman, don't shine. A shiny face or forehead can be distracting and send a wrong message that you are nervous. Using blotting papers or a light powder can remove the shine.

Lighting can affect how your makeup looks on camera. If you have bright light shining on you, it can wash out the appearance of your makeup. Test how your makeup looks by videotaping and reviewing.

Hair

Have a mirror nearby to make sure your hair is not sticking up in a distracting manner. While you should avoid a shine on your face, hair that is shiny can be quite nice. There are lots of products that will help you achieve this effect.

Body Language

Be careful to avoid slumping in your chair or standing with poor posture.

When seated, you should sit on the forward third of the chair bottom with your legs at a 90-degree angle and your feet flat on the floor. Sitting this way keeps your diaphragm free so that you can breathe properly and speak dynamically. It also gives you a firm base, thereby reducing any unnecessary movement.

When standing, place your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms comfortably at your side. To stand up straight, imagine that there is a string attached to the top of your head pulling it up.

Movement on camera can be very distracting. Watch newscasters or actors, and you will see that, for the most part, they are very still. This doesn't mean you shouldn't use gestures. You should, but be careful to avoid movement that doesn't have purpose.

All movement is exaggerated on camera. If you want to lean forward to show interest, make it a slight move. Avoid frequently moving toward and away from the camera. I have seen people do this, and it can look like they are appearing in a 3-D movie.

Gestures

Be aware of the range and framing of your camera shot. Never move any part of your body that is not in the shot. It will seem like disconnected movement.

Also, how much of your body that is on camera should impact how much movement you make. The tighter the shot, the smaller the gestures need to be.

Facial Expressions

Unless you are delivering bad news, you should smile. Smiling not only warms up your visual presentation, it also warms up your voice.

If you want to appear approachable, you can nod your head while speaking. If you want to appear credible, keep your head still and slightly drop your chin at the end of your sentences.

Eye Contact

Make sure that you are looking directly into the camera lens. If you cannot see your clients, imagine they are across from you as you look into the camera. If your eyes are focused elsewhere, your clients may feel you are not connecting with them.

On a Skype call, you will want to look at your clients so that you can read their body language. This can become a problem because you cannot focus your attention toward the camera when you are looking at the window though which your clients appear. To avoid this problem, make the Skype screen as big as possible, and sit or stand a little farther away from the monitor so that you can view them and the lens at the same time. You can also try a dry run, and if possible, videotape yourself before your meeting. It is much easier to see what you do well and what needs improvement when you can watch yourself.

Of course, always be yourself and have fun!

Author: Laurie Brown, CSP, is an international speaker, trainer, and consultant who works to help people improve their sales, service, and presentation skills. She is the author of The Teleprompter Manual, for Executives, Politicians, Broadcasters and Speakers.