More and more, speakers are presenting less in rooms and more in front of cameras. Whether it’s recorded pieces to satellite links, teleconferences or training videos, the camera is commonplace in the life of many communicators. Surprisingly, it’s also still one of the biggest problems faced by speakers, so many of us just seem to freeze up in front of it.
That’s bad enough when the camera is at the back of the room and you are on a long shot, but really tricky when it is right in front of you. My best advice, simply ignore it, behave as you would if the camera wasn’t there. Be yourself and speak normally.
Easy to say, I know. The fact is that, increasingly, the close-up is being used by speakers for effect. From YouTube videos on, the close shot is used now by more than just Hollywood directors looking to capture their star’s exact expression at a moment of high drama. In many ways, this makes sense: a close-up offers you the opportunity to bond directly with your audience, looking down the camera lens as you would into the eyes of an audience.
The problem with the close-up is that it brings into play your facial expressions in a way that they are simply not focused upon in a large room. The good news is this needn’t be scary. There’s one thing you can do to help.
By smiling, not only do you put the audience at ease by presenting a facial expression they will read as welcoming and confident; you actually help yourself. Plenty of evidence demonstrates that by smiling we increase our own sense of well-being. In other words, smiling for your close-up will actually help you feel happier about the situation.
On top of the smile, be loose. Relax your shoulders, let your head move a little. Don’t overdo this, of course – avoid at all costs the nodding dog syndrome – but in close-up stiffness becomes even more obvious. That fixed grin and those high, rigid shoulders? They scream “nervous”, and your audience won’t hear what you’re saying over that. Loosen up a little!
That said, don’t pretend you’re not in front of a camera. Especially if lighting is involved, try to accept that a little make-up might be a good idea. Men in particular can find this onerous, but famously Richard Nixon in part lost the 1960 US Presidential election to John Kennedy because he sweated on-screen. A little bit of make-up might have changed the course of history.
Embrace your close up, you being you, is the best way to present yourself.