How to have a Conversation with a Video Camera – Part 1

How to have a Conversation with a Video Camera – Part 1

If you were born before 1982, you are possibly not that comfortable having a conversation with a video camera. However, if you were born after this date you are probably very relaxed about it. SnapChat, Instagram or FaceTime are familiar everyday friends.

The most successful vloggers, think PewDiePie (54 million subscribers) or Yuya (18 million subscribers) are the obvious masters of this. They effortlessly talk to their audiences, treating the camera as if it was a friend in the same room. They have a savvy confidence which is combined with a sense of how to master and control the medium for their own benefit.

Photo by Terje Sollie

If you are 35 and over, or in some sort of managerial role, being able to talk to video camera in an informal but focused way is an increasingly important business skill. It means you are effective at talking to your audience whether it’s via your intranet, social media or broadcast media

Our short digital attention span means that 56% of videos that are published tend to be less than 2 minutes long, and only 37% of these are watched to the very end. This is why you need to know what your message is and to have the skills to deliver it confidently and persuasively.

What Good Video Camera Conversations Have in Common

Those who come across well on camera, whether as part of a structured interview or piece to camera have five things in common:

1. Authenticity – they believe in what they say. By being authentic, they are easy to listen to. This is because they are not saying what they think the audience wants to hear.

2. Naturalism – they are the same in front of the camera as off it. Their knowledge, passion or enthusiasm is the same regardless of whom they are talking to.

3. Flexibility – they can adapt to the situation they find themselves in and keep their composure when the unexpected happens.

4. Audience awareness – they know that it’s important to forge a direct connection with the people watching them.

5. Concision – they can reduce what they want to say to its most essential and memorable parts. So as not to confuse the viewer, they intentionally avoid saying everything.

Some of those who master all of this are also compelling. That means they have learned how to express themselves so that their audience pays attention. To do this they will use stories, statistics and phrases to that are memorable and engaging.

Everyone, to a greater or lesser degree, will demonstrate some of these characteristics. The challenge is to be more mindful of them when speaking to video camera so that at some point you become subconsciously competent at them. To begin you will possibly feel consciously incompetent.

Being ‘On Message’

Most people have a sense of what they want to say and scribble a few notes down.

If you do this, it’s not enough, because in the process you will have failed to prioritise what is important to the viewer as well as the stories or phrases that will make the conversation memorable.

That’s why it’s good to develop a three-step process. And the one I’d recommend is the one taught by media training expert Brad Phillips.

Step 1: Work out what YOU want to say

Write down the most important things you want to get across and from your list prioritise three things. From these three craft three individual messages.

Step 2: Think about what THEY need you to say

Write down the things what your audience needs to hear from you. Do they want clarification, clear direction or updates on a project etc. From your list, select the three that are the most relevant.

These three should be congruent with those in Step 1. If not, you need to revise those in Step 1, not the other way around! It is the needs of your audience that take priority.

Step 3: Find your message supports

Message supports are the stories, statistics or memorable phrases that are going to help you connect with your audience.

These three should be congruent with those in Step 1. If not, you need to revise those in Step 1 one again.

a. Stories

Ever since we were small we have been told stories. They capture our attention and we are naturally responsive to them. So, if you have a story, use it. But avoid trying to tell a long story as this will complicate things. Keep it simple.

b. Statistics

Numbers are a great way of making something complicated easy to understand, especially if you can talk about them as:

– Percentages: “All our hard work to introduce new heating efficiencies is going to go towards reducing our carbon footprint by 15%”

– Ratios: “One in twenty people on the London Underground is reading a newspaper or book, the rest are all looking at their iPhones”

– Personal: “Our heating efficiencies are not only good for the business but for the wellbeing of our staff and the community as a whole.”

c. Sound Bites

These are tricky. This is because you are looking for a memorable word or sequence of words that summarise your message or how you feel. In some situations, they occur spontaneously, but relying on chance is not a good strategy. It’s best to plan them in advance.

Nor is it a question of trying to be the next Winston Churchill or Joan Rivers. Be you. Be authentic.

A great trick to get you started is to imitate a famous phrase i.e. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” The imitation could be: “Never give an interview that you wouldn’t want to sit through yourself.”

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