Monkey Monday - April 4th, 2022

How to come across better on camera

Video production | Monkey Mondays

Video is a great way to communicate your brand message, or to explain complex information to your audience.

However, it can be really hard to do, especially if you’re unseasoned in front of the camera.

It’s really great to get your team members to be part of videos like this, because it makes them more authentic. But video presentations don’t come naturally to a lot of people.

If you’re not used to being on camera, you can come across as awkward, one-dimensional, or just plain weird. There’s something mystical about the presence of the camera that turns otherwise normal and charismatic people into gibbering wrecks.

Fortunately, we’ve got some tips to help you come across better on camera for your all-important marketing videos.

There are two styles when it comes to a talking heads video. You can either talk directly down the camera lens to your audience, or you can talk to an interviewer who’s standing just out of shot. They each come with their own benefits and challenges.

Talking directly to camera

This approach allows you to deliver an impactful message with no distractions. When done well, it can be really effective.

The problem with this approach is trying to remember everything you need to say. We can guarantee that, unless you’re a professional actor, you will forget loads of important information if you try to do it from memory.

To resolve this, you can use a prompter (autocue). (We recommend this clever autocue software). This allows you to craft a script beforehand and deliver it verbatim to the camera. But it’s a difficult skill to master, and you may come across a little robotic.

Another option is to have some notes handy. You want to put these in easy eyeshot so that you’re not looking dramatically away each time you refer to them. You also want to keep these really short, otherwise it will look like you’re reading a novel off-screen. Stick to just a couple of words that will jog your memory.

Talking to an interviewer

If talking directly to camera isn’t working for you, try this approach. This can yield a much more natural effect, so it’s great if you want to come across more authentic and less scripted.

This method requires a second person to stand out of shot behind the camera. They will deliver lines to you that will prompt you to say the stuff you want to say.

There are a couple of knacks to getting this right.

First, be careful when crafting your prompts. They can be in the form of open questions: “How do you feel about climate change?” They can be a prompting statement: “Describe your feelings about climate change.” Or they can be the start of a sentence that you go on to finish: “Climate change makes me feel…”

A bad prompt gives the interviewee nowhere to go. For example, a question to which there is only a yes/no answer.

When you’re responding to the prompt, remember that the interviewer’s voice will be edited out of the final video. So it’s important to include parts of the prompt in your answer to give it context. For example, when asked to “Describe your feelings about climate change,” a poor response would be “Yeah, it’s really concerning because…” But a good response would be “Climate change is really concerning because…”

We hope these tips will transform you from Tom From Marketing into Tom Hanks. If you’d like help with your video production, drop us a message.

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Hello, I'm Matt Burton and I am from Rusty Monkey and I am trying...
What are you doing?
I'm trying to do an example of people being bad on camera.
Well you've succeeded.
I know.
Thank you. And it's funny because I don't think I'm very good when I'm trying not to be bad on camera, either.
I'm trying to work out all the negatives in that sentence. Are you trying to not be good...
I'm not not trying to be bad at what I'm normally pretty bad at.
Yeah. So we're trying to give you some hints and tips about how to get your message across on camera. If you're about to be interviewed or the different styles you can use to, to help you put your message across really.
Yeah, because it can be tough and it can be daunting and it can be overwhelming. And especially if you've not done it very much. So it's a bit of a crash course in media training.
From Matt and Chris on Monkey Monday.
And then there's two real ways of you getting your message across to the audience at home. And the main two are, uh, speaking down the lens, which is a skill in itself and speaking to an interviewer. So let's have a look at the first one, speaking down the lens. A lot of people try to write a script for a start and then it becomes really tricky, I think because you either got to go down the route of, uh, having a prompter, which are pretty easy to buy, but it's really difficult to come across as natural because you're constantly trying to keep up with this thing. And I've worked in TV for many years. There's plenty of professional TV presenters who can't do it. So if you're just trying to create a video for yourself, it's hard.
Yeah. And I think if you're working with, um, an agency or somebody who's creating a video for you, if you're going down that road and that's the kind of, um, that's the brief that we're going for and you want that talking directly to the person down the camera and you're using a prompter, we'd probably recommend that the script that is written, rewrite it in your own voice as much as you're allowed to do that. Because if you're reading someone else's narrative, that's really hard. I mean, that's like newsreader territory, isn't it. It's difficult, and even the pros can struggle with it. So changing into the way you speak is, is really key. And make it as conversational as you can. Is a hint.
Yeah. It's amazing how different the, the written language is to actually how you speak. And if you practice reading out loud, then you'll find the places where the tricky words are or the tricky sections of sentences are.
Which you're going to fluff.
And if you read, if you are reading from a prompter, read ahead as much as you can. Um, and really from a technical perspective, if you're doing the technical stuff, get it as close to the camera as you can, I guess.
I mean, there's Amazon prompters out there. Well, there's, there's prompters from crazy brands on Amazon that you put in front of your, your, um, iPhone or camera lens and it will look as if you're looking down the camera. They're pretty cheap and they're also pretty good, but you need to get some decent prompting software. I saw a video online by a guy called Gerald Undone, who gave some really good tips on how to read a prompter, but he had his prompter going at a continuous speed. So in my head it'd be like, oh Christ, I've got to read at this certain speed all the way through. But I found some prompting software, which I'll put a link to below, which, uh, listens to your voice and, uh, recognizes where you are. So it will speed up and slow down as to, uh, how fast it needs to scroll. And it's a real skill. So you, before you go into that, that recording session, you need to have rehearsed quite a bit.
Yeah. And if, I mean, you might find you fail or you come across really wooden and that's fairly normal. So there's other ways you can do down the lens though, right? There's other ways, you don't have to be reading from a thing.
No, you can do what we're doing now. Pulling it out of our ass.
Riffing. So if you want to come across as ropey as us then just riff it out.
But then it comes across authentic though, doesn't it?
Yes. However, we do have a handful of notes down here on a laptop, which we sometimes look at and sometimes we ignore, uh, but it kind of helps us get through the salient points. So if you're doing a keynote, for example, it's the same skill. You might just have a handful of slides and things that help you remember the points you're trying to get across. And if you know your material, you should be okay, which we sometimes do. And sometimes don't,
Well, there is that. But the thing about our notes is they're like three words to remember what the next section is. Cuz you might be able to look away from the camera lens for a tiny bit and go, oh, actually this is the three words, but some people write their scripts miles away and you can't do that, then remember something, then look back at the camera. So just keep any notes really short. But the other way you can, um, appear in front of camera is by speaking to an interviewer, which means you're not speaking down the lens, you're speaking to someone next to the camera and it's often easier because the person stood next to the camera can just be prompting you, giving you questions. And that is quite an easy thing to do. Um, but you've got to try not to overthink your answers. You, you've sort of got to answer them. Like you're not really on camera, I think.
I mean, if we do that more sort of documentary feely type of, um, video, then often the person we might be interviewing says, can I have the questions in advance? And we rarely give them it because they then go away and they rehearse their answers and it becomes a much less authentic experience and voice. And, uh, so you might want to consider that as well, if you are being, if you are, if you're in the hot seat, if you like, and you are being interviewed, don't, don't stress it. Don't try and get the questions beforehand. Don't try and do too much prep because you will end up in a self-editing, uh, kind of mindset and, and that's, that's really challenging to get out of once you get stuck in that.
Yeah, exactly. And you'd need to partner with your interviewer and get them to prompt you in, in good ways. Like, uh, a good question or a good thing to say before you answer would be, uh, describe how you worked with X, Y, and Z rather than what do you think about cheese or, you know, it's just to give you something really open to be able to work with is really good.
Yeah. And if you're involved at any point with those, the sort of question side of things, you need to ask those open questions and try and avoid questions that have a yes or no answer, you know, so questions that start with 'why' are good, questions that start with 'describe' are good, um, or statements that start with 'describe'... Sometimes as well, a good interview technique - I'm going the other side of the camera here a little bit - is to start a sentence and try and get the person who's being interviewed to finish the sentence. So if you're in the, if you're in the seat there as well, you might have to start a sentence well, by saying, well, I did start the company in such and such rather than it was started in 1990, whatever. So making sure you get those bits that start your, um, answer well is important. And also. Try not to go on too long.
Yeah. I mean, there's plenty of things to remember, but the most, one of the most important things is to relax. Um, we've been doing vlogging for three or four years now, and we're reasonably comfortable in, in front of camera. And I hope that sort of comes across. But if you fluff or anything you can cover up the fluffs and take out ums and ahs with what we call in the industry like B-roll or cutaways. Like if we fluff in any of this, you might see some pictures of some cats or something relevant. I wonder what that would be, but you just cut away. It's fine. Everyone's used to that grammar of television. You're not expected to speak on camera for 10 minutes straight without fluffing a line here and there.
Yeah. And, uh, even ums and ahs, we generally would keep them in depending on the, um, depending on the piece, I suppose. Yeah. So, uh, I guess the advice is when you are in that hot seat and you're answering the questions, the biggest bit of advice is to relax. And take your time when you sort of get to the end of wanting to finish what you're saying so that you can give a meaningful ending.
Is that the meaningful ending?
It was kind of my attempt, but it wasn't very good.
That's very good.
Thank you very much.
Meaningful ending. This is where things pop up over our faces.
Ooh, what's over my face now?
Table tennis bat?

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