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These video directing tips can help anyone capture better performances on camera.

What’s the Secret to Being Natural On Camera? Here Are 10 Tips for Improving Video Performances.

Years ago, I was shooting video at the Atlanta Home Show, and one of the exhibitors asked me if there was some secret to being natural on camera.

Turns out he was director of sales for a big window manufacturer. He said he enjoyed talking to people one-on-one, never felt nervous or self conscience. But when he had tried to do a video years before, he’d had a really tough time on camera.

So I asked him for more details.

He said the video director was actually a photographer, and told him where to stand, how to pose, tilt his head, lower his shoulder. The poor sales guy was afraid to move. Is it any wonder he froze?

Tips For Being On Camera

Hearing stories like that, it’s no surprise some business owners, executives and entrepreneurs think twice about being on camera. They aren’t professional actors after all.

But the truth is, there are things you can do to reduce pressure and make the process easier on yourself.

Alfred Hitchcock practically invented the rules of visual storytelling

Here are some tips for people on camera:

1. Schedule Plenty of Time

When you’re shooting a video, you need to be focused and 100% committed to the task at hand.

That means not constantly checking your watch. Not thinking about your next meeting.

And most importantly, not trying to rush so you can get it over with. Be patient—it’s going to take a while.

2. Don’t Try to Memorize

Professional actors spend years honing their craft, learning how to memorize lines and deliver them naturally.

You’ve had no such training. No one expects you to memorize anything.

For most corporate executives, the most effective approach is to make a list of talking points, like an outline, and then cover them one by one.

3. Don’t Use a Teleprompter

A lot of busy executives use a teleprompter when shooting videos, but in my experience, it usually isn’t a good idea.

The reason is simple—when most people read you can tell they’re reading. It doesn’t come across as natural or authentic.

It isn’t necessarily their fault. In most cases, scripts are written like body copy or text, with complete sentences and formal punctuation.

Good scripts are written like people talk. Using short phrases. And sentence fragments.

I devoted an entire blog post to this a few years ago. You can check it out here.

4. Maintain Eye Contact

To connect to people watching you on video, you have to look at the camera and maintain eye contact.

Don’t look away when you finish talking. Don’t turn your head seeking approval from other people in the room.

The video editor may cut to other visuals while you’re speaking, like charts or graphics or B roll, but you shouldn’t rely on that. Just look at the camera and smile.

One of Hitch's rules of visual storytelling was to not direct the actors, direct the audience

5. Don’t Use a DJ Voice

You know how some people use a different voice when they’re on the phone? Some people do that when they’re on camera.

They use a deeper voice, or over enunciate their words. It comes across as fake and inauthentic.

The best approach is to just be yourself. Speak in your normal voice.

6. Ease Up on the Caffeine

For most people, performing on camera is enough of a buzz. Adding a double shot espresso might be overkill.

The result can be over-the-top energy, and on-camera jitters. Not to mention talking too fast.

Tips for Behind the Camera

There’s another side to being natural on camera, and that’s the production side of things. The way in which a video is produced can also contribute to a person’s on-camera performance.

Here are some additional tips for video producers and directors:

One of Hitchcock's best rules of visual storytelling was about how to frame each shot

7. Make the Talent Comfortable

Another important aspect to being natural on camera is the way the video is produced. Design your shot with the talent in mind.

Some people want to stand, others prefer to be seated at a desk. Some people talk with their hands, others want to walk around while they speak.

If you can accommodate those preferences, you’ll get better, more natural performances as a result.

8. Minimize Distractions

Speaking on camera is difficult enough without having to tune out unnecceary distractions. Smartphones, email, even a printed-out script can cause your talent’s eyes to wander.

Another common mistake is having “too many cooks”—a roomful of coworkers offering up script suggestions.

The comments are distracting enough, and who can perform with all those extra eyes on you?

9. Shoot One Long Take

If your subject is even the tiniest bit nervous about being on camera, constantly turning the camera on and off can be torture.

A better approach is to shoot one continuous take. Let the camera roll. With luck, they’ll forget it’s even there.

This also works well with more than one camera—with continuous takes you only have to sync the action once.

10. Maintain Eye Contact

No, this isn’t a repeat of #4.  While your on-camera talent is trying to connect with viewers, you can help by providing a human face to connect with.

Stand behind the camera and listen to every word. Nod your head. Stay engaged.

Natural, authentic video performances are less like speeches and more like conversations.

And you can help achieve that.


Harry Hayes is the owner and executive producer at Content Puppy Productions. Before starting his business, he spent 20+ years as an advertising writer and creative director.

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