How to help an executive look good on camera
Updated: Mar 16
Looking good on camera – a guide to helping you subject feel comfortable and confident
As a specialist video producer we KNOW that appearing on camera can be a scary experience, even for experienced senior people with extensive presentation experience. Looking at a camera lens that’s cold as opposed to an audience you can bounce and gain feedback from can be stressful, no matter how experienced they might be. If your subject is uncomfortable it makes your job more difficult and the experience unpleasant for them. This could very well impact your usability in the future as a supplier!
In this article, we will cover some ideas to help subjects be perform better in front of the camera. Professional videographer the world over fail to address the issue of effectively briefing and coaching your subject to get the best out of them and over focus on the technical to the detriment of the message
It’s very important to dress appropriately when appearing on camera. By this we mean that thought needs to be given to the subject matter, the audience, the channel the video will be used on and even the culture you are in (be it corporate or geographical). This is a highly personal choice but you should always feel comfortable in what you wear and feel like yourself within the guidelines above.
Shapes, colours and moods
Simplicity is key for an appearance on camera. Clothing, colours and patterns should not distract from the message. Certain patterns, stripes and indeed colours can pose technical problems for many cameras, some colours are either too bright or may detract from a visual technique in use for the piece (chroma keying or “green screen” for instance)
Advise the subject to aim for something that won’t date, especially if the video piece needs to have a long-term usability. Solid, neutral colours are perfect options.
Jewellery and accessories
As with many things in, if in doubt leave them out. Ensure the subject doesn’t wear anything flashy that will reflect under the lights or rattle and interfere with the sound (both situations can result in a re-shoot which can incur extra cost). In addition if they have a distinctive hair style that distracts them then perhaps give some advice ahead of time and always have spare hair grips and body tape in your accessory or camera bag. All that being said they should wear something that breaks up an overly conservative appearance to help keep things visually interesting.
The primary principle here is to keep the focus on the message.
Preparation is key to any shoot and we would advise that you ALWAYS send out a brief ahead of time. If you are an agency and your client contact says they have done this then double check. Perhaps use excerpts from this document with some accompanying visual examples? In some cases it may be appropriate that they bring some different clothing options depending on the gravity and impact of the message and for differing video styles
If that’s not possible, or they don’t follow your pointers, you can still quickly correct many issues:
A spare jacket or top in a neutral colour can help cover up a loud shirt.
If appropriate, provide some simple, non-patterned ties in case the one they chose is an issue.
Safety pins, double-sided tape, or even an emergency sewing kit can fix almost any wardrobe malfunction
Removing accessories (where appropriate) if you can’t provide more neutral alternatives.
Other Must-Have Items for Your Shoot
Pack some eye drops. If your subject has hay fever or is allergic to something then these can sooth and set them at their ease.
Hairspray really helps as lighting will highlight stray hairs.
Clothes roller are especially useful if your subject is wearing darker colours as the lighting will pick up on any small specs and make them sparkle. Sellotape is a good substitute.
Glasses wipes as you’d be surprised how many people turn up to a shoot in dirty glasses. It’s an issue if it makes them feel uncomfortable but an even bigger one when editing the video as the lights will have picked this up.
Take some face powder….some people WILL sweat under pressure and if they are simply uncomfortable in front of the camera.
Ensure your subject rehearses what they are going to say. Even if they are the most seasoned presenter they can often stumble in front of a camera due to the lack of audience feedback.
Talk your subject through the objective of the video and how much time your speaker will have to say what they need to say. Would they feel better with a teleprompter? Is it appropriate to move or remain static? Stay inside, or go outside to vary the shot? Will they be the only person speaking? (Panels will need multiple microphones and cameras
Once these details are squared away, and the script/questions are ready, share it with them so they can begin familiarizing himself with the wording and practising to make it their own.
Practice Makes Perfect
When you deliver the script or prompts to the executive, schedule a read-through a few days before the day of the real shoot to run through everything. This will give them an idea of what stepping in front of the camera feels like. It will also give you a chance to identify any issues they need to work on ahead of the shoot.
After your practice together, encourage them to continue rehearsing on their own. They may even want to film themselves on their phone or webcam to identify anything they need to correct.
Here are some key factors to having a polished presence on camera. Don’t be afraid to give kind yet direct feedback so your speaker can improve upon these if necessary.
Cadence and Inflection
Cadence and inflection have to do with the speed and rhythm of speech and the pitch and tone of voice. The key to a speaker sounding natural, even when reading from a script, is for them to become familiar with the material beforehand.
That way, they’ll know where each sentence is leading, and they can control for both cadence and inflection. Once they’ve got a good handle on the talking points, they can add a bit of personality to it and make it their own.
If your speaker has trouble making or maintaining eye contact, put a small sticker just above the camera and have them focus on that when they practice. That way, they won’t feel as intimidated or uncomfortable, while the audience will still feel like they’re speaking directly to them. Everybody’s happy!
Alternatively, you can place the teleprompter – which doesn’t need to be fancy and can simply be an app downloaded onto an iPad – in a similar position to the camera.
Provide pointers in the script notes to remind the subject to sit up or stand straight, with their shoulders back. Even when they’re just practising, these notes will help that habit to sink in.
When it’s time to shoot, don’t be afraid to remind them. Even a subtle signal like adjusting your shoulders, or sitting up straight yourself, can prompt them to do the same.
Frowning, grimacing, lip biting, and lip pursing are all examples of totally normal things humans do with our faces when we’re speaking or thinking. It can make sense when in live conversation with someone, but on-camera, it can look odd.
If your speaker has a habit of doing any of these things, don’t be afraid to bring it up, and don’t be surprised if you have to mention it more than once. It’s subconscious, so they likely won’t even realize when they are doing it.
Let them know ahead of time you’ll be reminding them to avoid certain movements. That way, it will feel routine and won’t make them self-conscious or flustered (which will likely lead to them doing it even more).
While you don’t want your speaker to use their hands or move around too much while they speak, you also don’t want them to be unnaturally stiff. Gauge which side of the spectrum they fall on. If they need to loosen up a little, share tips from the following video.
Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you can get someone on camera, the more comfortable and familiar they’ll become with the process.
Hopefully, all of this will come in handy the next time you need to feature your executive in a video. In fact, we recommend sending this article to them, and invite any questions you or they might have. You can share your questions in the comments below for expert