Your On-Camera Presence: Appealing or Awkward?

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I watched the first video in a 4 video product launch last week and it got me thinking about how your on-camera presence can make or break what you say or sell.

The video featured a coach promoting her new program. The video was clearly done by media professionals. It was beautifully shot and edited. To use a Hollywood term, you could see the money on the screen.

Unfortunatey, the presentation by the coach was off. She made all the classic mistakes people do when they have not done the work to get comfortable on-camera.

All of her performance issues could be easily fixed with a little time and practice.

Here is the short list of key problems:

  • Poor eye contact
  • No facial expression
  • Flat voice with an uninterested delivery

Her eyes looked at the lens with an unblinking stare, not quite “deer in the headlights” fear, but more like dead fish eyes without the warmth and twinkle that comes through when you are speaking face-to-face.

She appeared to be trying to remember a script in her head or perhaps she was reading from a teleprompter without enough practice to make it look natural (what we call prompter stare).

Her face showed no animation. She was expressionless. Maybe she was botoxed because her forehead, eye brows and cheeks never moved.  Her mouth barely moved!  I never saw her teeth or a smile.

On top of that, her voice was almost a monotone. Last week I wrote about why vocal energy is important so I won’t go over it again. You can read that post here: Voice Matters

I suspect what happened is, she chose a production company that works almost exclusively with professional talent, not amateurs. These companies  know all the tricks for getting the lighting, audio and other myriad details just right to make a "high production value" video, but may not have the presentation training skills or interest in helping you be an effective spokesperson for your product or service.

These producers are used to working with professional talent, actors, models and broadcasters, who are media trained to “bring it” 100-percent on every take. I once watched actor Martin Sheen shoot a public service announcement. The production crew did dozens of takes for various technical reasons – a plane flew over head, a shadow in the background, the camera bobbled on a walking shot, etc.

All the Director said after each take was, “Again, Martin.”

Sheen was letter perfect, walking and talking, every time. He repeated the script over and over without a hint of pique or complaint. The crew paid no attention to his performance. His consistently polished presentation was simply expected from pro talent. (Sure, pros flub up. We’ve all seen hilarious movie outtakes, but they generally don’t do it very often – or they’ll be out of work!)

One question I get is, if content is King, why should my video presence matter?  My answer is – depending on your target audience, it's possible a video might seem too slick, but in most cases, a polished performance is a communication asset. You don't have to be Hollywood actor perfect, just an authentic expert who is more magnetic because she is a confident and poised presenter.

Another why: We’ve all grown up watching TV and movies and our minds have come to expect certain minimal standards. Plus if your market is buying YOU, your message can get lost in the medium, because if you appear ill at ease on-camera, the viewer will feel uncomfortable watching you. (not a good selling point)

The bottom line: When you hire a video producer or production company, make sure they have done lots of work with non-professionals, regular business people just like you and that they are willing to spend the time to produce a technically good video AND help you give your best performance.

I'll share some tips for improving your on-camera presence next week.


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Janet Vasil

On-Camera, Speaker & Media Coach/Trainer at Vasil Media Group | Your Media Moment & Beyond
Communication Coach, Media Trainer & Founder Janet Vasil is a former award-winning, EMMY®-nominated TV Journalist who helps rising and future business leaders communicate with courage and charisma on-camera, and off. Contact at

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