Last week I coached a client's senior staff team on presenting to camera, so they could move large chunks of their staff induction sessions into an online format.
If you’ve ever had to stand and deliver to a camera, and you’re not used to it, you’ll understand how daunting it can be.
As I watched people cope with the pressure of changing their approach from talking to a group of humans to speaking directly into a lens with bright lights in their face, I was reminded of the important communication principles that were being amplified before my eyes.
Most presenters came in expecting a perfect take the first time around, but at the same time they were nervous in front of the camera so their performance was far from flawless. I had to get them past that need for a 10/10 delivery and focus on finding a way to connect with their imaginary audience.
When you’re faced with a tough communication situation - whether that’s a critical conversation, a high-stakes meeting or a presentation to a large audience or on camera - these points can mean the difference between soaring and tanking.
1. Be yourself.
People will forgive you for a few ums and ahs; what they won’t forgive is you making no effort to engage with them. We know that attention spans are shrinking, so any interaction needs to be super-memorable or your audience's’ fingers will be inching toward their phones.
Double your focus on making a connection. As the authors of the book Crucial Conversations stress, ‘Start with heart’. Yes, you need to have your content covered, but that effort will be wasted if you don’t engage. Put conscious effort into making great eye contact and find a way to build rapport from the outset. Don’t apologise for who you are, just get on and be a great version of yourself.
2. Get rid of “I’m not good enough”.
I was listening to a terrific podcast this week by Suzy Jacobs where she described her first efforts at podcast recording. The first few times were far from perfect, but she was able to listen and say to herself ‘Well, that didn’t suck!’ This was a breakthrough because in the past, she would have told herself ‘That’s not good enough’ and had to do it all over again.
I’m not suggesting you strive for mediocrity, but when it comes to having an important communication encounter, recognise that annoying little voice that whispers "I’m not good enough", look the sucker in the eyes and give it the day off. Back yourself, put your focus on the people you’re talking to, and let your skills and capability do the rest.
3. Be prepared to stretch.
Standing in front of a camera amid blazing lights is a good definition of getting out of your comfort zone, but any pressure communication situation can be a stretch experience. Take time to prepare. Think through the key points you need to convey. Rehearse them out loud rather than just in your head. Leave your own baggage at the door when you go into the meeting or presentation.
Don’t judge your results on whether your conversation was word perfect, assess what you actually achieved. What did you want to walk away with, and did you get there? And whatever happens, don’t beat yourself up; treat it as a learning experience.
Every one of my on-camera performers last week came away apologising and saying ‘That was terrible’ or something similar. In reality, their performances were really solid. Most of us view ourselves harshly compared to how the rest of the world really sees us. Be a little kinder to yourself.
By practising your communication skills you'll build influence and credibility. Along the way you’ll create even stronger relationships at work and at home.