How to Look Eye to Eye with the Video Camera – Video Presentation Coaching

How to Look Eye to Eye with the
Video Camera

How to Look Eye to Eye with the Video Camera STEBIAN.com Video Presenation Coaching with Bianca Te Rito 500s

When you are presenting to camera framed in a medium to close-up shot, the viewer can see every nuance in your eyes and facial expressions.

I’ve previously written about some of the pitfalls to avoid when making eye contact with the camera – including the common“bug-eye” and “blinky” pitfalls.

To overcome these issues – here are a few performance techniques you might want to try:

Soften Your Gaze

When we are concentrating on a challenging task (like delivering a video presentation), it is easy for our eyes to become fixed and steely, or ‘glazed over’ with a blank stare. This tendency is exacerbated when we try to keep our eyes focused on the camera lens.

If you find yourself squinting to look at the camera lens (some are tiny), I recommend sticking some bright colored duct tape around the outside casing of the lens so you can quickly re-engage with the lens if you look away or drop eye-contact.

I’ve written previously about the “cold staring eye” of the camera and how it can psych you out.  A trick that can help you overcome this, is to stick a photo of a smiling family member or friend on the side of the camera. Avoid staring at the picture directly, because you still need to look at the camera lens dead-center, but having this photo visible in your peripheral vision can help to humanize the camera lens somewhat as well as soften your eye contact with the lens.

In my article How to Fall in Love with the Video Camera I cover a mindset technique to help you with this also.

Demonstrate Empathy With Your Viewers

Imagine your target audience is watching your presentation.  Imagine how they will feel about the message you are presenting. Get emotionally involved in your subject matter and “feel” the content of your message so your facial expressions match your content.

Look directly into the center of the camera lens and imagine you are looking into your friend’s eyes.

Also, you need to constantly remind yourself to “soften” your gaze, as you would if you were looking at a dear friend. Look directly into the center of the camera lens and imagine you are looking into your friend’s eyes. Remember to blink naturally – it helps with softening and relaxing the eyes. Smile with your eyes. (Learn how your viewers can spot Real vs. Fake Smiles in Your Video Presentations).

Remember the 3 Second Rule

Maintain friendly, constant eye-contact with your viewer (the camera). Beware of letting your eyes wander away from the camera lens unless you are scripted to do so. The rule is 3 seconds max – if you look away from the lens for any longer than that, you risk losing the viewer’s attention as they may become distracted and wonder what you are looking at – thus decreasing the impact of your video’s message.

Camera Height

I recommend adjusting your camera height so that it meets your eye-line when you are standing up straight and looking at the camera. Make sure the camera angle is NOT looking down on you, however, as this will lessen your authority and impact.

When looking at the camera, ensure that your eye-line meets the height of the camera lens square on. Keep your head and chin at a neutral level, as this will help your posture and keep your throat (vocals) open and shoulders balanced and relaxed.

Keep your head relatively still and relaxed. In fact, it is important to slow down all your movements on screen and make them really specific.

Any movement you perform in a close frame will be exaggerated by the camera (it’s a technical thing). Some presenters have a distracting habit of bobbing their heads about in the frame, which can make it hard for the viewer to keep eye contact with you. Also, excessive movement can upstage your delivery and dilute the impact of your key messages.

To help with this keep your head relatively still and relaxed – it will help enhance your screen presence. In fact, it is important to slow down all your movements on screen (so the camera can track them effectively i.e. they don’t blur on screen). Plus ensure that you keep your gestures “specific” to highlight your key points and avoid any unnecessary/random movement.  Remember stillness not stiffness commands attention on-screen.

Remember stillness not stiffness commands attention
on-screen. 

Practice “Eye Yoga”

Warm up your eyes by doing some gentle “eye yoga exercises” before you start recording. Alternate blinking forcefully, with opening your eyes as wide as you can several times. Then, when the camera is ready to roll, relax your eyes and think “soft smiling eyes” as you commence your delivery.

Remember – to have fun in front of the camera. It will help keep your presenting style natural and tension free.

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Founder of STEBIAN.com Video presentation coaching. Bianca offers a personalized virtual consulting service for rising stars and emerging leaders who want to deliver effective online video presentations.

Posted in Look Good Online with Video by / July 27th, 2011 / 2 Comments »

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow Bianca, I started the day not knowing who you are, but now it is clear you are a pro to follow. Thank you for bringing the value and not the fluff. Got a question…when do you determine…up close or drop back to show more body language? I can get quit animated at times.

    • Hi Ted. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your feedback and question. The use of a close-up is used to either add dramatic tension or highlight a point or reaction made by the subject (i.e. you). This post might help: http://stebian.com/2011/03/video-presentations-how-to-frame-yourself-for-your-online-videos/. With movement on camera be aware that excessive body movement, or moving around while speaking reduces the impact of your message on screen. You will note that really good screen actors, TV presenters etc very rarely move – or only use a gesture for dramatic highlight per scene or per point . There are also technical reasons for that, i.e. continuity. But if you need to walk and talk while presenting – move first then speak (movement attracts the eye – it’s in our genes). Then if you want to highlight a key point in your delivery, stop-dead in your tracks and speak. But remember to keep all movements slow and deliberate (so the camera can track you). This post might also help too: http://stebian.com/2011/07/video-presentation-tip-video-is-intimate-stage-is-not/ – please feel free to ask more questions too 🙂