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.
Also, you need to constantly remind yourself to “soften” your gaze, look with intent into the center of the camera lens (as if you are expecting an answer). Remember to blink naturally – it helps with softening and relaxing the eyes.
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.
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 on-screen 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.
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.
Yoga for the eyes
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.
Have a burning question? Want me to cover a topic? Reach out to me here.
Or perhaps you are stuck and need a little guidance? Let me know worries here.
Otherwise, keep creating and keep it fun!
Cheering you with your video creations!