Do you Present Like an “Old School” Dinosaur on Video?

I cringe when I see the “old school” stage presenters using public speaking techniques in their video presentations. It just doesn’t come across well on screen!

It is similar to the difference between Broadway-style theater acting vs. Hollywood-style screen acting.

Theater actors need to project their voices very loudly so the people at the back of the theater can hear. They use exaggerated facial expressions (sometimes called “eyebrow acting”), and expansive body movements so everyone in the audience can see what they are doing.

Stage Presenting vs. Video Presenting

I’ve seen many stage presenters use similar techniques to theater actors.  Some speak in exaggerated tones. Some use big hand gestures, with lots of finger pointing and arm waving. They pause for effect and exaggerate their facial expressions. I call this “old school” presenting. It’s the style of presenting and public speaking that you learn at Toastmasters and the like (I’ve done this myself). You often see this “old school” style of presenting with preachers, politicians, and motivational speakers. Don’t get me wrong, this style of presenting is great for speaking to a live audience.

Video is Intimate – Stage is not

Presenting on stage is like a surgeon operating with a scalpel.  However, presenting on video is like a surgeon operating with a Laser. Video is intimate, stage is not.

Unfortunately, what works well on stage does not come across well on video, because the video camera sees things differently than the human eye. Within the confines of the camera frame, everything on-screen appears magnified. Big broad gestures, body movements, and facial expressions can come across as “artificial” or inauthentic on video.

Be warned that if you incorporate theatrical gestures or expressions into your video presentations when framed in a medium or close-up shot, it can appear contrived or overdone and your viewer will see right through it. Perhaps, if you are being filmed in a full-length shot, then you may be able to get away with some of the “old-school” dinosaur techniques – but generally, you won’t – so don’t!

Unfortunately, what works well on stage, does not translate well within the confines of the video frame

Avoid the Old School Dinosaur Affect! Some Tough-love

  • Being shouted at by someone in a video presentation can be downright unsettling. As in real life, most people don’t like being shouted out, and most won’t stick around to hear what you have to say. Avoid being the “one note” pony with your emotional tone. Instead, speak as if your viewer is standing 4 feet away from you, and let the microphone do its job
  • As in real life, most people don’t like having fingers pointed at them either. It’s an aggressive gesture and can often escalate tension, so don’t do it on camera! Not only can it be off-putting, but it is also visually distracting, and can dilute the impact of your message. Plus trigger your viewers mirror neurons (in a negative way)
  • Big hand movements generally do not fit within the boundaries of the camera frame.  It can be distracting to your viewer to have hands appear out of nowhere on the screen. Keep them visible or out of the frame and only use specific gestures to highlight a point. Avoid flapping your arms and hands about. If you want to use hand gestures, learn how to cheat them correctly to camera
  • Long pauses slow the pace of your video down. Pauses work well with stage presenting because they draw people in. However, video viewers want their information delivered in fast succinct chunks. Speaking too slowly or in a labored way on video can feel like an eternity for the viewer (just like a slow loading website). In this fast-paced, attention deficit society most viewers simply won’t stick around
  • “Eyebrow acting” or exaggerated facial expressions on screen just look plain ridiculous! You need to “pull the viewer in” with your presence.  That means being very present, quietly alert, focused, and still (not stiff) on camera.

The Camera Represents Your Viewer

Remember, the viewer of your video presentations is only an arm’s length away from you on their viewing device.  This is an intimate distance, and very different compared to if you were presenting to a live audience. Under the scrutiny of the camera lens, your viewer can detect every little facial nuance, twitch or eye glint. Their “BS” detectors will be more finely tuned.

Remember, the viewer of your video presentation is only an arm’s length away from you on their viewing device

Good screen presenters keep their energy levels up, but they know that presenting on video is very different from stage presenting. They imagine they are having a conversation with their target audience viewer one on one. They imagine that the video camera is their best friend, and make warm friendly eye contact with the camera. They convey their emotions with subtle gestures and facial expressions. They keep hand movements small and within the boundaries of the camera frame. 

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