Updated: Aug 22, 2022
We live in the age of video where everyone, and every executive, is expected to be a TV star as well as a business leader. But, not every XVP or CXO is as good at being on TV as they are at running a business so how can you, dear marketing communicator, help them to shine on camera? Here’s five quick tips:
1.Don’t Make Them Talk To Camera
Staring into a lens is scary, its unblinking gaze can feel threatening, like talking to HAL in A Space Odyssey. It takes TV presenters years to learn to look so relaxed talking to an unresponsive glass disc without looking shifty. Instead, try interviewing your exec and recording their responses to the conversation. It’s far easier to talk to another person than a camera, just don’t forget to get them to encapsulate the question in their answer so you don’t have to write the questions on the screen (have you ever seen the Beeb do that?), for example if you ask their name, ensure they respond, “My name is…” and not just, “John”.
2. Do Consider Using A Presenter/Interviewer
It can be tough for one person to carry an entire video, so why not pair your exec up with an on-screen presenter who will bring their energy and charisma to the frame taking the pressure of your exec whilst lifting their game? They don’t have to be seated in a ‘fireside chat’ either, they can walk-and-talk together or share a coffee at a local cafe. Video is visual so think about how you can fill the frame with movement and life, not just the beige wall of your conference room. Sound is not an issue as long as the viewer can see where it's coming from.
3. Do Use Cutaways
Very few people can claim the accolade 'one take wonder' and most scenes you witness on TV are an amalgamation of multiple takes, but how do they make it looks so seamless? The answer is cutaways, sometimes also referred to as B-roll or GV’s (General Views). Essentially these are shots of anything other than the subject's face, which you can use to cover cuts or stumbles in their conversation. Typical shots will include gesticulating hands, backs-of-heads (so you can't see their mouth), illustrative stock footage and, my personal favourite, interviewer noddies, which are shots of the interviewer nodding in multiple different ways to show interest, concern, mirth and agreement that you can drop in at any point to cover a cut whilst making your exec look funnier or more interesting than they might actually be ;-)
4. Don’t Make Them Read Cue Cards A.K.A. Idiot Cards
This is not so much a suggestion as an unbreakable law; no matter how much your exec begs you do not, I repeat DO NOT let them use cue cards placed above, below or beside the camera - they will look shifty and sound stilted reading them. No one has EVER looked good doing this. Just watch the performers on SNL as their eyes wander shiftily away from camera to glance at their scripts, which are often written on the day. They get away with it because it’s part of the humour and aesthetic of the show, but you won’t. Your exec is big enough, ugly enough, and paid highly enough to know about their business and if they need help then give the interviewer some bullet points that they can use to coax the desired answers out of your exec. If you insist on using a script then invest in media training and an autocue because 'idiot cards' don’t work!
5. Do Consider Using A Voiceover Instead
Finally, if your exec is really, REALLY uncomfortable speaking on camera then don’t force them. Shoot them going about their day, being very important and productive, hosting meetings, giving speeches, inspecting products, shaking hands and then use a professional voiceover artist to describe what he or she is up to and what that means for the business.
As a marketing and communications professional your job is not simply to get the message out but to get it out in a professional and engaging way. If you are not fortunate enough to work with an exec who can do that then these are are a few of the ways to get around the issue without excluding or undermining them.
If you want to learn more about video why not join me in Hong Kong on 15 & 16 April or Singapore on 6 & 7 May for a two-day workshop on Video Content Strategy & Production where I’ll cover everything from strategy to storytelling to production and editing so that you can create your own professional quality videos in-house? Click on the links below to find out more: