Just as actors and speakers use the physical stage, virtual presenters, panel moderators, and panelists should use the “camera stage” to spark interest and variety while on screen.
Unfortunately, many adopt a restrained “newscaster style” approach to the camera: their headshot is front and center, looking directly at the camera and never moving. And while this isn’t “bad,” it can be rather tiresome.
Camera Frame. The traditional “frame” is sitting down with your face in the center of the screen, the camera at eye level, and “one hand” distance between the top of your head and the frame. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Try standing up, showing more than just your face!
Position. In addition to centering yourself on the screen, stand or sit to the right or left of the screen. When performed live, you can put a monitor beside you and show slides, pop up a virtual background that accommodates where your head will be, or when recorded, insert a graphic beside you.
Movement. While an actor can move about the stage, your movement is limited to within the camera view. You can move closer to the camera when making an important point or sharing a secret with the audience. If you want to move around, place markers (I use tape) on the floor in front of the camera so that you know exactly where to stop before you go out of frame.
Gestures. On stage, gestures are much bigger and broader. After all, you have a whole stage to work with! On camera, your gestures are confined to the camera view, so they are smaller and more nuanced. So you want to be a tad bit more animated than normal while still being genuine, enthusiastic, and passionate as the topic matter permits. It’s perfectly okay to smile, nod, or use your hands to create interest. Something as simple as holding up your fingers to note which point you are making goes a long way!
Hands Up! Chris Savage warns that you should “never put your hands behind your back or in your pockets. Hiding your hands makes viewers subconsciously think of you as untrustworthy. It also makes [gesturing] difficult.”
Nervous Tics. The camera will pick up facial gestures that you wouldn’t normally notice in a F2F performance. Watch a few of your practice recordings to see if you scrunch or wiggle your eyebrows, wring your hands, crack your knuckles, tap your foot, shift back and forth, sway side to side, blink excessively, swallow hard, clear your throat or utter the proverbial vocalized pauses such as “um,” “uh,” or “like” too often. Laci Texter suggests that you “Periodically check in with your body language to see if you are tensing up. Some subconscious signs include crossing your arms, bouncing your leg, gritting your teeth, or forcing a smile.”
Visuals. I’m a big fan of using props on stage and on camera. Rather than simply talking about it, why not show it? Just make sure you practice how to hold it up to the camera or share your screen!
Next time you present in front of a camera, don’t limit yourself to the traditional camera frame when there are so many things you can do!