Aug 17, 2012

Dear Gracie: Tips for How to Appear on Camera

Dear Gracie,

I’m doing my first TV appearance as an expert on a news show, and I’m a bit nervous. Any tips, advice?

Panicked Presenter

******

Dear Panicked Presenter,

Here is the advice from six communication experts found within the ProfNet Connect community:

Preparation

“Practice, practice, practice, and then practice again,” says Rachel Weingarten, personal brand and style expert, and author of “Career and Corporate Cool” and “Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America, ’40s-’60s.”

Try practicing out loud, in advance, says Karen Friedman, a former TV news reporter who now heads Karen Friedman Enterprises, which teaches people how to become powerful communicators. “Saying your words out loud will help you internalize your message and practice delivery. It will also help you recall key words and thoughts when you’re actually on.”

“Make up a list of your best stories, anecdotes and selling points ahead of time,” continues Weingarten. “Don’t try to offer up a completed list to your interviewer, but rather be comfortable enough with the details so that you don’t fumble on the presentation.”

Also, do your homework, says Weingarten. Study up on the show you’ll be appearing on. Consider questions like: What colors are the set? Will the video shooting occur indoors or outdoors? How much time will be given to speak? How close or far is the camera? Considering questions like these will give you a better idea of how you’ll look on film, says Weingarten.

Appearance

It’s important to wear the right clothing, says Robb Leer, founder and president of Leer Communications, a media and communication consulting company. “Wear something comfortable and well-fitting, and dress conservative — not crazy.”

“The most important thing is to hold onto your own personal style,” says Weingarten. If you dress for the hosts or the camera exclusively, you will likely be uncomfortable the entire time and end up so focused on your clothes that you will lose track of what’s being asked of you, she says.

Keep it simple and professional looking, echoes Susan Tellem, partner in Tellem Worldwide; a public relations, social media and marketing communications firm. “Don’t wear white or black, more than one pattern, small checks, large print, herringbone, stripes polka dots or loud colors. Instead, wear safe colors like dark blues, grays, earth tones or pastels, or wear colors that look good on you and blend well with the set.”

“Dark colors absorb light, so they tend to look better on camera,” explains fashion designer and personal stylist Kesi Case.

Tellem also recommends avoiding low-cut dresses or shirts, too much jewelry and seasonal clothing. She also advises that if you normally wear glasses, you should wear them for the interview. And bring an extra shirt or blouse, she adds, in case of spills or sweat.

“If you wear makeup, wear more than usual and have the makeup department at the studio do a touchup. Even if you don’t normally wear makeup, visit the makeup department anyway, as you will always look better on TV with it on,” Tellem says. “And men should get their bald heads or sweaty foreheads powdered,” she adds.

Also, do a complete run-through of your entire look, from head to toe, ahead of time, says Weingarten. “Make sure your hair doesn’t look like a helmet, your makeup doesn’t run, and your clothing fits you well and comfortably.”

Posture

“Keep an open body posture,” says Robin H-C, behavior specialist and life coach, and author of “Thinking Your Way to Happy!” “There is a natural propensity to cross the arms and legs and protect the torso when nervous or under stress.”

If your movements are open, then you’ll appear approachable, says Friedman. “Using hand movements and gestures when you speak makes you more animated and interested to look at,” she says. “But on TV, keep your hands out of the box — meaning, keep them away from your shoulders up.”

If you’re sitting, then sit up straight, advises Leer. Don’t slump at the shoulders, leaning slightly forward. “Sit on the front edge of a straight-back chair, not a chair that swivels,” he instructs.

“Body language conveys you’re in control of the conversation, so relax,” adds Leer. “Or at least try.”

Eye Contact

If there is no interviewer: “Keep steady eye contact, as if the person you are speaking to is standing right in front of you,” says Friedman. “Think of the camera or your audience as one person and speak to that one person, not to the masses,” she continues. “If there is a loud noise and you glance off to the side, people at home in front of their TV sets don’t know something happened in the studio. All they see is someone who looks distracted or unfocused.”

If there is an interviewer: “You’re never wrong to look at the interviewer and not the camera,” says Leer.

Delivery

“Pretend that the person in the back of the room or on the other side of the camera can’t hear you very well,” says Friedman. A microphone doesn’t substitute energy, she says. “When you speak just a tad louder, you will sound more engaging.”

But keep your tone and delivery conversational, says Leer. Use clarity and sincerity to convey conviction, he says. Don’t get louder and louder.

Mentality

“The camera picks up your nerves, so the more confident you are, the better you will come across,” says Case.

“Get out of your head!” says H-C. “Focus on the conversation with the host and do your best to silence the internal voice that is evaluating your appearance. Saying, ‘I hope I don’t mess this up’ is setting your brain up to do exactly that. Try an affirmation: ‘I am relaxed, informative and articulate during all media interviews,’” says H-C.

Also, remember to breathe, H-C continues. “When you’re nervous and adrenaline kicks in, it can shut down the frontal lobe of the brain, our problem-solving area. Trust me — you do not want to be interviewed without access to the frontal lobe.”

Extra Tips:

“The camera is always on, so don’t pick your teeth or comb your hair. Those images could later haunt you,” says Leer.

If all else fails, says Weingarten, self-deprecation works. “People don’t expect you to be as polished as the cast or crew of the show, so if you feel as though the interview or appearance has gotten away from you, stop stammering and feel free to make a joke about the fact that you’re not Angelina Jolie, but need a minute or two to collect your thoughts.”

“Though you want to look great and sound brilliant, at the end of the day, you are on TV to share a message,” continues Weingarten. “Remind yourself of this prior to all interviews. It’s not about you, rather, you are the medium for an important message.”

And most importantly, have fun! “Don’t take it too seriously and congratulate yourself for being brave. Many people would not even consider doing a live appearance,” says H-C.

Good luck!

Gracie

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Dear Gracie is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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