Smile, You’re On Camera!

July 5, 2013

In my blog post last week I shared with you some great new tips I picked up on public speaking in one of the more stellar sessions at the Netroots Nation conference in San Jose. This week I want to pass on some good pointers from a media interview coach who trains people who are “under fire” when they are on the air – the Congresspeople who have to go on national TV and defend their decisions sitting across the table from tough hosts to hostile opponents from the opposite party. Think CNN Crossfire prep and you’ll get the idea of how lively this NN13 session was!

Joel Silberman delivered the goods in his Presence and Authenticity: The Key to Being a Media Star training session. Here are some of the best tips I picked up from this fast-paced training. Note that these are all aimed at people who will be on TV and with a camera that will be up close framing them from just above the top of their head to halfway down their torso. If you are sitting at your desk reading this, think everything one can see from the desk up.

  • Look just above the centerline of the camera lens.
  • The closer the camera is to your face the less you can move.  Movement of your face will make you look shifty. If you turn away to think of a response, “you look stupid” (Silberman’s words, not mine). Every answer you have is on the camera – don’t look away.
  • Keep your hands on the table in front of you, so they don’t show up in the camera. He suggests placing your hands on the table, palms down, rather than clasping each other. The more you move the smaller you look. Hold still and your presence will be larger. The camera wants you to be still.
  • Look at the interviewer’s eye that is closest to the camera. Your eyes want to focus on a single point. If you look at both of their eyes, your own eyes will shift back and forth between them.
  • Aim for a soundbite that is about 9 seconds in length. This can be captured in a single clip and replayed.
  • Give yourself opportunities to smile in interviews to connect with people. What if you are talking about something grim?  Smile in telling the story before the tragedy, when you or they were full of hope. Then move to the grim stuff.
  • Use humor to get out of any confrontational situation. You’ll provide relief to the growing tension and the audience will love you for it.
  • Breathe.

Silberman wrapped the session with three words that captured it all:  Smiling, Simplicity and Stillness. Hope you can capture some of that off-camera as well as on!


–  Liz Banse