How to Find Your Camera-Ready Face

Audiences make snap judgments about anyone on camera. Viewers immediately assume someone is hostile if he or she looks slightly annoyed. A confused look can come across as dopey. A blank face looks snooty or boring. That’s because video amplifies every facial expression—and often viewers don’t stick around to find out if their first impression was wrong. They’ve already changed the channel.

No one wants to spend time with someone who seems pissed off, stupid, or holier-than-thou. So before you get ready to appear on CNN, film a segment for your YouTube channel, or just fire up Skype for a conference call, consider how you arrange your face. I know it sounds weird but look in the mirror and find what I like to call your “benign smile.”

BENIGN SMILE: a pleasant expression that conveys a reasonable sensibility rather than happiness.

Relax your face and smile ever so slightly, just enough to let the audience know you are someone it wants to spend some time with. The goal isn’t took come across as happy or excited (although that may be appropriate at other times) but to come across as reasonable and pleasant. Worth watching.

My default on-camera expression used to be a furrowed brow and look of intense worry—I used to appear perpetually concerned when I was interviewed. You may not even know you are making a bizarre on-camera face. But trust me, you’ll soon be able to summon your “benign smile” whether the topic is accounting, radish recipes, or curly hair care.

And here’s another trick for your next audio presentation. Try smiling slightly when you’re on a conference call, radio show, or being interviewed for a podcast—your voice will convey your pleasant expression and keep the audience tuned in for longer. Just listen to my colleague, the master of public radio Brian Lehrer to hear what I mean. That man always sounds like he is enjoying himself…an enticement to every listener.

Turn on the TV or YouTube. Find someone you think is really great on camera. Now watch her with the sound turned off. Notice her facial expression, where her hands are, how she is standing, what her face looks like when she’s NOT talking. Then with the sound ON, close your eyes and just listen. How does she pace her sentences? What’s her voice like? Does she vary her tone?

Manoush Zomorodi is the host of WNYC’s New Tech City and the author of Camera Ready: How to Present Yourself and Ideas On Air or Online. Download the show on iTunes, get the book on Amazon or iBooks, and follow her on Twitter @manoushz. She also blogs at manoushz.com/blog and for The Huffington Post. This post first appeared in Personal Branding Blog.

Posted in content marketing, media tips, media training, On-Camera Tips, video ideas, webcasts
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Live Interactive Video Workshops: Spreecast Gets Camera Ready

I’ll be holding a limited number of free on-camera workshops on the live video platform Spreecast, starting on Wednesday.

Each week an entrepreneur, reporter, or non-profit person will join me to watch his/her videos and get constructive tips for upgrading their on-camera appearance, presentation, and content.

Be an early adopter, have some fun, and learn how to make video that educates, explains, and entertains: join me on my Spreecast channel.

Maybe you’ve appeared in a company YouTube video, presented a webcast, or been interviewed by a local news crew. It’s not as easy as it looks, right?

Your colleagues and family don’t have the expertise to troubleshoot your video content. But I do. My workshops will be based on the curriculum and methodology that’s laid out in my multimedia ebook Camera Ready (Amazon’s Top 100 Journalism ebooks).

Why I Chose Spreecast

I’ve wanted to hold interactive workshops like this for a long time and now the technology is here. TechCrunch sums it up well:

“Up to 4 people at a time can be face-to-face, streaming their conversation live while hundreds of others can watch, chat, and participate by submitting comments and questions to those on-screen.” 

Other Features:

  • Anyone can come on-camera BUT they have to get by the Spreecast producer first—so make sure you have pants on and have something interesting to add to the conversation.
  • You can play and show external media (like YouTube or Vimeo videos, Instagram pics, and tweets) during a broadcast.
  • It’s “clippable.” Huffington Post Live contributes thousands of videos a week to its mother site The Huffington Post, by editing their hours of live streaming video into short, snappy, shareable clips.
  • It’s platform agnostic. In other words, you don’t have to be a Google+ member to join and you can chat with Facebook, Twitter, etc on the side of every Spreecast.

It’s not perfect- you can’t watch Spreecast on your iPad or other mobile devices yet. But they say the apps are coming.

Hope to see you there. Any questions about how this is all going to work? Tweet me @manoushz. 

Posted in conferences, entrepreneur, Interviewing, media tips, media training, non-profits, On-Camera Tips, social media, tech, video ideas, webcasts
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The Trick to TelePrompter

Watching politicians, with their fancy 2 screen invisible TelePrompter and professional operators, can make you wonder if you should get scrolling for your next on-camera appearance. (Read this New Yorker piece about the people behind politicians’ prompters.)

The cheap and easy way is to download a free program  (cueprompter or freeprompter) onto your laptop or tablet. Then prop up your laptop right under the camera lens.  You can get someone to run the prompter for you or do it yourself. It does take practice to run prompter and not look as though you are reading.

The trick is how you write your script. Write exactly like how you talk. Take that press release or blog post and turn it into conversational language. Dictate it if you have to.

Watch this video to see how to run and read prompter without looking like you are watching a tennis match. Below is the transcript. And as always check out Camera Ready for the full manifesto on making great video and follow me on Twitter @manoushz.


Teleprompter is such a weird video tool- in a professional studio the prompter is attached to the camera and projects your words right over the lens.

But you can also download free prompter software that lets you use your laptop as a prompter- just make sure you prop it up as close to the lens as possible.

With prompter, you can write out exactly what you want to say which is great. You don’t have to memorize or improvise. BUT it’s important to write your script exactly how you talk otherwise it will easily sound like you are just reading a press release or an article.

A lot of people worry they will look like they are reading, that their eyes will move back and forth.  Well, I’m reading teleprompter right now- and I don’t have any special trick for stopping my eyes from moving side to side. Don’t worry about the eyeline-whoever is running the teleprompter should just keep the sentence you are reading at the top of the screen and they should follow YOUR speed, you shouldn’t follow them.  Because you wanna mix it up- go slow in certain sections to really drive a point home, speed it up when you want to keep momentum going. If you are running your own prompter, it’s a little like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time- just practice a bit.

DON’T space out when you are using teleprompter.  Keep thinking about what you are saying and say it as though it just popped out of your head.

And one last thing- some people think they need prompter, when they would be just fine with a few notes and a bit of rehearsal.  Really.

Posted in conferences, media, media tips, media training, On-Camera Tips, reporting work, webcasts
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Stop With the Excuses And Steal These Video Ideas

“It’s too expensive,” or “It’s takes too much time!” These are the reasons I usually get from people as to why they haven’t made a video about their business. And I agree—producing a video never goes as quickly as writing a blog post or a tweet. For some, just uploading a video will require a whole new set of skills.

But with high investment comes great reward. A video will set you apart from your competitors not just because you are better but because the audience will feel they know you. And when they know you, they’ll like you, right? As long as you take the following steps:

1. Use a good microphone. Even more important than good quality video is good quality audio. If the viewer can’t understand what you are saying ,they certainly aren’t going to stick around to watch. Amateur video can be forgiven, amateur sound can’t.

2. Explain something. Give the viewer a reason to watch your video, whether it’s instructive, gives an “insider look”, or is just funny. Don’t just make video so you can say you make video.

3. Go for quality. One well-written and produced video will go much farther than 10 lame ones. Some people disagree with my quality over quantity stance but with the masses of content out there, I think quality is the only way to cut through and catch a potential client’s eye.

So here are some ideas for small business videos…

The Wedding Florist: hire a small production crew for a half-day to come to your workspace. With some pre-production planning, 5 simple videos could be filmed to demonstrate how you create 5 different kinds of bouquets. Don’t worry about people stealing your techniques…by establishing yourself as an expert AND accessible, your brand will grow.

The Local Restaurant: show how kid-friendly you are by interviewing a cross-section of young patrons about their favorite meal on the menu. Just be sure to ask them, “What do you like to eat here and why is it so yummy?” not, “Do you like the food here?” so you don’t get “yes” or “no” (God forbid) for an answer. Edit them together and you’ve got adorable video gold.

The Web Designer: get a friend to interview you about your influences and the aesthetics you feel set your website designs apart from other designers. Over the edited interview, lay in screen-shots of the sites you’ve designed to show potential clients just what you mean and are capable of.

Every video is about telling your story with pictures. So remember to let the visuals do the talking when you can.

For a ridiculous number of other video ideas that you can steal, check out my eBook Camera Ready.

My post about video ideas first appeared on Personal Branding Blog.

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How to Prepare Before an On-Camera Interview…or Any Video Appearance

At the BBC reporters were always told to try and come across as a “trusted friend.” Some were more successful at this than others. Tone is tricky to master but whether you are a CEO apologizing for leaving passengers stranded on the runway or a stylist demonstrating how to bling out shoes, always aim to come across as instructive, quotable, and likable. But speaking concisely while exuding warmth takes preparation.

I’m a firm believer in planning out your time on camera by writing out a plan that includes conversationally written phrases. Just firing up the webcam with a press release you highlighted five minutes earlier is asking for trouble.


What is your “top line,” the reason you are on camera in the first place? Why should we be listening to you? Before the camera switches on, take ten minutes to mix a bit of marketing and psychology with some basic journalism and create several finely tuned phrases that can be visited over and over again.

This is my basic outline:

1. Write out a full top sentence that sums up why you are there.

2. Write out three simple phrases that back up or demonstrate your topic or position.

3. Write out a final thought that kicks the conversation forward.

An outline like this can be written by PR folks as talking points to prep execs on a vetted message or casually by anyone for any topic, whether you are talking about parakeet care or a change in interest rates. I like to write out the first sentence in full, just in case things get crazy and hectic before the camera goes on. Once I’ve got that full thought out of my mouth I can relax, expand with my three points, and then keep the audience wanting more by talking about what’s to come.

Manoush, you might say, I have more points to make than just this! Or, this interview is going to be twenty minutes long and one top line just isn’t enough! To which I reply:

  • Use the top line method to expand on each of your points or keep going, creating as many top lines as you need. In my experience, the top line is the heart of your appearance. You might travel down various veins and arteries, going off on tangents for details or to make a supporting point, but all ideas flow back to the heart. This will ensure your audience walks away with a message they can remember.
  • If you are going to be interviewed for twenty minutes, how is the interview going to be used? Will it run in its entirety or be edited for soundbites? Your interviewer might ask you the same question over and over again trying to get you to come up with a certain duration, tone, or clarity. Ask what he’s looking for. If it is going to be a long unedited interview, prepare as many top lines as you need.

To find out how to deal with your nerves when you actually go on air just watch the “How to Go Live” clip on my video page. For all my video tip and techniques, check out my eBook Camera Ready and follow me on Twitter @manoushz.

Posted in BBC, Interviewing, media tips, media training, On-Camera Tips, Popular, reporting work, webcasts
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Quick Tip #10: Make Video with Value

Just because you can turn on a video camera, doesn’t mean you should!
As part of the Top Ten Reasons Why People Stink On Camera, here is Reason #10: people make video that serves no purpose.

Here’s how you can make videos that educate and enlighten…

Posted in media tips, On-Camera Tips, Popular, social media, Uncategorized, video ideas
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Women: What to Wear On Camera

OK ladies, if you are going on camera hopefully you have the enthusiasm…but not the grotesque looks of my alter-ego.


Here are some basic rules for looking FAB on screen, whether it’s MSNBC, a Skype chat, or a company YouTube video:

1. Avoid excess froufrou like scarves, ruffles, and overly exuberant necklaces (simple thin or thick chains work best)…and please remember to cut the tag off, unlike my friend seen above.

2. A deep V-neck or scoop-neck blouse looks good on everyone. Most people (despite Michelle Obama’s example) should wear sleeves. Too much skin can make you look fleshy or scrawny.

3. Choose rich, sophisticated colors like royal purple, emerald green, or deep berry. Even ivory can work. Katie Couric wore a bright white jacket for her first CBS Evening News broadcast. I would have gone for a softer white.

4. If you want to be taken seriously, wear a jacket. Sadly, this is just the way it goes. But if you can show a bit more personality, try a blouse or sweater. Structured dresses (rather than slinky polyester, which reveals every bump) also look professional and cover flaws. I love the fancy blue dress my friend Katty Kay, of the BBC, wore on The Colbert Report.

5. Always wear earrings but skip the long dangly ones unless you are in a creative industry. A little glint of silver or gold brightens up every face.


6. If you are going to be doing a lot of on-camera stuff, think about
cultivating YOUR look. A uniform style not only makes things easier
for you on a daily basis but also brands you. Bobbi Brown usually wears a black blazer and hoop earrings with little charms on them.
Vera Wang always has her perfect curtain of smooth black hair. A signature look makes you instantly recognizable.


The Bottom Line:  When in doubt, play it safe (just with your clothes, not your life!). You can wear the simplest outfit and still look chic.

Anybody out there have a signature look they’d like to share?!

Posted in Books, On-Camera Tips, Popular
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Men: What You Should Wear On Camera


Here are some rules and tips to keep you looking awesome on air or online…and stop the audience from being distracted by your outfit!


  • A well-cut (NOT baggy) suit and consider pairing it with a bold orange or purple tie rather than the usual conservative red or blue (unless you are running for President).
  • Casual shirts can work but skip the colors white, gray, or light brown. A T-shirt is fine if you are a surfer or doing home repairs but go for a collared casual shirt if you are an entrepreneur or business owner.
  • If you are appearing on camera because you are a doctor, fireman, or some other recognized role, then wear the uniform. Play the part.


  • Green if you are in front of a “green screen.” Your body will be invisible.
  • The color of your backdrop.For example, if you are going to be a guest on Charlie Rose, don’t wear black. The black background will make you look like a floating head.
  • Sometimes red. A red that is too bright may look oversaturated and smudged on video.
  • Bright white shirts (unless you are wearing it under a jacket). It’s too risky. The white might glow, making you look like you descended from heaven. Unless that’s the look you’re going for.
  • Some patterns: You may need to reconsider a checked, thinly striped, or herringboned top or tie. Sometimes video can’t accurately  ”read” a pattern. Your clothes may look like they are vibrating, giving your audience a headache.


THE BOTTOM LINE: I know several TV reporters who only wear ill-fitting ensembles composed of grays and mud browns. Snooze fest. If you want to come across as dynamic, look dynamic.  Wear clothes that fit you well and add a bit of color so you pop off the screen!

And speaking of men looking great on camera, I’d like to thank Newsday columnist and Fox News analyst, Ellis Henican, for writing a lovely blurb about my new multimedia enhanced eBook, Camera Ready (coming out June 12!):

“I’ve been talking on camera for a 15 years now. This is a little embarrassing to admit, but Camera Ready is jam-packed with valuable stuff I’d forgotten, ignored or never thought about. Whether you’re new to this or like me have been prattling on for years, you’ll learn plenty from Manoush.”   -Ellis Henican

And if you can’t get enough of Mad Men, just tune into Fox News for a glance of Ellis, right??!

Posted in fancy friends, media training, On-Camera Tips, Popular, video ideas
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The Most Common Question I Get: What Should I Do With My Hands??

Every single person I media train for on-camera presentation asks me the question: “What should I do with my hands?”
And before I can answer, they say, “Keep them folded in front of me, right?” Where oh where did this instruction come from? Being a robot on camera is the best way to get your viewer to stop watching.  Watch why.


Posted in media tips, On-Camera Tips, Uncategorized, video ideas
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Being Your “Best Self” On Camera

When you are making a video for your website or creating a YouTube channel for your company, always aim for a conversational and personable tone. Many of my clients are sorry to hear that even just being yourself on camera requires rehearsing. That’s because just being you probably isn’t enough to reach through the lens and grab the audience. As Oprah says, you need to be your “best self.”  I would argue you need to be yourself but BIGGER. My very unscientific work shows that 95 percent of people who first go on camera are too mellow. In person they are engaging members of society, but on video they come across as boring, dull, and oops, I just turned them off. The other 5 percent are such energetic nutcases that they come across great on camera, or maybe slightly manic and need to turn down the volume. Watch Gary Vaynerchuk Wine Library TV or CNN’s Richard Quest to see what I mean.

You probably know whether you tend to be more reserved or extroverted but surprises always happen when the camera turns on. One mild-mannered student of mine morphed into the Muppet, Guy Smiley. He had watched so much bad local television news that he automatically assumed a plastic persona on camera. With some practice, we turned him into a camera-friendly version of himself.

Watch this video to find out who the Camera Ready experts think are awesome on camera in the fields of broadcast journalism, entrepreneurship, e-retail, and non-profits. Who do you think comes across really well on camera?

Who to Watch for On-Camera Inspiration

Posted in former students, media tips, media training, Popular, Uncategorized, video ideas, webcasts
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