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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How to Write for Video: The Checklist for Your Script

Writing your script in a conversational style is key to coming across as relaxed and accessible on camera. It also makes comprehension easier and faster for your viewer, who is probably multitasking.

So take your press release or blog post and translate it into informal and intimate language. Write exactly as if you are speaking aloud.

Engage your audience with sentences that are: 

  1. In the present tense, even if you are recalling a past event. Tap your inner Ken Burns and set the scene vividly.
  2. Active, with minimal use of passive verb structure.
  3. Concise. Break up long sentences with but, so, or and. Keep up the energy by avoiding dependent clauses.
  4. Free of clichés. Phrases like “hanging in the balance” or “only time will tell” don’t describe what is happening.
  5. Linking. Guide your listener by repeating the noun from the previous sentence: “The members signed the treaty. But that treaty failed for several reasons…”
  6. Guided by the video. If you have amazing footage, write minimally to the pictures and let them speak for you.
  7. Friendly. Instead of “What can be learned?” try, “What can we learn?” Include yourself and your audience in your script.

If in doubt, dictate your script and always read it aloud first, to make sure it sounds like a human not a PR robot.

The other night I watched an episode of How It’s Made with my firetruck-crazy 5 year-old. The narrator’s script is painful. Listen to hear how many of her sentences don’t follow the rules of good video writing.

Now here’s an example of a script I wrote to show how to use teleprompter…without looking like you are using teleprompter.

Remember, you’ll always win over the audience by telling a story, rather than delivering a lecture.

For more on how to rock on video, whether on-air or online, check out Camera Ready: my video manifesto was Kickstarter backed and now #23 on Amazon‘s Top Kindle Journalism ebooks…and follow me on Twitter @manoushz.

Posted in media tips, media training, reporting work, video ideas, webcasts
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Hair Rules for TV and Online Video

Photo courtesy of sophienettejc.thedeadone.net. She's got some crazy bad hair pics.

August is truly the cruelest month for hair. So it seems appropriate that we tackle the silly and superficial, but oddly crucial, issue of on-camera hair.

We all know that your appearance on camera, whether it’s for TV or online video, is vital to making a good quick impression on your viewer and building your personal brand.  Looking put together sets the tone, give you credibility, and lets your viewers focus on what you are saying, not just what you look like

So unless you are making a video about what your life when you’ve just rolled out of bed, your hair should not look that way. Ladies, there’s no need for an anchorwoman helmet of hair. And guys, you don’t need to aspire to John Edwards’ mop.

But you do need to battle your hair’s #1 on-camera enemy: FRIZZ.  (Unless you are bald, in which case, please scroll down)

Frizz makes you look harried and mentally frazzled.  It’s especially bad if you are filming in a bright studio, where every out-of-place strand will be in the spotlight. Fly-away hair can also ruin a green screen effect (when the background is inserted in post-production).

The bottom line is men and women should aim for smooth hair that has some shape.

Here’s how:

For short hair, hand lotion works great as a quick fix. Just rub a bit in your hands, then run your hands through your hair. Texturizing pomade is a bit stronger and can give very short or very thick hair some style, stopping it from just sticking straight up or out. Stay away from gel—it can look too slick and make you come across as untrustworthy. Also, if you have thinning hair, nix the comb-over. It will do you no favors.

Straight, smooth hair that hits somewhere between your chin and shoulders usually works best for women on camera. With a little volume on top, it will frame your face nicely.
While long hair is lovely, it does take extra time to tame and can look strange during a close-up, if the ends are out of the shot.I admit that I am a big fan of the salon “blow out”. I can never get it as straight and smooth as a professional stylist can. Here in New York, the blow out seems to have replaced the weekly shampoo-and-set of the fifties.  If you have a special on-camera event, it can be worth the expense.

If you are bald or nearly so, you’ll need to treat your head like you do your face and beware of shine! Come prepared to any video session with either translucent powder or blotting papers. Paper towels can also do the job. Press down, don’t rub, to remove oil and sweat.

Commit.  Either go all the way with the moustache or beard or don’t do it at all. I think that the stubble look, aka 5 o’clock shadow, only works for men under a certain age or in a certain industry. Think George Michael or the guy on Lost or David Beckham. You get the picture.

As always, let me know if I missed anything and please refer to my previous posts on makeup (for men too). While I usually prefer to address more substantial topics, superficial issues must be dealt with when it comes to video.

Btw, my post on hair first appeared on Personal Branding Blog.

Posted in media tips, media training, On-Camera Tips
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Tip #9 for Making Great Video: How to Translate Your Lingo

How you talk on-camera is different from how you write. It’s also different from how you talk to your colleagues at the office. At the office, you have your own internal lingo, right? Let’s say you are a web consultant—you and your co-workers throw around acronyms like SEO, ROI, & API like crazy. You talk about A/B testing, acquisition strategy, and click bots.

But if you are going on on-camera, whether as a TV guest or making your own video, you’ll need to leave the lingo at the office and translate those phrases into plain English.

I don’t mean you need to dumb down your information, just find a conversational way of explaining your topic.

For example, here’s a line from a press release:

“Companies that use properly optimized websites with carefully constructed sales funnels dramatically increase their revenue or broaden their exposure to potential customers.”

And here’s what you could say on-camera:

“How your website looks and works is key to attracting more visitors and then turning them into customers.”

Read both sentences aloud. No one talks like the first sentence but the second one could actually come out of a human being’s mouth. Maybe the second sentence doesn’t sound as fancy as the first but it’s comprehensible straight away. The jargon is gone. Getting rid of clichés and dense statistics while adding an anecdote are other ways of connecting with an audience quickly through on-camera langauge.

Concise and clean language is especially important for video because viewers consume it differently than text or audio: video viewers are watching AND listening…and probably eating their lunch or checking their calendar all at the same time. If they have to translate your jargon too, they probably aren’t going to take in much of what you are saying.

So when you go on-camera, don’t worry about impressing your colleagues—just think about connecting with your viewer. If your company is making a lot of video, you may want to take a list of commonly used “inside phrases” and translate them into “normal” language. If needed, you can get your legal department to approve the list. Then give that list to any of your colleagues who are being interviewed or making video.

I’m counting down the Top Ten ways to make great video. Check out #10: Video with Value.  Btw, this post first appeared in Dan Schawbel’s Personal Branding Blog.

For more tips and techniques, check out the ebook Camera Ready: How to Prepare Your Best Self & Ideas On Air and Online and follow her on Twitter @manoushz.

Posted in entrepreneur, media tips, On-Camera Tips, social media, start-up, video ideas, 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.

Posted in entrepreneur, media tips, social media, video ideas
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On-Camera Makeup: Natural & Unnoticeable

Here’s how to get a natural on-camera look that doesn’t scream TONS OF MAKEUP and lets your audience concentrate on what you are saying rather than what you look like.

Gents, feel free to check out my Just For Men post about looking good on-camera.

Ladies, unfortunately there is a double standard when it comes to appearance. You will be checked out far more carefully and judged far more harshly than any guy. But think of applying make-up as your pre-game warm up. It’s a chance to put on your game face before going on screen for that corporate video or webcast.

Tips for Neutral & Natural On-Camera Makeup:

1. The annoying but key first step.
I’m lazy and hate having to “touch up” my makeup halfway through an on-camera session. It took a melted face to convince me the only way to make makeup last is by starting with a moisturizing primer. Invest the time and money.

2. No blotches please!
Natural light is much more forgiving so if you are filming outside don’t use too heavy a hand with your makeup.
But if you are going to be inside and in front of lots of artificial light, you’ll need to be more thorough and take the time to cover every flaw.
Even out your skin tone with a bit of foundation and concealer. Dab a brightening cover-up under your eyes. Blend, blend, blend so those HD cameras don’t show any “paint” strokes.

3. Go for a well-rested and professional look.
Emphasize your eyes with brown and beige shadows and a bit of black liner. More dramatic eye-makeup is only okay if you are in the fashion industry or want an “edgy” look. Don’t forget a coat of mascara, cleaned up eyebrows, and a little blush on the apples of your cheeks to make you look lively.

4. Don’t blind your audience.
Keep glare away by using a translucent pressed powder on your forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin. Add a swipe of neutral lipstick or a light, not gooey, gloss.

5. The final touches.
Powder your neck and décolletage so it matches the color of your face. Remember to do a quick blot with a paper towel (or “blotting paper”) before the camera switches on.

I feel slightly ridiculous for writing such a superficial and vain post but as my BEFORE photo and AFTER photo demonstrate, looking good is vital to professional success.

And, let’s face it, looking good makes you feel better too. Four months after having my second kid, I did a video shoot with makeup legend Bobbi Brown. I felt gray with exhaustion. But I looked refreshed and, amazingly, awake thanks to her make-up application. More importantly, I felt confident and, in the end, that confidence translated into a better on-screen performance.

For not just the superficial stuff, but also how to organize your thoughts and tell any story on camera please check out Camera Ready and follow me on Twitter @manoush….and share what works for you on-camera.

You can also check out more at Personal Branding Blog where this post first appeared.

Posted in media tips, media training, On-Camera Tips, reporting work, webcasts
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How To Look Great On-Camera: Makeup for Men

Part of your brand is how you look in photos and present yourself in videos. You want people to listen to what you have to say, rather than comment on your shiny forehead, don’t you?

Here’s how to look consistently great in all your professional online pictures and on-screen appearances:

-Be instantly recognizable.
Keep your headshot the same across all platforms so people can find, follow, and subscribe to you quickly.

-Consider your signature look.
Like Anderson Cooper’s shock of white hair, a consistent appearance makes people feel like they know you. If you keep changing your hairstyle or glasses they may wonder if you’re having a midlife crisis!

-Keep it professional.
Even if you work in a casual field, a collared shirt looks like you mean business. A sloppy T-shirt can alienate clients over a certain age.

-Don’t skip the makeup.
Especially for videos shot in HD.
 Yes, we know real men don’t wear makeup. But nothing can ruin your image like dark eye circles or a glistening bald head

Appearing on camera? Here’s a look inside a (small, I promise) unisex makeup bag. Check out the products you should ALWAYS have with you.

So on your next trip to the local pharmacy, pick up a few things to help you achieve a “natural” look:

1. A compact with translucent (no color) powder
2. A stick of concealer (just guess at the right shade)
3. Travel-sized hairspray
4. Travel-sized hand lotion
5. Lip balm
6. A pack of cheap tissues (they blot without leaving paper residue on your face)

BEFORE facing the camera:

Dab a little powder on your forehead, nose, and head (if needed) or just blot with tissues. Rub a small squirt of lotion into your hands and then run them through your hair to stop frizz or fly-aways. Add an optional spritz of hairspray and a little lip balm.

If you shave and have dark facial hair, foundation can cover a heavy shadow. Just visit a makeup counter at MAC or Sephora. And don’t be embarrassed! Those makeup artists have seen it all and know how to make you look like you, just better.

For more on-camera tips and techniques, check out my ebook Camera Ready: How to Prepare Your Best Self & Ideas On Air and Online and talk to me on Twitter @manoushz.

Posted in Books, media tips, media training, On-Camera Tips, video ideas, webcasts
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How to Walk & Talk On Camera VIDEO

Have you ever wondered why local news reporters love to stroll down the street while talking to the camera? Or maybe you’ve thought, “You know, I’ve been making videos for a while now…it’s time for me to DO something on camera: I’m going to walk and talk AT THE SAME TIME!”

But when is it a good idea to ‘walk the talk’ in a video and when is it just silly and distracting? Walking and talking is not just an exercise in coordination. Watch why and then let me know your tips for spicing up on-camera appearances…

For more on how to be great on camera and connect with your audience, check out the multimedia eBook Camera Ready and follow me on Twitter @manoushz.

Posted in media tips, media training, On-Camera Tips, reporting work, video ideas
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