The Final of Our Top Five - Outline It…

We’ve come to the final nugget in our top five tips on how to look like a pro on camera. Over the past four Fridays, we’ve covered: a conversational bridge, flags, body language, sound bites and today, the outline.

To begin, let’s map out the framework of a good outline. It consists of:


  • Introduction
  • Main points – Sound like an opportunity to use a flag? You’re spot on.
  • Transitions – Remember those bridges? This is where they come into play.
  • Conclusion(s) – Distill them into sound bites.

When our team works with on-camera subject matter experts we counsel them on starting with a good outline. We’ve learned time and again that a good on-camera delivery starts with a solid outline. Regardless of whether we’re writing a full script, or guiding the discussion with talking points: formulating a solid outline is key. With this foundation, the messages that need to be conveyed on camera are not only heard loud and clear, but the supporting facts and figures germane to the subject are sure to be covered. The process of creating the structure of an outline is also an opportunity for our team to probe into what’s really important in the messaging. We work closely with our clients to get to the core of the “who, what, where, when, why and how” of each production. An outline breaks down key elements and sorts them out for all involved.

Clearly clarifying your value proposition is truly the start and the finish line for the use of all of the top five tips we’ve been dispensing for the past few weeks.

Talk to you next week. If you have any specific issues that you’d like me to address all you have to do is ask. Or, maybe send me an outline of what you’d like me to tackle.

The Fourth of Our Top Five - The Art of the Sound Bite...

We’re fast approaching the last of our top five tips on how to look like a pro on camera. Last week we covered body language. Have you talked with your hands since? Here’s the link if you want to practice. This week we’re covering the art of the sound bite. It’s another of the “go to” tips we use to coach our on-camera subject matter experts.

Thanks to Hamlet we all know that, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” It also happens to be the key to the kingdom when it comes to effectively getting your crucial messages across in a video.

With that in mind, here’s a mantra you need to turn to, and return to, each time you are asked to speak. Be mindful of whether you are “clear, concise and cogent.” Note, this approach is also highly effective in negotiations of all types — one tip, oh so many beneficial uses.

Paint a picture with your sound bites. If your audience can see it, they’ll remember it. Use analogies to paint pictures. If you’re approaching the end of a project, thank your employees, and tell them you’re “Nearing the finish line.”

Steve Jobs was known as a master of analogies. Lest we forget, "desktop" is an analogy. Jobs used it to calm new user discomfort with the virtual world. He associated the new graphical user interface paradigm with something tangible, mundane, and simple, such as, the top of a desk.

When our team works with on camera subject matter experts we counsel them on forming sound bites that condense their key messages. We interview them well in advance of putting them in front of our cameras. We draw out the details and messages that need to be heard loud and clear. We then help them distill these messages into sound bites that paint a picture and yet still sound like “them.”

Once again, I challenge you to look for good public speakers and deconstruct what they do that makes them effective communicators. You’ll start to hone in on their sound bites. Learn from those that are effortlessly clear, concise and cogent.

Stop by next week for the final one of our top five tips. In the mean time, remember the mantra ... be the mantra ... “Clear, concise and cogent.” And, if you have any specific issues that you’d like me to address all you have to do is ask (in 15 words or less). Talk to you next Friday.

The Third of Our Top Five - Making Faces…

Last week we covered conversational flags – have you flown one since? Here’s the link  if you want to review last week’s blog. This week, we’re covering what to do with your face… your hands… and other tricky body parts that can inadvertently send a message counter to what you’re actually saying on camera. It’s another of our “go to” tips we use to coach our on-camera subject matter experts.

Let’s start with your face. In modern psychology there’s a condition known as cognitive dissonance. It’s defined as, “the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual holding two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time.” Our team applies that term to anyone on camera who is emoting one feeling, while verbally delivering a message opposite to that emotion. For example, if your CEO is genuinely thanking your workforce for an outstanding year he should look pleased. However, if he looks as if he’s mentally computing the square root of pi while saying it; that’s a problem. It’s going to impact your audience’s ability to process his intended message.

Your facial expressions must match the intent of your actual message. Otherwise, you have a visual type of cognitive dissonance resulting in a dilution of your message. If your facial expressions match your message your audience’s ability to receive, retain and act on that message is increased exponentially.

Now let’s deal with those hands. It’s quite simple. If you’re naturally demonstrative, don’t suppress those hands. If you’re naturally quite still, stay that way. Unless you’re a professional in front of the camera you can’t force a gesture to look natural unless it is. So, stick to what feels like “you.” It’s really that simple.

As for the rest of your posture, see above and repeat. Stand or sit in a way that you would if you were in a meeting, or talking to a colleague in the hall. If you’re hyper-aware of your posture you’ll come off looking like a robot on camera.

Once again this year’s Presidential campaign affords us all a perfect case study for deconstructing the public speakers that are effective, and those that appear to be robotic talking heads. Watch their faces, their hands, and their overall posture. Learn from those making it look effortless.

Stop by next week for the fourth of our top five tips. In the mean time, make faces and watch your hands. And, if you have any specific issues that you’d like me to address all you have to do is ask. Talk to you next Friday.


The Second of Our Top Five - Flag it…

Last week we covered conversational bridges — have you built one since? Here’s the link if you want to practice. This week we’re planting a flag. It’s another of our “go to,” most effective tips we use to coach our on-camera subject matter experts.

Just like bridges, the use of a conversational flag is something good communicators use regularly, often without even knowing it. By harnessing the power of the flag and using it strategically, your key messages stand a far better chance of resonating with your audience. And in the end, what really matters is what your audience does with the information you impart. (Heads up you just encountered a flag…)

Here’s how it works. A conversational flag is a useful tool to signal to an audience that what you’re about to convey is important. Think of it as a verbal, gentle poke in the shoulder.

Here are a few examples:

  • The most important take-away from all this is…
  • What’s often overlooked is…
  • In a nutshell…
  • It all boils down to this…
  • What really matters is…

Practice using flags and soon their use will become rote. They’re handy conversational tools for a myriad of uses: making sure a colleague or subordinate knows what’s expected; helping a team stay on course; ensuring a negotiation is headed in the right direction. Wherever a message needs to be heard loud and clear with an audience of one or one thousand, a flag is a tactic that can help. Now that you’re aware of them they’ll start popping up in all sorts of contexts.

Stop by next week for the third of our top five tips.  In the mean time, practice your flags, and if you have any specific issues that you’d like me to address all you have to do is ask. Talk to you next Friday.

The First of Our Top Five - Build a Bridge…

If you’ve ever been asked to present as a subject matter expert on camera for an internal or external video, or are part of the team recruiting those experts, you know it’s no easy feat for anyone involved. Over the course of the next five Fridays we’ll do our best to break down our favorite and most effective tips we use to coach our on-camera experts. We’ve turned them into easy-to-digest, practical exercises for you to share. With just a bit of practice these tips and tricks can make you and your colleagues look, sound, and feel like pros on camera. As a bonus, they’re also excellent skills to deploy when presenting to a live audience, and to keep in your hip pocket when in the throes of a negotiation.

Our list starts with something good communicators use regularly, often without even knowing it, the conversational bridge. Getting it right is a bit of an art, but once you know the formula it becomes rote.

Let’s break it down. A conversational bridge is a useful tool to allow a speaker to avoid a negative question in a live interview. However, it can also be used to avoid awkward or abrupt transitions from one topic to another. They’re particularly useful to have stored in your memory as “go to” phrases when presenting live while not using a tight script. The result is that the messages you need to convey to your audience are delivered in a far more conversational manner.

Another side effect of the use of bridges is the avoidance of “filler words.” We all have them — “right”, “OK” — or in some cases noises — “um,” “uh” — that can distract from your message and, let’s face it, can also erode your credibility. Replace these fillers with a bridge. Think of a bridge as a tight “go to” phrase that gets you from point A to point B. Here are a few examples:

  • It’s also important to remember...
  • Another thing that’s key to TOPIC (whatever you’re discussing) is…
  • Also, keep in mind that…
  • Plus…
  • Not to mention…

Ask a family member or your work wife or husband (come on, we all have them), if you have a filler word, noise, or phrase. We’re betting you do, and it might surprise you. Once you know what it is, begin practicing by swapping this phrase with a bridge. Soon, the use of bridges will become rote.

You know you’ve got it down pat when you begin to notice others using this tactic. As our country chooses its next President, now is a perfect time for you to begin to search for the good communicators out there building conversational bridges.

Stop by next week for the second of our top five tips. In the mean time, practice your bridges, and keep in mind, if you have any other specific issues that you’d like me to address all you have to do is ask. (Did you catch the bridge?) Talk to you next Friday.