Actors and other on-camera professionals cheat all the time. Cheat for the camera, that is! They “cheat” the camera by positioning their body, face, and/or voice more towards the camera for the benefit of their audience – even if it may feel unnatural or a bit awkward. This performance technique allows for the audience to enjoy a) a better sightline, b) a more “authentic” experience, and c) a deeper understanding of what the performer is thinking or feeling.
As a salesperson, presenter, or businessperson on video, you too will need to cheat for the camera for the benefit of your customer. Intimidated?! There’s no reason to be – Chances are, if you have given a presentation or led an in-person meeting in the past, you have most likely already “cheated” your performance. For example, speaking louder/softer depending on the acoustics of the room or positioning yourself next to the screen to ensure the audiences sees both your face and the slides/demonstration. These small (and simple) adjustments help to better the in-person experience for your audience.
Communicating clearly to your customers when selling on video will also require certain adjustments. Likely to feel unnatural or awkward at first – just as learning to tie your shoes or ride a bike – with practice, these “cheats” will help you to look natural (even if you don’t feel it) and connect with your customer on camera.
Here are four common cheats you will need to make on video in order to successfully communicate and connect with your audience:
Look at the Camera
This is perhaps the most difficult “cheat” of all as it goes against everything you’ve ever been taught. On video, the camera is your customer’s eyes. If you want to establish a connection with your customer and make them feel seen and heard by you, you must look at the camera. Not their image on your screen, not your slides, not your own image, the camera! If you are not looking at the camera, you are not connecting, bottom line.
If It’s Not On Camera, It Doesn’t Exist
As they say in film, if the camera doesn’t see it, it didn’t happen. When selling in person, you shared an environment with your customer. Meaning if you looked down at your desk, or their hands, or up at a picture on their wall, your customer knew you were still engaged. If you gestured widely, your customer knew what that meant. On video, your audience only knows what happens on their screen. Therefore, you must become familiar with your frame, i.e. the edges of your screen so that you can manage what the customer sees, and what they do not. Owning this small space and making sure all the action taken there is no easy task but referring to or focusing on things off screen simply reinforces the emotional and physical distance between you.
Move with Purpose and Intention
With such a narrow focus, small movements, whether conscious or not, take on enormous proportions, and large or rapid movements are often unreadable and distracting. Gesturing is an important communication tool and can add context, emphasis, and emotion to your message, if used correctly, so knowing how to move, gesture, and express yourself on video is vital to clear communication.
Ramp Up Your Energy
You may have heard that the camera adds ten pounds, but a lesser-known fact is that it can take away ten to fifty percent of your energy. And sitting at home in your favorite chair isn’t helping! You need to bring the appropriate amount of energy and passion to your video calls to compensate for this loss and avoid looking bored or disinterested to your customer.
These are just a few of the “cheats” you need to make yourself and your message more accessible to your audience. Like many of the adjustments made when presenting in person, they won’t feel natural at first, but they can become so with continued practice and feedback.
PRO TIP: The next time you’re watching a character on television typing on their computer, notice how he types with his head up. In real life, most of us type with our head and eyes down, but that wouldn’t allow the audience to see what the character is thinking as he’s typing. Another cheat for the audience’s benefit!