You may know a lot about video and have no fear of getting in front of a camera, but you may have absolutely no idea what you need to do to look good on camera when you actually get in front of the lens. We got a chance to talk to Manoush Zomorodi, who has years of producing/reporting experience with the BBC and Reuters. Zomorodi runs her own YouTube channel
Manoush Zomorodi & Expert Tips to Look Good on Camera
ReelSEO: What does a viewer notice first about someone on-camera, and how does that affect whether they stay around to watch the rest of the video?
Manoush Zomorodi: Sadly it's the superficial stuff that viewers notice first. So if you have major frizz, a glaring forehead, or your bra strap is showing, the viewers is going to be distracted and pay less attention to what you are saying. The next thing the viewer notices is eye contact, so if you are looking at your lap or to the side when you are supposed to be looking at the lens, you are missing an opportunity to connect with your viewer and keep them from turning you off.
RSEO: Can you look professional without spending a lot of money?
Zomorodi: Absolutely. For women, a new, bright colored $14 T-shirt from the Gap can look like an expensive blouse on-camera. Guys, just make sure your shirt is ironed and doesn't have thin stripes. Everyone, go and buy $5 translucent powder at the drugstore. Seriously, that's all it takes.
RSEO: OK, so you put on your makeup and select an appropriate outfit to get on-camera and you think everything is perfect...what should you be looking for when you look at your footage?
Zomorodi: When you choose your soundbites or sections of an interview to use, use the moments when you are speaking in clear, full, sentences, without any acronyms, lingo, or cliches.
- If someone just clicked "play", could they understand what you are talking about?
- Do you tell a story that explains your point?
- Do you look relaxed, like a reasonable person who is enjoying sharing your information?
You'd be amazed how many people think going on camera is no big deal but the minute the "record" button goes on, they freeze up and look like they are about to be shot.
RSEO: Confidence is obviously important. How does one gain confidence in the way they look and present themselves on camera?
Zomorodi: Preparation. Thinking on your feet while on camera is waaaaaay harder than people think. Take 15 minutes and give my "Top Line" method a try- first write out one simple, full sentence that explains your subject. Then come up with 3 points to back up your topic. Finally, figure out how to kick your topic forward like, "What we'd like to see a year from now is xx." And before you go on, practice aloud so you get familiar with the phrases and how it feels to say them.
RSEO: How do you present a call-to-action without sounding like a salesman? Is this something that needs to be worked on during the script stage or is it the presenter that needs to sound more natural?
Zomorodi: What, you mean like, "And check out our website to find out more?" Ha! If your presentation isn't one big commercial but is informative and useful, your viewer won't mind a quick shout-out to your website or Amazon or whatever at the end. As long as you don't ram it down their throat, viewers understand you need to pay the bills.
RSEO: Bad sound is one of the most oft-cited reasons that viewers leave videos. Aside from using external microphones that can make sound quality better, how can an on-screen personality improve the way they sound on-camera?
Zomorodi: Agreed, bad audio quality will get an audience to turn you off even quicker than bad video quality. It's a given that you'll need an external mic.
As for the tone of your voice, women in particular have a tendency to get a high pitch when they get nervous. Try and find the lower end of your vocal range (I have an embarrassing demonstration on how to do that in my book). And while I advocate preparation, don't memorize because otherwise you'll either sound like a robot or sing-songy. But honestly, everyone hates their voice. Most people don't need to worry about it.
RSEO: What do you see in the average video that needs improvement? What are some big mistakes you see on a regular basis?
Zomorodi: A good video, no matter how short, needs to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. I have very little patience for long, poorly edited videos or interviews that doesn't get to the point. It's really vital that you structure your video, on paper, before you film a thing. With so much crappy content out there, a tight and efficient video can really set you apart from the competition. They show you respect your viewer's time and aren't messing around.
Here's a trailer for Zomorodi's eBook: Camera Ready:
Manoush Zomorodi is the author of Camera Ready: How to Present Your Best Self and Ideas On Air or Online. Her on-camera expertise comes from years of producing and reporting for BBC News, Reuters Television, and other media outlets. She moderates conferences on digital technology and hosts live video events, in addition to doing media coaching.
We'd like to thank Manoush for her time! And we'd like to thank Anna Sacca for her help with this interview!