Video’s growing popularity puts major pressure on leaders to get in front of the camera. Kudos if you’re already communicating through film. You’re ahead of many of your competitors who are still holding back.
But don’t worry if you haven’t joined the movement yet. Chances are, a major factor keeping you idle is that you don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera. Even if you say it’s due to restrictive schedules or budgets (valid points!), you may find—if you’re honest with yourself—that it’s the on-camera jitters keeping you away from video.
I hear this concern all the time, especially from leaders who are just starting out with film. And I get it. It’s nearly impossible to step in front of the lens and feel natural. It’s worth the effort, though.
I spoke with Bernd Beetz, retired CEO of Coty, Inc., who was responsible for reviving the company’s image through its “Faster, Further, Freer” culture. Beetz grew Coty into the largest fragrance company in the world during his ten years there. The guy knows a thing or two about running a successful company, and among his success secrets was a dedication to video.
If you’re struggling to get on camera, try these tactics, which have worked well for Beetz and many other leaders whom I’ve filmed.
• Pick a video communication style that suits you. Many leaders fear they’ll be forced to read from a teleprompter. Or worse—recite a script. Breathe easy: those approaches rarely work, and a good director will always steer you away from them when possible. You can try several communication styles until you find your favorite. Beetz feels most at ease when speaking one-on-one with an interviewer. “Dialogue is much more effective than a teleprompter for me,” he says. “It’s better to have the message in mind and then talk about those points in the way your brain would express itself. Use the language that comes to you once you hear the question.”
• Do it often. Beetz committed to filming quarterly videos for employees because he knew how important it was to connect with them on a personal level. “We were always impressed and astonished by the impact that these films had on employees,” he recalls. “They really feel that they develop a personal connection to you.” The bonus to filming often is that it will get easier every time….
• Prep, prep, prep. …But it will get easier, sooner, if you give yourself time to prepare before each video shoot. You can’t expect to walk on set and just be a natural. Even Hollywood’s most seasoned actors wouldn’t dare show up to work without rehearsing. Don’t put that pressure on yourself.
• Spend time with your director. Your director is eager to spend time with you before filming. It gives you a chance to develop trust and the sacred space that will go such a long way in helping you communicate authentically.
• Be real. You’ll struggle to be anyone other than yourself on camera, and viewers will see through the charade. So don’t worry about putting on a show. Beetz stands by this approach for every video he makes. “I’m very direct,” he says. “I never play politics. I always say things how they are at that point in time.” That said, I know telling you to ‘just be yourself’ won’t quite do it. It takes the right communication style, time, and a good relationship with your director. But even with all that, you’ll never feel comfortable on-screen if you try to be anyone other than yourself.
There’s a big misconception that great videos require a slick performance. It’s a reason so many excellent leaders shy away from video: they don’t want to be someone they’re not. Just remember that nobody wants a charlatan. Your tribe wants to see you for who you really are. If you’re imperfect on-screen they’re bound to like you more as your humanity shines through. All you need to start is a little time and space to figure out what works best for the real you.