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Grading Your Video Performance: Choosing the On-Camera Method That's Right for You


March 20, 2017

Choosing the right video communication style can go a long way to help you be better at delivering your company’s most important messages.

One of the biggest decisions you’ll make when planning a video is choosing your communication style. You have three broad options: speaking directly to the camera, speaking directly to an interviewer, or speaking directly to an audience. The style you choose will depend on what you’re most comfortable with, the message you’re sharing, and most importantly, the amount of time you’re able to devote to your communication. Large-scale or small, the principles are universal.


Let’s take a closer look at your video communication style options. 

1. Direct-to-Camera

This is the first method everyone thinks of for business communication on video. With this style the subject speaks directly into the camera. This format works especially well when you want to connect with employees or a specific group of people. Speaking straight into the lens and reading a teleprompter is compelling because it gives the feeling that you’re having a direct conversation with the viewer and looking directly into his or her eyes. Another advantage is that the script is pre-written and agreed upon in advance so there’s little chance for communicating the wrong message or getting off-topic.

The most conversational approach is unscripted: simply speaking into the camera without a teleprompter or an interviewer to guide the conversation. Knowing your topic and speaking off-handedly provides a very direct approach that keeps things loose and comfortable. The director can prep or prompt, but when the camera rolls, you fly solo. Editing the direct-to-camera footage with b-roll (supplemental footage inserted as a cutaway to help tell the story) can add up to a more powerful piece and provides some leeway if the executive is not “perfect” on camera.

2. Direct-to-Interviewer

In the direct-to-interviewer style, viewers are aware that you’re having a conversation with someone else. That person can be on or off camera, but the bottom line is that viewers know you’re not talking directly to them. While not as personal as direct-to-camera, this approach can still spark a powerful connection with your audience as they hear your message and witness your passion as you speak in a conversational manner.

People are perhaps most familiar with the on-camera interview since it’s used in shows like 60 Minutes and Charlie Rose. Unlike many TV interviews, however, the conversation in your video is under your control. Your interviewer won’t try to get you to dish about topics you don’t want to cover, or throw any “gotcha” questions at you. The goal is to help you communicate the message you want to share in an organic conversation.

3. Direct-to-Audience

Direct-to-audience video communications works best if you’re shy in front of a camera but great in front of a room. For many in business, speaking in front of people is not an issue, it’s the red light on the camera that can create nerves and ultimately an uncomfortable performance. 

In this setup, viewers will see the person speaking to a live audience. The actual scenario can range from a large public event, such as a town hall meeting, to a closed studio session with a small audience that cast specifically for the video. Using a small audience can create an intimate setting that allows the speaker to interact with others on camera in a way that plays to their strengths. The fluid format can also be beneficial to those who have little time to prep, since most business people are already pretty comfortable talking to a room full of people. Now they just need to do it while a camera rolls.

Direct-to-audience is a great antidote for the person who is reluctant to speak to the camera at all. The final video captures the you in your element: talking about your work with colleagues, answering questions, and discussing topics viewers are eager to hear about. 

Veteran filmmaker, teacher, speaker, and author of Leadership in Focus: Bringing Out Your Best on Camera, Vern Oakley is CEO and creative director of Tribe Pictures, which he founded in 1986. Oakley has created films for Fortune 500 companies, nonprofit organizations, universities, and their leaders, including American Express, AT&T, Pfizer, Princeton, and NYU Law. His mission is to help humanize the world’s most successful leaders and institutions, helping them to craft their stories and to create meaningful human connections. To this end, he has studied with a variety of experts and institutions, from Arthur Penn and the Actor’s Studio to Harvard Business School. 

Oakley directed the major motion picture, A Modern Affair, as well as the Emmy-winning children’s TV program, Reading Rainbow. His work has won over 500 international awards, including the Cannes Golden Dolphin, and he is currently an Adjunct Professor in Baruch College’s Communications Graduate Program. To learn more, visit www.vernoakley.com.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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