Smile – You’re on Candid Camera

By Heather Baldwin

Since September 2001, videoconferencing has gained popularity as a means to conduct presentations while saving money and avoiding the insecurity and lengthy lines of air travel. The problem, says Anne Freedman, president of Speak Out, Inc. (, is that speakers tend to give the same presentation for the camera that they would in front of a live audience – a mistake that can have potentially disastrous consequences. If your next sales presentation will be via camera to a remote audience, you’ll need to make a few changes to give it the same polished, professional look of your live presentation.

First, remember that a camera should be capturing you only from about the waist up, which means gestures need to be smaller and closer in to your body than they would be during a live presentation. “It’s much closer to what actors do in the movies where everything is much closer up and movements are made closer to your face,” says Freedman. Live presentations, on the other hand, are more like theater where “you throw your whole self in and movements are broader.” It’s a simple concept in theory, but tough to do in practice, she cautions, so do plenty of rehearsals – ideally with a video camera so you can see how you look on film – before the actual event.

Second, remember to treat the camera as you would a live audience member. If you’re presenting solely to a camera, make sure that’s where your eye contact is. If your presentation is both live and via videoconference, include the camera in your visual sweeps of the audience, taking several seconds at a time to interact with it. So it doesn’t feel awkward, Freedman suggests taking a small mirror and covering all but an eye-sized hole in the middle with tape to simulate the camera lens. If you can practice making eye contact with the mirror during rehearsal, then making eye contact with a camera during the actual event will seem far less clumsy.

Finally, remember that color is far more important on camera than it is in real life. Stick with navy, charcoal gray or, for women, bankers’ blue. Black, white and beige are no-nos – black because it is intimidating on camera and white and beige because they tend to disappear, says Freedman.