January 9, 2017 | Written by: Brad Hunstable
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A CEO may be a great strategist and leader in the office, perhaps even a great public speaker. Yet many executives find it challenging to communicate their passion and charisma when speaking in front of a video camera. Too often, the result is a bland performance that doesn’t inspire employees’ confidence. That’s a problem, since video is becoming an essential way for executives to communicate with their global workforces.
Brian Burkhart, President at presentation development firm SquarePlanet and an instructor at Northwestern University’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, says bad on-screen performances happen because a live audience provides a palpable energy that the mechanical lens of a camera can’t provide.
“There is something about live human interaction that you simply can’t recreate with a camera,” Burkhart says.
He says that business leaders can avoid a dud performance by following a few tips:
Don’t just prepare between meetings
Burkhart says that the best way to ensure a great performance is by spending the necessary time preparing. “I see many CEOs walk into the room where the camera is set up with their email buzzing, phones vibrating and a very full calendar. They ask, ‘Now, what is it that I’m supposed to talk about?’ right before the camera is turned on.” That tells Burkhart that the CEO is not fully present.
It’s all about having the right mindset, he says. The trick is to view the speaking engagement as an opportunity to connect with an audience by sharing the most important messages.
“It’s a little bit like making a soup. Yes, you can prepare the dish in 30 minutes, but if you let it simmer for six hours, then it’s going to be way better,” says Burkhart. “When CEOs spend time marinating on the message, it becomes fully authentic instead of just reading a script.”
Bring energy and excitement on camera
The presenter must compensate for the lower excitement and energy levels of video compared to those of a live event. To pull it off, Burkhart offers three tips:
- Bring the energy: If a CEO gives 50 percent of her energy in a live speech, then they should give 100 percent on camera. Small changes, such as standing up instead of sitting behind a desk, can make a big difference in the energy the audience perceives.
- Talk loudly: Presenters often assume that since they are wearing a microphone, they can use their normal voice. This isn’t true. Speaking louder translates into a higher energy level.
- Be animated:Use voice inflection, facial expressions and body language to convey energy and excitement. Smile bigger than you think you should. If a CEO has a look of dread, terror or pain as she presents, audiences will notice.
Video, even live video streams, rarely disappear. Those video streams are often recorded for reuse later, or shared on YouTube or the company’s website. But with the right mindset and energy, busy executives can ensure the energy translates into an effective, engaging presentation.
“The bottom line is really truly understanding who you are trying to connect to on the other side of the cameras,” says Burkhart. “It’s not just a lens and metal, but an audience of human beings.”
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