In the daily morning briefing, at the digital press conference or in internal communication: CEO video messages are an integral part of corporate communication repertoire today – and the trend is rising.
But how do you succeed in creating video appearances and moving images that convey the right message from the home office or private environment? One thing above all has to be right: the preparation. In order to communicate successfully via moving images, CEOs and their communication specialists should consider the following four points:
1. Practice makes perfect
It may be obvious, but it is all too often overlooked: A good video is not made the day it is shot. Actually clear, but still many protagonists underestimate the preparation for a video. It is essential – even if an expert creates the script or an agency coordinates the content and setup with the communications team in advance. Because just as a lecturer does not want to start a PowerPoint karaoke, the person in front of the camera does not want to get into the prompting dilemma and encounter content there that they may have never seen in this form before. So the old saying applies: ability comes from practice.
2. Content is king
Speaking of content: Bill Gates awarded him the royal parade role back in 1996 – and rightly so. First and foremost, it is the content that has to be right. Without them, the video appearance becomes meaningless. The rule is: Anyone who appears in front of the camera should talk about topics that are important to them – with which they are familiar and in which they feel “at home”. Whoever knows what he is talking about can look forward to a shoot much more relaxed than someone who dares to venture into unknown territory.
In the next step, the speakers have to formulate their message so sharply and concisely that it reaches the audience. It is important to clearly determine which words should be spoken in front of the camera. In addition, it must be ensured that stilted written language and long and complex sentences are avoided – tapeworm sentences are attention killers.
A little tip: you shouldn’t read the script at the last minute – the viewer will notice that immediately. It is better to look at the text beforehand and internalize the content. In addition, it should be checked early on whether the words of the writer match your own style in order to change them if necessary. Reading aloud helps to identify and replace linguistic stumbling blocks. You should feel comfortable with what you say in front of the camera – and above all, how you say it. Otherwise the performance will quickly appear inauthentic – and will not reach the audience.
3. The appearance is half the battle
To appear confident and empathetic is easier said than done. It is even more difficult when several camera lenses are pointed at your own face. Suddenly the voice falters, the expression petrified – and because the hands do not know what to do with themselves, they begin to pluck at rings, pens or clothing.
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for stage fright or sweaty hands, but there are many ways to find help to cope with it. For example, you can practice gestures that underline what is said as well as possible, as well as expressive intonation and pronunciation that give the sentences the right sound. This helps the protagonists to trust themselves and to carry this trust in front of the camera.
What also strengthens self-confidence: clothes that you feel comfortable in. Yes, it should be appropriate, but also comfortable. Perhaps a sweater will be used instead of a shirt and suit – perhaps not necessarily when communicating the quarterly figures. The following applies to the shoot: Clothes that are too dark are not ideal, nor are logos or large-format patterns. You should also avoid fine patterns – they can cause an ugly flickering moiré effect. Furthermore, speakers shouldn’t shy away from make-up or powder – after all, TV professionals spend a lot of time in makeup before they go on the air.
By the way: Do not panic if your nerves flutter while shooting, your face turns red or you falter – this also happens to seasoned professionals. Then you just take a break and start over.
4. The setup is essential
Especially when there is no professional video team preparing the recording, speakers should give some thought to the image structure, light and – last but not least – sound. One of the mottos that cameramen like to follow when taking pictures of landscapes is easy to implement in smaller video setups: “Foreground makes picture healthy”. This does not mean that a desk lamp should protrude into the picture in the foreground – rather, one should look for a way of creating spatiality in the picture. This can be a staggering of differently distant layers in the background or depth of field when using a longer focal length. Because: Nothing is worse than a person in front of a surface.
In addition to the image composition, light also plays an important role. Natural light that streams in through the window is particularly suitable – preferably in the morning or evening, when it is less glaring than at noon. An alternative is a lamp that gives off soft light. Important: The light source should not be placed in the back of the speaker but behind the camera and should not be too bright.
Last but not least: the sound. Smooth wall surfaces reflect the language and an ugly echo is created. A sound-absorbing environment is better: a curtain behind the camera works wonders, a clip-on microphone ensures optimal sound quality. The microphones in smartphones are becoming more and more sensitive, but with little effort it is definitely even better.
Video communication is not a sure-fire success. The preparation is time-consuming and should not be underestimated. In some cases, the weekly email update may be a better solution. But: moving image communication is not rocket science either. On the contrary: it is a craft that can be learned.