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Posted on 02.12.2013

How to “Work It” When the Red Light Goes On: Four Tips to Help Your CEO Deliver a Good Performance on Video

Some corner office executives are "naturals" when it comes to public speaking or communicating in front of a camera - some, but not most.

Most CEOs are too busy running their companies to set aside time for "talking head" training or even a rehearsal prior to a video shoot. Here are four tips to help you coach your CEO when he or she needs to deliver an important video message to employees or other stakeholders.

  1. Do your homework. It takes a bit of advance work before you should ask your CEO to sit down in front of hot lights, a camera and a room full of crew members. When she finally starts talking or reading a teleprompter, she should feel pretty comfortable in her environment. Prep the room: Keep the lights off as long as you can before the CEO steps in front of the camera. Turn up the air conditioner the entire time you are building the set and until just when the CEO walks in (it's going to heat up fast when you turn off the A/C to reduce noise fluctuation.) Have bottled water, cough drops and tissues handy. Use a "stand-in" who is about the same size as your CEO so you don't waste time checking out your camera shot, lighting and audio. Introduce everyone in the room and allow the CEO time to chat with the crew, if that's her style. Then take time to explain that you are taping the session and there will be plenty of time to stop and start over.

  2. Assert yourself and be candid. It's awkward telling your CEO that he really DOES need powder on the shiny spot on his head or that he is swaying back and forth, slouching or mumbling. Too bad; it's your job to make the CEO look as good as possible, and it's certainly easier to do it on the front end than later in the editing room. And don't assume CEOs know all the rules around giving a good performance. Remind him where to keep his eyes focused while talking, to slow down his speech, to enunciate his words and to smile. In most, but not all, situations, a smile is important; and it usually takes a lot more grin than the CEO instinctively offers. He will feel like he is grinning ear to ear but say to you later, "Why do I look so dour and unhappy?!" Do whatever you can to get him pumped up with energy and a pleasant smile before the camera rolls.

  3. Beg for a rehearsal. About half the time you won't get it, but try to schedule at least twice as much time on the CEO's calendar than you think the shoot will take. Even if you don't get many practice runs, at least you'll have time for a lot of "do-overs."

  4. Try my rubber band trick. Unless you do it every day, almost everyone is nervous in front of a camera. It's important for that energy to show up as enthusiasm, commitment, excitement and confidence; not twiddling of fingers, rocking back and forth, swiveling in a chair or - I kid you not - cracking knuckles. I like to have an executive stand, rather than sit, for a lengthy taping or to read from the teleprompter. It looks better from the mid-chest up, but you don't want waving hands flying in and out of the screen. Offer a rubber band for the CEO to play with during the taping. It will give the CEO something to transfer energy to, but you'll never see it on screen.

It's tough for anyone who isn't a professional to relax in front of a camera.  What are your tricks of the trade?  


Paula Lovell is CEO and founder of Lovell Communications.  You can view more of her blog posts here. Connect with her at lovell@lovell.com or @PaulaLovell  

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