When it comes to table etiquette, networking etiquette, and even social media etiquette, we’re all pretty savvy. We know to chew with our mouths closed, ask open-ended questions when at gatherings, and not to be sales driven while on social media. We know what works and what doesn’t work in many different contexts, but what about camera etiquette?
I am prompted to write about this today because of something I saw this week that I will share with you here. It’s actually behavior I have witnessed for some time now, but I have hit the tipping point and it’s time to discuss it.
Where is the line between casual and professional? How about the line between being too casual and too professional, particularly as we look into the lens of a camera? It’s an interesting question that changes depending on who you talk to and the context you’re considering.
One thing I love about traveling to New York is that you see people dressed up for work. Here in the Northwest and on the West Coast in general, things are much more relaxed, sometimes too relaxed, with many preferring jeans and t-shirts and maybe pairing them with a casual jacket on a special occasion. That’s fine in many environments, but work and career are different from getting together with friends on the weekend. (And, by the way, this is a general statement: Not everyone is casual; it’s simply the feel here in general.)
I suppose it’s fairly obvious where I stand on this, but I’m curious about how people decide to present themselves, particularly with all the additional technological advances allowing us to be on screen many times during a week.
Let’s talk about on-camera appearances
This week I’m talking about on-camera appearances, whether in a television studio or at a computer or other device using Zoom, Skype, Facebook, online media sources, or any other platform you can name.
Dress for the situation
When you’re streaming live or on television. you should dress professionally. You want to look your best, particularly if you’re an expert presenting your best material. (Of course, if you’re a gardener doing a segment on gardening, for example, then dress accordingly: It’s unlikely you’d be out in the garden in a suit and tie, or skirt and jacket.)
If you’re recording videos for your website, whether to secure speaking engagements or something else, again, you should dress professionally. If you’re doing your own online video training that people have paid money to attend, then you can be more casual if you want to.
But how casual is too casual? I recently watched a woman presenting online video training dressed in a very casual sleeveless t-shirt. She looked like she forgot she was going to be doing live training and was wearing what she sleeps in.
Now an argument can be made that she has the right to dress as she wishes, and of course that’s true. But I can’t help but wonder if that was her best choice? It can go too far the other way, by the way, where someone is dressed to the nines looking like they should be attending the Oscars rather than doing a simple video training, but that’s another post.
The Point: When you’re going to appear on camera, the topic of what you’re wearing should never come up in the viewer’s mind.
Back to the training I was observing: In addition to the questionable clothing choice, there were other distractions going on. She was talking and looking directly at the camera sometimes, which was good, and then off to the side looking at her own image on her computer screen at other times, as well as reacting to the dings and notifications going off from her computer and her phone on the table by her side.
Several times she interrupted herself to say “hi” to someone else who arrived late to the program. Those of us in her audience couldn’t see the person arrive. We just watched her stop what she was saying to us to acknowledge someone arriving late. Frequently she stopped down to double-check her connection, adjust the camera, and a couple of things that I’m not sure what she was doing, all the while telling us about it in a soft voice, almost as though she was really talking to herself.
Not the best plan.
Some of these distractions are unavoidable with technology. Blips happen and problems come up that have to be addressed. But there were many distractions that were simply not in that category: They were caused by the presenter not paying attention to camera etiquette.
By the way, I’m not here to criticize her. She’s a lovely person, and she certainly isn’t the first person I’ve seen conduct a training this way. As I mentioned early on, seeing her prompted me to address this because, after all, I am here to offer tips and suggestions on book publicity and marketing and how to come across well as the savvy pro you are.
Do you think some of this might be to demonstrate social proof? Social proof is how we show publically to others that we know what we’re talking about.
Testimonials and endorsements fall into this category, and some think hearing the ding of people arriving and lots of chatter in the chat box does the same thing, showing the popularity of the host. Some use these tools and signals to persuade attendees that there is a bigger audience than there is to convince them they made the right decision to buy the training. I know several people who actually do this. These are the same people who talk about authenticity and transparency a lot in their work. It’s a bad idea.
A live chat box is where people in the audience can comment into an area that all the attendees can see during the presentation. This is okay, and I’ve had that feature in my own trainings, but I’ve seen hosts stop and start reading the comments to the rest of us. Is that necessary? Is that a good idea?
The most important thing to consider during on-camera presentations is the audience. We live in a very busy, distracted world, as we all know. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to give your audience your full attention when they come to your program? And by “your audience” I mean the larger group watching, not the individuals arriving late, not those chatting away in the chat box, but those who are watching and paying attention to you.
If you had people visiting in your home would you constantly pick up the phone, or respond immediately to the ding of a received text from someone else? I don’t think so. It’s rude.
A better idea would be to have someone else on your team (it could be a spouse or a friend) to monitor the chat box, answer individual questions about how to get into the training (someone always loses the link) and those kinds of housekeeping issues, so that you can stick to your brilliance and offer a great training to those paying attention. Just a thought.
What is the proper camera etiquette in a television interview with a live audience? Where should you look? Who do you give your energy to?
The best advice is to focus on the camera. Do not focus on the studio audience unless the host decides to make that the focus. The much bigger audience is watching you through the camera lens, and that is where your focus needs to be. Or, if you’re not experienced doing live TV, focus your attention on the host and let the camera find you. They will. The main point here is not to play to the live audience. You will want to. Resist it!
Gone are the days when on-camera trainings, webinars, and other events are a big deal. They’re so common now that your ability to remain calm, comfortable, and secure in the environment while paying attention to the most important people in the room is to be expected. It doesn’t make you look popular to have lots of distractions. It just makes you look, well, distracted.
If you want someone’s full attention, then you must give it first. Just because our culture seems to become more distracted all the time doesn’t mean you and I should fall into that behavior. Let’s remain present, whether we’re out to dinner with family or on camera giving a presentation to our own readers and networks.
A good friend who works for an airline recently told me, “If you want to be bumped up to first class, dress the part. They won’t bump you up if you’re in jeans and flip flops.” This is good advice in media too. If you want to be picked up by top-tier media, dress the part. If you want those in your live trainings to sing your praises to others, act like the professional you are by dressing in a way that is appropriate for what you are doing and paying attention to camera etiquette. People notice, whether they tell you or not. They notice.
To your success!
P.S. I’ve got a new offering rolling out soon. It includes a written pitch and a guaranteed five interviews, for the right book, of course. This is a perfect jumpstart to a book campaign with a very small investment. Let me know if you want to discuss the possibilities!
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