How to Not Suck on Camera


First, if the Coronavirus and Covid-19 have touched you, your family or friends directly, then you have my deepest concern and warm thoughts. If you’re looking for emotional support, you might want to check this out from the CDC (Center for Disease Control). There are other places you can go too, but I wanted to at least post one of them.

The information we’re sharing today is very light compared to those directly affected by this virus. While there are challenges to sheltering in place, it’s nothing compared to those suffering with this disease, or fighting it on the front lines. I know you know this, and I just want to acknowledge it before going into today’s post.

For the rest of us, dealing with the daily struggles this pandemic has created needs to be acknowledged too. During this time of social distancing, self-quarantining, and even lockdown (we have readers in other countries including France and the UK who are in lockdown), video chatting and conferencing has become a lifeline for many. It is the one way we are able to see one another and stay connected while still maintaining distance. This is true for connecting with family and friends, and it’s also the case with our work, whether we’re connecting with associates, affiliates, co-workers, clients, patients and others. Many here are very familiar with conferencing and using video cameras, while others are just discovering the benefits of pixels and screens.

Through a simple search, you can find plenty of resources on how to put a home studio together, such as finding the right location, creating an appealing background, choosing the right platform, etc., in addition to tips on how to put your best foot forward on camera, including the right lighting, whether to use an internal or external microphone, and what camera to use, so I won’t go into that here. Although, here is an article in the Wall Street Journal that covers some platforms you can try, and I have covered these topics extensively in other SSN reports and on my blog.

Before I get into today’s main topic, I think it’s amusing that even the network anchors and other reporters are having to work from home now — on camera — and it’s clear that it’s new to them, too. After all, they are used to very professional studios with fantastic lighting, props, and other tools necessary to look really good on camera, and come across as the pros they are. However, as they try to create their own studios in their dining rooms, home offices, and basements, well, it’s fun to see them struggle like everyone else to get it right. Even the pros are looking like amateurs at the moment, but they’ll get there, just as everyone else will.

I’m sure you’ve noticed more and more people are posting frequent videos and using social media as their distribution channel. That’s all fine and good, but here’s the problem: Most of them are terrible.

Now, I’m not saying that to be mean or unkind. I’m saying that because I don’t want you to be one of them. I want you to come across fantastically well so that you can continue to build your audience through using these tools and this approach. To come across well usually takes some media training, quite frankly, but at the very least, it takes some planning.

If you’ve been reading this for awhile, you may be aware that I like to call myself a cross between a cheerleader and a truth teller. I will cheer you on when you have amazing goals for your book, but if you want to do something really big, and I don’t think you’re ready, I’m going to share that, too. Then we’ll set about getting the training necessary to make it happen. I write about that here if you’re interested in more about the cheerleader/truth teller approach.

With so many more people using video for attention and coverage now, and because IT IS SO EASY TO DO at this point in time, planning is critical. Before hitting the record button, be sure to answer the following questions:

  1. What are you going to talk about?
  2. What is your goal by talking about it?
  3. What is the ARC of the story? Do you start with the problem, what happened when you knew it had to change, and then you provide the solution?
  4. Are your tips easily actionable?
  5. Do you get right to the point, or do you start the camera and begin meandering about how strange life is right now and how weird you feel?

Yes, things are strange right now. We all know that, but usually a video is not a place to dump all your own personal feelings; it’s a place to help others to learn something or do something. How are you going to help?

Does this mean you can’t hit record and start talking about how strange things are? No, of course not. You have the freedom to do exactly that if you want to. I’m only bringing this up because just yesterday I saw 11 different videos on my own feed and  people doing exactly that: Talking about how weird everything is. They’re scared. They’re bored. They’re frazzled with the kids. They’re tired. They’re whatever. I get it. But if you’re an author and/or business owner, it might be more effective to figure out how you can help others. What can you share with them to help them (and you) feel a little more normal? What can you give knowing that in the giving of it, you will feel better? Funny how that works.

Also, with so many now turning on their cameras and uploading video, we’re all going to get very good at ignoring them. It’s fun to check out a few: “Hey, what is so and so talking about?” But that gets old after a while, particularly if it’s not helpful to the viewer in some way.

And because of that fact, it’s going to become even more challenging to get noticed — even if you’re producing good content.

This is not the time to go live and spew forth with something half baked. Some say this is more authentic, but I think it’s just lazy. By having something to say that is relevant and applicable to your audience, they will notice and come back. Here are a few steps to take:


Plan out what you’re doing to say and what your suggestions are.


Have a hook and start with that. A “hook” is the thing that grabs a person. It can be in the form of a question, assertion, or statement that creates conflict. Resist the urge to say, “Hi. I’m… and then just start rambling about the day and how these are strange times.

Sound Bites

These are pithy comments and phrases that are memorable to your viewers.

I’ve got a template here for creating your own sound bites.

Remember that as you are delivering your message, imagine that you are speaking to one person. I know it’s tempting to say, “…all of you out there,” and “I’m so glad all of you could make it,” but those of us out in the audience are at home, most likely alone in our own places, so we aren’t aware of an entire audience. You can speak to a group if you’re appearing as a group on Zoom or some other platform, but if it’s just you speaking to others, then direct your thoughts and language at one — your perfect target person. Also, be sure and look right into the camera — not your image on the screen. This will take some training, but remember, you’re doing these things for the comfort of your audience, not your own comfort. You can train yourself to do this.

Bottom Line

Being live on screen is big and getting bigger. Use it well and it will take you far beyond where you are right now in terms of thought leadership and visibility. And, quite frankly, with so many doing it badly, if you embrace these tips and do it well, you will stand out. That, I can promise you.

To your success!


P.S. Dr. Anthony Fauci has become a national hero for his straight talk about the pandemic.  An entire cottage industry has appeared overnight with all kinds of merchandise featuring his likeness including bobbleheads, socks, donuts, and even prayer candles! Here’s a story in the New York Times. It’s amazing that even in times of shut downs and people losing jobs, some people thrive due to their own innovation.








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