A video is only as great as the talent within it.
No matter how well-written the script is, or how polished the post-production is, your video will suffer if the speaker is visibly uncomfortable.
Because it makes the viewers uncomfortable too!
But that doesn’t mean you have to be an actor or media personality. Although it will take some practice.
If you’re interested in learning how to improve your act, then you might want to learn a lesson or two from professional speakers.
You see, the screen and the stage have a similar effect on an audience.
While they help direct attention to the speaker’s message, they don’t immediately provide the same connection that a one-on-one conversation would. So as soon as someone loses interest, they have little incentive to re-engage.
Great speakers simulate that personal connection by adhering to the fundamentals.
Check out the podcast and keep reading to learn the 13 ways professional speakers maintain the interest of their audience, and how you can use them the next time you’re featured on video!
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1. Know Your Audience
Often, clients come to us wanting to create a video that’s all about how great they are, their fantastic products, and their high quality of service.
While I’m sure all those things are true, your audience doesn’t care unless you can show why it should matter to them.
You need to speak to your audience’s pain points and answer their questions.
Instead of thinking about what’s going to make you look good, you should focus on anticipating their reactions and responses. Speakers have the benefit of a captive audience, and fewer distractions when they’re up on stage.
But the second a viewer loses interest with your video, they can immediately click away to the next interesting thing.
So before getting started, ask yourself a few key questions about the audience you’re trying to reach.
- Why are they watching your video in the first place?
- Who is your audience, and how can your content more relevant to them?
- What questions might they have for you?
- What problems could they be facing that they’re not even aware of yet?
Once you know what they want or need, you can speak to them in a more meaningful way.
2. Create an Emotional Journey
Video is, by far, the best content format for conveying emotion. But that doesn’t mean you can rely on it to do all the work for you.
That’s why you need to show your viewers the problems they’re facing.
Create a storyline that elicits emotion, with a narrative that allows them to empathize with the message you’re delivering through video.
Only after they’ve experienced the pain should you introduce them to your solution.
Trust me, that promise of relief is going to be a whole lot more powerful after the emotional journey you’ve taken them on.
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3. Embrace Strategic Silence
You hear these in everyday conversation, but there’s no place for them on the stage (or the screen).
And while we often recommend you create “conversational” video scripts, using filler words is taking that freedom too far.
When you’re on camera (or on stage), you want to seamlessly carry people through your message. And filler words disrupt your audience’s attention, and make you look unprepared, or even worse…that you don’t know what you’re talking about.
I know it can be hard to catch your own speech patterns. Those little “um’s” and “likes” sneak into your sentences before you have time to stop them.
In normal conversation, it’s relatively harmless. They’ve been integrated into our cultural speaking patterns so much, that they actually serve a function.
But when we’re watching someone speak on stage or in a video, we really do expect more from them. That’s because they’re asking for our attention, by creating an expectation of value.
And once those high expectations are set, filler words start to sound awfully unprofessional.
So if you need to break the habit, try to slow down.
Practice pausing before you speak, and stay silent when you need a second to recall your next idea.
Once you’ve removed filler words from your vocabulary, you can start to harness the power of silence.
By using extended pauses constructively, you’re not only giving yourself a quick break, but you’re creating positive tension for your audience.
With just a second of silence, your audience is inclined to linger on your last words, and wonder what’s going to come next.
Many of history’s most renowned speakers used silence as a strategic tool to make their audience “lean in.”
4. Have a Plan (and then Tell Them About It)
Even though video is better than any other content type at capturing attention, you can’t count on people sticking around if you don’t give them a good reason.
You have to win them over immediately. Tell them what you’re there to tell them, and then elaborate.
Essentially, you have to hook them right away, or risk losing them for good.
Your speech should be structured and concise, and one of the best ways to do that is to script out what you’re going to say, or at least create an outline for yourself before getting in front of the camera.
And the nice thing about video is that, unlike public speaking, you can always edit after the fact. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can rely on post-production to refine your messaging.
Your editors can make you presentation look more polished, they can’t fix a broken message.
Make sure your point is clear, and then find ways to reinforce your message throughout the video. That way your viewers will know what to expect.
Because without structure, you might find yourself endlessly editing, in search of a message that wasn’t there to begin with.
Bonus: Set your video up for success before you hit “Record” with our free pre-production checklist.
5. Engage Your Audience
Even when a stage (or screen) is separating you from your audience, they don’t want to feel removed from your world.
They’re there to connect with you. So while you have their attention, ask questions and engage your viewers. Talk like you’re speaking to just one person.
And the best part is, the conversation doesn’t have to stop when the video is over.
If you’re using video on social media, you can always encourage engagement in the comments below, or invite them to ask questions you’ll respond to in a follow-up video.
Depending on your goals, you may want them to subscribe, or share you video.
And if it’s a core sales or marketing video for your business, then conclude with a strong call to action.
You should never create a video without a purpose. Whatever your goal is is, speak directly to your audience and guide them to the next step.
6. Be Clear Before Clever
You should never assume that your audience is going to understand your quirky references, inside jokes, or industry jargon.
First, make sure that everything you say will be understood by your audience. If you need to, run your script past a friend or colleague.
Then you can start thinking about how to make things interesting, as long as it’s not obscure, confusing, or alienating to part of your audience.
This comes back to understanding your target customers. If you’re creating a video for a group of peers, then you’ll probably be able to get away with some of those obscure references.
But if you’re talking to a consumer audience, you should ditch anything that might go over their heads.
7. Use Questions Wisely
Never, ever ask a question you don’t know the answer to.
Rhetorical questions can go a long way when used correctly, because they put your audience in the right frame of mind. It challenges them and engages them in the sales process.
Questions can be a powerful framing tool that helps you realign with your viewers before advancing your story or message. By constantly realigning with your viewers, you’ll decrease resistance and improve the clarity and persuasiveness of your message.
Plus, rhetorical questions can help amplify emotion. If you want people to feel strongly negative or strongly positive, you can ask the question and follow it with information laced with the mood you want to elicit.
No matter how you want your audience to feel, keep your questions simple and straightforward. Make sure it leads to the expected answer, otherwise you put yourself at risk of creating friction between you and your viewers.
8. Pay Attention to the Clock
There’s no ideal time length for videos.
Some of the top videos on YouTube can be 20 minutes. Others are less than a minute long. It all depends on the information that’s being presented.
But you’ll also want consider some of the situations your video might be used in.
If you’re publishing on YouTube, you may want to see how long the other high-ranking videos for your topic are.
But if you’re making a Facebook video, you’ll probably want to keep it fairly short, unless it’s a live video of course (where longer is better).
Keep in mind all of your video’s use-cases, time constraints, and ensure that your topic fits well within those parameters.
You don’t want to try and squish 30 minutes of content into a 10-minute video.
Likewise, you wouldn’t want to ramble for 40 minutes on a topic that could easily have been addressed in a 15-minute presentation.
Want to learn even more about choosing the right length for your videos? Check out episode 14 of the podcast.
9. Give Away your Best Ideas
The most powerful thing you can get from a captive audience is trust.
And the best way to build trust? Give away your very best content.
If it’s apparent you’re giving them all you got — not hiding any secrets behind a price tag — they’re going to trust you right away, and see that you know what you’re talking about.
Doing so will help you stand out from the crowd, because so few people are sharing unique, high-quality information these days.
But know that a byproduct of doing that is creating heightened expectations from your audience. If you can’t continually deliver great follow-up content, you could lose their interest just as quickly as you earned it.
Of course, that can be intimidating for some. But if you deliver, the perceived value of your brand will grow. As your value improves, you can command higher prices!
Plus, you’re not living in a vacuum. You won’t be able to take ownership of your ideas forever anyway. Before long, you’ll realize that someone has also thought of a similar idea, and beat you to the punch. Claim it while you can.
10. Let Your Content Sell for You
If you’re giving people information that’s unique and valuable, then you won’t have to worry about selling.
When great content is delivered with confidence, your content will sell for you.
On that note, not all of your videos should turn into a pitch. In fact, marketing messages can severely limit your video’s reach, because people don’t feel comfortable sharing salesy content online (unless it’s extraordinarily funny).
But at the same time, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to speak to an interested buyer. So mix genuinely helpful videos (without any kind of pitch) with sales-focused videos to balance it out.
Both types of videos play an important role, but you don’t want sales videos to overpower the content that will attract your target audience; your expertise is the most valuable thing you have in your arsenal.
People will be more inclined to buy when you’ve shown them what you have to offer, rather than merely tell them.
11. Communicate with Authority
You might have some truly brilliant ideas, but without the right delivery, it may never go anywhere.
Keep in mind that video subtracts about 30% of your personality — so make up for it! Talk a little louder. Smile a bit more. And act like you’re talking to someone one-on-one.
Loosen up and smile!
Be casual and friendly, so that your audience feels like you’re talking directly to them. One of the greatest powers of video is its ability to make viewers feel like they know you.
What side of yourself are you sharing with them?
Because if you look uncomfortable, speak like a mouse, or start visibly shaking on-camera, your audience will notice, and they will begin to doubt your expertise.
12. Practice, Practice, Practice
If you’ve never been in front of a camera before, no doubt you’re going to feel some nerves.
Even if you’ve been on-screen a couple of times already, you might hate how the way you look and perform.
The good news is, you’re not alone. Getting in front of a camera is stressful for most people.
I mean, it’s kind of unnatural if you really think about it. You’re talking to a machine as if it were a person.
But with some practice, you can certainly improve!
Here’s what you can do: record the first 10 videos you create, 10 times.
That’s right — 100 videos.
But once you’ve done that, you’ll be so much better. And when you review each of those videos, you can start to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t.
Remember, repetition breeds comfort, which is exactly how you want to appear on camera!
13. Time is Money (So Be Efficient)
Since videos can take some time to produce, you need to be efficient.
Don’t make hundreds of videos that slightly expand on the next. Unless you’re trying to leave your day job and become a YouTuber full-time, you need to create content that can be used on a regular basis; stuff that’ll stay relevant for a while.
Not everything you make has to be evergreen, but be strategic about the content you produce. And then use your videos as assets. Share them with your audience repeatedly.
A good speaker doesn’t write a new speech for every event. They refine and adapt a few successful speeches to each of their audiences.
Why? Because they know what work, and they understand the importance of ROT (aka “return on time”).
You don’t have to be a professional speaker create a successful video, but thoughtfully applying these 13 speaker secrets to your camera presence will make a huge difference.
Be sure to read through this list the next time you’re preparing to get in front of the camera, and listen to the podcast to get even more tips on improving your video presence!