When you are presenting to camera framed in a medium to close-up shot, the viewer can see every nuance in your eyes and facial expressions.
I’ve previously written about some of the pitfalls to avoid when making eye contact with the camera – including the dreaded “bug-eye” and “blinky”.
Here Are 5 Tips or Tricks You Might Want to Try:
1. Soften Your Eye-Contact
When we are concentrating on a challenging task (like delivering a video presentation), it is easy for our eyes to become fixed and steely, or ‘glazed over’ with a blank stare. This tendency is exacerbated when we try to keep our eyes focused on the camera lens.
If you find yourself squinting to look at the camera lens (some are tiny), I recommend sticking some bright colored duct tape around the outside casing of the lens so you can quickly re-engage with the lens if you look away or drop eye-contact.
I’ve written previously about the “cold staring eye” of the camera and how it can psych you out. A trick that can help you overcome this, is to stick a photo of a smiling family member or friend on the side of the camera. Don’t stare at the picture directly, because you still need to look at the camera lens dead-center, but having this photo visible in your peripheral vision can help to humanize the camera eye somewhat.
2. Know the Power of Empathy
Imagine your target audience is watching your presentation. Imagine how they will feel about the message you are presenting. Get emotionally involved in your subject matter and “feel” the content of your message so your facial expressions match your content.
“Look directly into the center of the camera lens and imagine
you are looking into your friend’s eyes.”
Also, you need to constantly remind yourself to “soften” your gaze, as you would if you were looking at a dear friend. Look directly into the center of the camera lens and imagine you are looking into your friend’s eyes. Remember to blink naturally – it helps with softening and relaxing the eyes. Smile with your eyes (I will cover how your viewers can spot fake smiles vs. real smiles in a future article).
3. The 3 Second Rule
Maintain friendly, constant eye-contact with your viewer (the camera). Beware of letting your eyes wander away from the camera lens unless you are scripted to do so. The rule is 3 seconds max – if you look away from the lens for any longer than that, you risk losing the viewer’s attention.
4. Adjust Your Camera Height
I recommend adjusting your camera height so that it meets your eye-line when you are standing up straight and looking at the camera. Make sure the camera angle is NOT looking down on you however, as this will lesson your authority and impact.
When looking at the camera, make sure your eye-line meets the height of the camera lens square on. Keep your head and chin in a neutral level, as this will help your posture and keep your throat open and shoulders balanced.
“Keep your head relatively still and relaxed. In fact, it is important to
slow down all your movements on screen.”
Any movement you perform in a close-up will tend to look exaggerated. Some presenters have an distracting habit of bobbing their heads about in the frame, which makes it hard for the viewer to keep eye contact with you. Keep your head relatively still and relaxed – it will enhance your screen presence. (In fact, it is important to slow down all your movements on screen so the camera can track them effectively – I will cover this further in a future article).
5. Do “Eye Yoga” – it Works!
Warm up your eyes by doing some gentle “eye yoga exercises” before you start recording. Alternate blinking forcefully, with opening your eyes as wide as you can several times. Then, when the camera is ready to roll, relax your eyes and think “soft smiling eyes” as you commence your delivery.
Feel free to ask me questions or share your on-camera experiences in the comment section below. If you enjoyed this article please share it with your friends.