Your Website Videos – Appreciating the Primal, Part 6 – Appearing On Camera

The script is written, the location chosen, so what’s next for your website video?  You’ve got the what and the where.  Now you need the who.

One of the biggest difficulties for most clients in the process of putting together their website videos is who will do the talking.  Many business owners immediately gravitate to the notion of hiring a spokesperson.  Not uncommon, and not a terrible idea.  But remember, the key in the intimate setting of website videos is trust – personal trust.  No spokesperson, no matter how talented, can match the actual founder, CEO, or sole proprietor who is running the company.  Yes, perhaps for product videos, or manufacturing.  But in the world of service, there’s nothing like hearing it directly from the boss.

Remember the Carl’s, Jr. ads with founder Carl Karcher?  A perfect example of the power of the owner – even if he’s not an accomplished performer – telling you about his company, as opposed to a hired actor.  They turned the company around, even though Karcher would clearly have preferred handing the job to someone else.  In fact, that discomfort was a large part of the appeal.  And those ads were for TV, where that immediate personal connection isn’t nearly as important as it is in your website videos.

Which leaves you with… you.  For most businesspeople, the notion of appearing on-camera is daunting.  This includes owners and executives who are otherwise quite comfortable in public settings.  For example, I recently shot the CEO of a company with annual revenue of several hundred million dollars.  As we were heading to the location in his offices where we would film him, he told me that he could raise a billion dollars in a week.  That he’d often spoken before 5,000 people without the slightest discomfort.  That he’d been interviewed on TV and handled it easily.

But with memorized lines and a camera rolling, it was a different story.  And, when we reached the location, set the lights, and did our first on-camera rehearsal, he stumbled.  Two, three times.  I could see the tension beginning to creep in.  He said, “See?  Every time.”

My turn.

While the CEO clearly thought he was failing due to his mysterious struggles doing on-camera narration, I knew differently.  He was actually in a common actor’s battle.  A line or two which don’t, for whatever reason, want to click in.  In each take, everything else flowed.  It was just that one line.  The solution is simple, sensible, and only known to those who have done it.

Tie the line into a life.  Actions which have a sensibility to the words will carry that difficult dialogue along.

The line was, “I’m quite honored to be an important element in continuing a half-century of our founder’s legacy.”  I had him take his hands, which had been in his pockets, and clasp them together on “honored.”  With the slightest of moves, the hands became fists on “important element.”  Then he separated them into an open ‘hug me’ stance for “founder’s legacy.”  Simple, comfortable, small moves.

He tried it once and grinned.  “That’s great!  Let’s go.”  It had clicked.  We did three takes and he never stumbled.  Time to move on.

This is precisely why having the right director on your website videos is essential.  Only a trained eye can help the on-camera performer – pro or non-pro – through the process.  Remember, even the greatest actors need a director to achieve their best performances.  That’s why, back in ancient Greece, the first actors invented the first director.

And this is especially true if, as recommended, the on-camera host is the owner or a top executive of the company.  That mountain in the way of a smooth performance is usually no more than a speed bump.  But it takes a professional director to get you over it.

Next up – how to deal with Testimonials.


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