10 Commandments for Going on Camera for The First Time

For certain types of videos, such as creative commercials, professional actors are the way to go. Other times, when creating a company culture or testimonial video, it makes more sense to feature real people from within your company or customers as the stars of the show.

One of my first and biggest projects at my previous job was leading the production of a biography video for the CEO & Founder’s 50th Anniversary in the industry. I worked with a video production agency to create a storyline and direct the making of the short film. The most challenging part was getting 12 executives who’ve never been on camera before to feel at ease delivering the content we needed. I’ve never seen such a normally confident and high-powered group of individuals so jittery in my life! 

To get them to feel more comfortable, I used one of our prep sessions to share ten commandments for going on camera.  I hope that you find them useful for yourself or when preparing the stars of your video for their big debut.  Here they are:

1. Thou shall not take yourself too seriously

Let’s get one thing straight: you will mess up. There’s also a good chance you’ll get yourself landed in the blooper reel. So what? Because this is not a live event, your answers to the questions can be attempted as many times as you wish and as time permits. Even professional actors sometimes need countless takes to get a scene right. Remind yourself of this fact if/when you start to feel flustered, take a deep breath, and try again.

Even professional actors sometimes need countless takes to get a scene right. Take a deep breath, and try again.

first time on camera - don't take yourself too seriously

2. Thou shall use complete answers

When the video is edited, you won’t see the interviewer or hear their question in the finished product. For this reason, you should always try to include the key point of the question in your answer.  For example:

Question:  Can you tell me about the culture in your organization?

Incomplete answer:  It’s awesome! We’re like a big family here!

Complete answer:  The company culture at ______ is awesome. We’re like a big family and we work and play hard.

3. Thou shall know your message but not memorize answers

When going on camera for the first time, many people’s first instinct is to prepare for being interviewed by writing out and memorizing answers to questions they will likely be asked.  This is a big no-no. It’s obvious to viewers that your answers were scripted and/or memorized. This comes across as insincere and raises the suspicion that the message might have been written for you.  At any rate, you’ve lost credibility.  Know what you want to say, but resist the temptation to write it down as a script. Use your own natural language and talk in a conversational style.  In other words, just be yourself!

first time on camera - don't memorize your answers

4. Thou shall maintain eye contact with your interviewer

Pretend the camera isn’t there. Look at your interviewer and maintain natural eye contact – you’re  having a conversation with them and the camera is just there to record that.  Looking into the camera instead of looking at the interviewer gives off the impression that you are uncomfortable or nervous.  It comes across as very awkward and unnatural.  You’ll notice that trying to not look at the camera might actually be one of the hardest things about the entire process, as for some reason people’s eyes tend to be drawn to it like a magnet. Your videographer or interviewer will gently remind you to look at them.

*This is based on the assumption that you’re starring in a testimonial/company culture/ interview video. There are definitely some types of videos where you’ll be instructed to look directly at the camera. It’s something that your videographer will clarify.

5. Thou shall pause briefly before answering a question

When answering a question don’t rush — take a couple seconds to pause briefly. This will help the editor tremendously when editing the content, resulting in a much cleaner final result. It will also give you the opportunity to gather your thoughts and give a more thoughtful reply. Win-win!

6. Thou shall pause for thought during your answer

When the camera is rolling, it’s common to feel the pressure to talk, and keep talking.  This isn’t natural in our day-to-day conversations.  When chatting with a friend, we pause and collect our thoughts.  Try to treat your on-camera interview as if it’s a conversation with a friend, and take a pause between sentences. Along with having some pauses, try to consciously speak a little bit slower, since maybe people end up talking too quickly when nervous.

Try to treat your on-camera interview as if it’s a conversation with a friend.

7. Thou shall think of your outfit

Color looks great on camera (and in general!) so remember to include it in your outfit. You’ll also want to be considerate of the tiny microphone that the videographer will need to attach to you. Wearing a jacket and/or a button up shirt or blouse, as opposed to a loose sweater, makes it much easier.  Things to avoid include: stripes, polka dots and checkered prints (they can all look too busy on camera), any loose change in your pockets (it can be very noisy), shiny/reflective jewelry (as it reflects light and can create a flaring effect to the camera), and  dangly bracelets (they can also make a lot of noise when you move your hands while talking). Last but not least, remember to wear something you feel comfortable in.

first time on camera - think about your outfit

8. Thou shall be groomed

Depending on your budget and the type of video you’re shooting, there may or may not be a hair or makeup artist available prior to or during your interview.  In the case that there isn’t, don’t forget to take a quick trip to the restroom right before your scheduled interview to make sure you are happy with your general appearance.

9. Thou shall mind your body language

Smile! This is super important because it makes you look confident and comfortable. Be aware of your posture.  Keep your shoulders relaxed and both feet on the floor. Avoid nervous fidgeting with jewellery, glasses, etc.   You can definitely use hand gestures to add dynamic effect, but only if it’s natural.

10. Thou shall have fun

As cheesy as this may sound, remember to have fun and enjoy your ‘15 seconds of fame’.  Being in a company video is a cool opportunity and there’s a reason that you were selected to be the star (you’re awesome, obviously!). It’s also an exciting way to break up your weekly routine.

first time on camera - have fun!

Remember to have fun and enjoy your ‘15 seconds of fame’!

When you look good, your videographer looks good. The videographer is there to help you as much as possible and is in charge of providing you with a relaxed, no pressure environment for your on-camera interview. Check out these videos created by talented Veed.me videographers featuring real people, just like you. If you follow the ten commandments above, you’re sure to nail your first on-camera appearance. Good luck and let us know how it goes!