Screen test

Video created the corporate star, including our inimitable Richard John.

If you’re committing to video to get your conference message across, let me share a few hard-learned lessons. Firstly, dress the part. For example, check patterns can cause patterning which is distracting for the viewer. The cameraman might also suggest you use makeup (regardless of your sex) because harsh lighting may make you look shiny. So accept the powder. It makes a difference (as Richard Nixon found out to his cost).

It’s worth learning some of the terms used in making videos, and understand that a variety of shots is essential.

Learn from broadcast news stories that usually employ a technique known as ‘reverses’. The interviewer asks the questions while the camera is on the subject, and then asks them again facing the camera at the end. These are then spliced together, and other effects added to give the piece a more dynamic feel. This means that if you do fluff a line, it’s easy to start the sentence again, rather than have to start from scratch.

On TV you’ll see shots of the interviewer nodding or smiling (known as ‘noddies’, and filmed along with the reverse shots; they give the editor material to use as they deal with a fluff). These can mitigate interview subjects who have a tendency to look at the camera, which can appalling.

The technique is easy to explain, and hugely difficult to master. The main failings are when the reverses are filmed with the interviewer looking the wrong way (as his subject has invariably left) or when an obvious height discrepancy is ignored.

Think carefully about what you want to say, both as interviewer or interviewee. These should not exceed five minutes (remember, these will be seen on laptops or PC screens; it’s not a competitor to Eastenders) which in turn means you only have time for four or five questions. Keep your answers short (but never just a curt ‘No’) and if possible, illustrate with an example.

So, a standard question such as “How is the market currently?” could be answered as follows: “Well, the market (it’s worth repeating the key word, in case the original question gets lost in the edit) is certainly competitive, and clients are more price-sensitive, but it’s also a chance for us to improve our customer service and explore innovative ways of doing business. With some customers we’re finding new ways to extend the life of their machines to allow them to defer major capital expenditure, but with a few of our long-standing clients we’ve brought forward the release of our digital widget, so they can increase their speed to market.”

A paragraph like this, which would take about 30 seconds delivered in a conversational manner, gives enough information to keep the viewer interested, shows you know your stuff, and is delivered without too much flannel. It also gives an interviewer time to think of their next question.

Remember, too, that the camera will pick up all your gestures and expressions, so it’s worth doing some practice, playback included, to see what your sins are. The most common are roving eyes.

And get your thoughts clear; every ‘um’ and ‘err’ will be captured, and when you’ve got the point across, shut up. Similarly watch your body language, every twitch will be amplified.

The interviewer’s job is hard and anyone who wonders how difficult it could be to deliver a story to camera has never tried to walk, talk and speak, stop in the right place and remember to keep their face to the camera. It’s not as easy as it looks. You might be asked to do a piece ‘as live’; here you have to address the camera, then turn and introduce your guest as the camera swings round, then step back towards (but not in front of) the camera so that your subject’s eyeline follows you. Oh, and then ask all your questions, seamlessly. Believe me, those reporters earn their money.

You will be amazed at how long each session will take, so don’t be too ambitious and try to interview 20 people at your annual conference. First timers should allow an hour for fluffs, retakes, and exasperated sighs as passers-by try desperately to gurn at the camera mid-shot.

So, off to your Winnebago, and let’s make you a star. 

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ConferenceNews Guest Author

Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

ConferenceNews Guest Author


ConferenceNews Guest Author

Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

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