There are few rules that apply to everyone when it comes to finding your own voice on camera. But there’s one thing I tell all of my clients: Practice and prepare. Absorb and refine your message. It’s not about memorizing a bunch of lines. It’s about reflecting on your message, saying it out loud, and thinking about what you want to convey. Because something magical happens once you’ve gone over your message again and again. At a certain point you can focus on saying it from the heart.
I discussed communicating through film with Vince Forlenza, CEO of Becton, Dickinson and Company. He observed, “Preparation is absolutely key. It enables you to get out of your head and into your heart more because if you’re thinking about how exactly you’re going to say it, you’re driving everything ‘upstairs.’” And, if you overthink what you say, as Vince points out, you’ll end up missing the opportunity to connect with your audience.
When I first met Vince, he wasn’t sure how to improve his on-camera delivery; he just knew he wanted to improve. We showed him videos of people who were all communicating authentically, but each in their own way. As Vince recalled, “The message was, ‘let’s find your way of doing it’, as opposed to, ‘here’s how we do this’.”
Vince is an engineer, so naturally he evaluated what he needed to do scientifically. He realized that there was a balance he had to maintain: He had to convey a message and he had to project his own personality. Vince discovered the best way to achieve that balance was to practice. This didn’t simply mean saying the same thing over and over again. Practicing gives you a chance to really think about what you want to say, why you want to say it, and why you’re saying it at that time. “The evolution of that message is really important too,” Vince noted. “It will come together in a way you may not know or understand when you start down that journey.”
For Vince, the journey takes place off the page. He doesn’t just sit down and read his notes before a shoot. “It’s more than reading the bullet points and knowing the facts…The difference between saying it in your head and saying it out loud is tremendous.” The key here is not learning a script and playing a part, as an actor might; it’s figuring out how to convey the information naturally.
It’s essential for everyone involved in a video to be prepared. The person on-camera might have all the right answers, but all that preparation won’t help them much if you ask the wrong questions during a Q&A. As a director, I work very hard to come up with questions that’ll generate the responses we need. Then we can make a great film. As Vince noted, “Because you, [the director], are asking the right questions and you’ve done enough work to have a real sense of what’s important and what’s not, it becomes much more conversational between the two of us.”
All of the work—the practice, the preparation, and refining a message—before filming is worth it, because it allows you to relax and be yourself on camera.