Prioritizing Psychological Safety in Corporate Video

Vern Oakley speaks to NPR's David Brancaccio during a video series created for his book, "Leadership in Focus: Bringing Out Your Best On Camera"

Speaking on camera is a vulnerable experience. Leaders who are unfamiliar with the process tend to approach it with skepticism and concern.

Being on a video set can feel overwhelming and intimidating. Executives may fear a poor performance reflects poor leadership qualities. Just the feeling of being out of their element creates communication barriers that result in a less-than-ideal performance.

The Sacred Space on a Video Shoot

I call it the “Sacred Space”—a safe environment where you, the speaker, and your video director can sort out your message together and work closely to impart your humanity and authenticity on camera.

It’s my job as the video director to establish trust with the executive. I strive to create an environment where the leader feels comfortable being vulnerable and where their supportive team feels comfortable sharing productive feedback. This “Sacred Space” is the best way to create healthy communication and a great video experience.

The Director-Subject Relationship Shapes the Video Outcome

It’s the director’s mission to pull the best performance out of every video subject. This job requires a lot of trust from corporate leaders who are self-conscious about their presence on camera.

I work with the executive to tailor the executive’s verbal messaging just right. I select the right environment and outfit to set the tone of the video. We work through personal barriers or concerns so the leader feels their most confident going into the performance.

At the end of the day, choosing an experienced and tactful director can be the biggest determinant of how your company video comes together. The right creative agency can pull a dynamic and engaging performance out of the most hesitant subject. And, in turn, they will create an incredibly powerful video for your organization.

Building Your Trusted Team Guarantees Video Success

The fear of negative consequences is what holds many of us back from success. While on set, your team members might be hesitant to raise issues that could be costly, in terms of money or in time.

Harvard Business Review calls it Psychological Safety: “a shared belief held by members of a team that it’s OK to take risks, to express their ideas and concerns, to speak up with questions, and to admit mistakes — all without fear of negative consequences.”

Executives who are unwilling to accept feedback foster an environment closed off from improvement and development. During the pre-production process, it’s important for executives to select trusted advisors who they can rely on and receive feedback from.

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“It’s one thing to understand the role of video in business communication, it’s another to know how to use video to solve actual business problems. Vern Oakley gets that.”


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