10 Tips to Turn Any Executive into a Video Star

Portrait of Satya Nadella

Short of a face-to-face meeting, video is perhaps the most powerful message delivery channel leaders have at their disposal. Even a live group presentation cannot match video’s ability to convey the sense of one-on-one connection. Audiences get to see you, hear you, and feel the emotion behind your message. The best CEO videos are able to move an audience to action by reaching out to each individual directly and forming an authentic human connection.

You have great leadership videos in you. All you need to bring them out is the confidence that comes from following the handful of tricks every video star knows.

Know thyself…and thy message…and thy audience.

1. Go with your best presentation format. Determine which video structure is the most natural outgrowth of your leadership strengths and communication comfort zone. Some leaders prefer to talk directly to an interviewer. Others like to respond to someone who is off screen. Others still would rather deliver a message straight to the camera, without the Q & A. There is no right answer. Choose the mode that suits you.

2. Drive your message home. Whatever point you are trying to make, stay on message. Keep reinforcing it. Video is no place for tangents. No other medium grabs attention like video, but you can quickly lose your audience if you lose message focus. Above all, keep it simple.

3. Speak your audience’s language. Effective communication isn’t what you want to say, nor is it what they want to hear. Communication is the point where the two meet. Try to meet them on their terms. You wouldn’t have the same delivery for a CEO video message to employees as you would for an Investor relations video. Regardless, avoid using business buzzwords. Don’t try to impress with “inside” jargon, using undecipherable operational phrases. If you use terms that everyone understands, your video will connect with your audience as fellow human beings. Also, give careful consideration to what you wear. An employee training video calls for a different wardrobe choice than a company-wide holiday greeting.

Character is who you are when the camera isn’t rolling.

4. Authenticity is the name of the game. Embrace your individuality. All the same qualities that make you a great leader will make you a great leader on camera. Like any public speaking, asking an executive to relax, be yourself and act naturally is easier said than done. I know. I spend many chapters in my book, Leadership in Focus: Bringing Out Your Best on Camera, coaching leaders to not be intimidated by the camera lens. Trust me, if you display that confidence that won you your title in the first place, you’ll be fine.

5. Be personable. Use humor. Whether you’re talking to outside stakeholders or employees, your viewers want to relate to you. Start with a warm greeting. If you choose an on-camera interview format, eye contact with the interviewer communicates connection. In a high-performance environment, stress is often part of the job and can even be a good motivator to do great work. However, a little humor from the boss can take the edge off and go a long way to making work fun again.

6. Be sure to listen. If you’re being interviewed, it’s important to demonstrate that you are a good listener. Being an attentive listener is one of the hallmarks of a strong leader, so listen, be in the moment, and be mindful before getting in front of a camera.

7. Project accessibility. As the leader of a company, you naturally run the risk of seeming distant to your employees. You can bridge that gap through video communication to employees by expressing a willingness to listen at a roundtable or through one-on-one interviews. You could even go one step further by letting your employees know how to contact you directly.

8. Show vulnerability. Vulnerability isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength. By opening up and sharing a personal trial that helped shape your career, you can show your audience that you’re human and you aren’t afraid to acknowledge your faults.

Honesty is the best video policy.

9. Address the elephants in the room. You will always get bonus points for transparency. Say you are making a company merger announcement. No matter what you say, all your employees will hear is “layoffs.” They would appreciate their CEO’s video message tackling the issue head on. They don’t want sugar coating, but they are looking for genuine empathy.

10. Tell the truth. The camera doesn’t lie and it knows when you are. Be pragmatic and honest. Audiences viewing any executive’s video message will be more engaged and more likely to follow a call to action if they feel their leader is being completely truthful.

One of the best CEO video performances we’ve seen

Here’s how one executive put these tips to the test. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made a bold choice for the video that introduced him to the company’s employees. He had to show almost 130,000 employees worldwide that he was the leader they’d been waiting for. How do you think he did?


In our opinion, he aced the test. His delivery isn’t perfect, but that just makes him all the more human and authentic. We get to learn about Satya’s personal life and history, while simultaneously being informed about where he hopes to take the company in the future. This is a leader with whom we can connect and relate. You, too, can be that leader!

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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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