Lights, camera, action: the importance of video in media training

When I first learned to ski, I made a conscious decision to take lessons in Colorado rather than closer to home in the Midwest. Yes, it was more expensive to travel there and the terrain was significantly more challenging. My reasoning was: if I could excel in the mountains, then I could easily handle the Midwest hills.

A similar approach works for media training. Adding a professional video camera and lights to closely mimic an on-camera interview during a media training session can significantly improve results.

Yet, we often get push back about bringing a cameraman and lights to training sessions. Some executives think that since most interviews happen via phone today, they should save on costs and not train to this level.

This is a mistake. On-camera media training is an essential tool for showing executives a host of interviewing mistakes, from talking too fast to coming across as aggressive. It has the added benefit of allowing executives to visualize their demeanor, which is valuable in itself.

Here are some reasons we recommend inviting a cameraman to a media training session:

Executives train under real-life conditions. The presence of cameras and lights make the experience very real, so it’s difficult to step out of role play. Executives soon learn that the hot lights are uncomfortable and cameras cause distractions that can throw them off their game. Professional journalists have a lot of experience with this, and will appear calm and cool next to sweating executives. Training with cameras allow executives to learn how to focus.

Cameras provide instant feedback. Nothing makes it easier to understand and correct a negative behavior than when you see yourself do it. During media training sessions, we turn the monitor around periodically and let trainees evaluate their performance. Once they see themselves rocking in a chair, playing with their hair or fidgeting with their rings, executives quickly see how distracting their behavior is and can make a conscious effort to change it. Video also allows executives to pinpoint negative behaviors of which they may not be aware. For example, it’s natural to look up when searching for a response, which makes executives look unprepared or unsure. Looking down projects thoughtfulness.

Everyday hair and makeup may not cut it. The everyday makeup that women wear to work may not work on TV. The camera tends to flatten features so you need more definition, more contrast and more highlights to appear natural on camera. It comes as a surprise to male executives that they too need makeup. While men can skip the eyeliner and mascara, they do need translucent powder to take the shine off the top of the head and absorb any beads of sweat from the hot lights.

Finally, media training is all about learning to tell your story under pressure. Work with someone who knows how to ask likely interview questions so you are prepared for the unexpected.

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