As most PR people, most broadcast journalists, and all our students in Creative Communications know, it takes hard work to look natural in front of a camera (for most people, at least).
On camera, every little tic appears exaggerated. Every hesitation or stumble seems amplified. A frustrated or embarrassed facial expression can overtake any message you're imparting verbally.
And yet... PR people debate with their clients and executives every day, in offices around the world, about the need to practice before going on camera for a media interview. Executives tend to be confident people; but even the greatest of confidence isn't a substitute for some basic techniques that can help you come across well on camera.
"I'll just go on and be myself."
Here is an example of a fellow who may well have felt he could just go on camera, be himself, and win over FOX News viewers. I'd be willing to bet that Jon Christensen, founder of slashgamer.com, uses services like Skype to have videoconference-style conversations online all the time -- and figured that doing an on-camera interview would feel much the same. (His interview begins around the 0:48 mark.)
If that was the case, I'd also be willing to bet he feels differently now.
Practice makes... better
Being on camera can be terrifying the first time. Even if you feel confident, and you know your material like the back of your hand, something can happen when that light goes on that can strike you dumb on the spot.
Professional media training, delivered by a media relations expert, can help. It helps you understand the media's needs so you can better-prepare your messages, making them more likely to be used; it can also help you get more comfortable -- and be more effective -- delivering those messages on camera.
But even if there isn't time to bring in expert training, practice makes better. Have a colleague do mock interviews with you, so you can practice your responses. If you can, use a video camera or even the webcam built into your computer to look at your own body language, so you can identify anything you need to change before you -- and, potentially, millions of others -- see it on the news.
Thanks Dustin for the tip!