How to Look (and Sound) Good on Camera

So many presentations are being recorded or streamed out live now and it is important that you look your best. So today I want to discuss what you need to do to look good on camera.

In addition to thinking through my own experiences, I asked Mark Shuey of PBI, a gentleman with about 25 years of experience in filming seminars, for his opinion on the matter.


Let’s start with how you look.  I have been filmed doing introductions for 12 years.  Only recently did I allow PBI to film me as a presenter for the website.  Why? I am nervous about being on camera.  Funny, I know. Somehow I doubt I am alone when it comes to this fear.

Anyway, here is some advice on how to look your best.

  1. First you actually need to know whether you are being filmed. I ask for a release and tell people they are being filmed. But it is becoming so commonplace it is easy to forget.  So if the provider doesn’t mention it and you aren’t sure, ask.
  2. Dress: The right clothes are important in terms of color and pattern.
    1. Never wear a white suit or a white dress.  It is ok to wear a white shirt if only a small amount of white will show.  If you expect to take your jacket off, don’t wear a white shirt.
    2. Don’t wear red, it tends to bleed making you look like you are fuzzy.
    3. Your best bets are blue, gray, cream or egg-shell. Black is fine too.
    4. Don’t wear tight patterns, ala herringbone.  These patterns tend to look like they are vibrating.
    5. The above advice includes ties or scarves.
    6. Women, make certain there will be a skirt on the table at which you will be sitting before you wear a skirt or a dress.  This is regardless of whether the event will be filmed.  On a raised stage it is very easy for the audience to see up your skirt.
  3. Makeup
    1. Women, wear your normal makeup, unless the event is being filmed in a formal studio with a lot of light.
    2. Men, if you are balding you might want to brush a little bit of powder on your head.  The color should match your skin.
    3. If the program is being filmed at a formal studio a makeup artist will apply makeup to the men as well as the women. Normally just powder or something simple for the men.
    4. Fortunately we haven’t yet moved to high definition.  When it comes to high definition even high end makeup artists haven’t figured out how to high blemishes on our “beautiful people.” So we don’t have to deal with that quite yet. Once we get there, makeup artists will be crucial.
  4. Glasses aren’t an issue since most glasses have an anti-glare coat on them. if yours don’t however, that could be an issue. It isn’t likely, normally anti-glare is added automatically these days.
  5. While many sites, including PBI, provide name tags, it is actually unwise to wear them while you are being filmed.  Wear the name tags while you walk around (it helps attendees to identify you) but take them off while you are on stage.  The glare from the name tags affect the iris of the camera.


You look your best, your clothes are right, your makeup is in place.  Now you need to know how to address the audience properly.  This is a big issue and here are the top things about which you should be concerned.

  1. Speak into the mic.
    1. This seems basic but it is easy to get distracted and to forget there is a mic you need to speak into.
    2. Make sure you speak at a reasonable distance from the mic or your “p” sounds will seem as if you are spitting.
    3. Make sure you don’t speak too loudly or you will end up with a vibrating noise.
    4. Speak at a normal tone a proper distance from the mic.  Test how you sound before the seminar begins. Ask the provider or the Media Technology folks how you sound and for advice.
    5. Don’t turn your head drastically.
    6. Don’t move the microphone with hard movements. Microphones are delicate and can break.
    7. If you are using a lavaliere make sure it is set up an appropriate distance from your mouth and is secure on your clothing. Make sure the wire is hidden as well as possible. Put the base securely in your pocket or on your waist. Check how far you can turn your head before the lavaliere loses you and don’t turn your head further than that.
    8. Regular microphones will lose you if you turn too far away from them.
    9. if you are speaking at a podium don’t step away from the microphone/podium. Stand relatively still.
  2. Talk to the audience.
    1. The audience is your target, not your fellow speakers. If you are having a question and answer session or a moderated session and need to speak to the other faculty keep your shoulders open and half turn your head.
    2. Make eye contact with the audience. The entire audience.  Move your eyes and your head, slightly.  Engage the audience with your eyes.
    3. Don’t and this is crucial, read your slides.
      1. Faculty who simply read their slides get notoriously bad evaluations.
      2. If your slides are so dense that you can read them to the audience, the slides are unreadable by the audience.
      3. Read my blog post on powerpoint for more thoughts on proper slides.
    4. Ignore the camera.  Your focus should be the audience.  Ignore the camera, don’t worry about it being there. It will probably just distract you as it focuses in and out anyway. You don’t need to look into the camera. Exception: If you are in a professional studio with a multi-camera shoot you will be provided with instructions on where to look.
    5. Repeat questions.
      1. It is extremely difficult for providers to get the questions from the floor on the recording.  Many providers have tried different things, including mics in the ceiling and having the audience members walk up to special podiums with mics.  Most of the time the audience will still ask questions from the floor.  Nothing is more frustrating for the distant audiences or those viewing a recording than having no idea what the question you are answering might be.
    6. Control the audience.
      1. Don’t allow someone to ask a very long question.  Try to stop and summarize what she said.  Don’t allow one person to monopolize the seminar.  If the person has a lot of questions they will normally be specific to a case she has.  Suggest she come up after the program is over so you can speak. Politely of course. Exception: If a person has a lot of questions and they are general and so relevant to the entire audience, that is a different story and perfectly acceptable, as long as others are able to ask questions too.
    7. Refer to page numbers in the book.
      1. It helps people to follow along if you can give them a sense of where you are in the book. Even if your materials don’t follow your presentation exactly, it is fine to give them a general sense of where the concept is so they can take notes.


That’s it.  Those are my thoughts on how to look good and sound good during a presentation.  Other providers and speakers, please feel free to speak up.

This is the last of my series of 3 posts on technical advice on speaking.  Not to say it will be the last post I write on the subject, but it finishes what I have in my head right now.  If you have specific questions about speaking feel free to email me, I am happy to give advice.  If you have a topic you would like me to cover please feel free to let me know that as well.

I hope you have found this series useful.

Subscribe to This Blog