iStock_000054645020LargeIf you’ve flown United Airlines lately, you may have watched a video of Jeff Smisek, chairman, president and CEO of the company. It’s the video that runs before the safety briefing, and in it Smisek welcomes you aboard and shares some facts about United. He may be talking to you while walking through the terminal or standing in the aisle of a plane. He’s informal, relaxed, conversational. And he’s good at it, even though he was never an actor or broadcast journalist (his background is in economics and law).


Increasingly, corporate execs and leaders in other organizations are addressing various audiences – both internal and external – through the camera in a conversational, “ad lib” fashion. This kind of communication is popular with today’s audiences – especially younger audiences who have grown tired of “talking heads” – people who come across stiff, uncomfortable, over-rehearsed. And with more organizations using social media, websites and other forms of electronic communication, there’s a need for executives to perform comfortably and effectively – like live news reporters – speaking directly to the camera as if it were a person.


Success with this form of communication can be elusive – as some organizations are finding out when they try it. The challenges are many and varied:


  • Although some people are naturals at this task, most are not. So the speaker must be highly motivated to master the skills needed for an effective performance. Skills such as moving with and/or for the camera, while delivering a message using few, if any,  prompts (cue cards). And adding an informal, personal feel to that message.
  • Some special technology and technical expertise are needed to produce a solid end-product. For example, a professional videographer is needed – someone who can shoot the speaker while moving (including zooming in and out) and monitor audio at the same time. It’s critical to record the picture and sound in a way that’s not distracting and makes the most of the action. Few companies have the in-house capability to do this.
  • Rehearsal is mandatory. Professional actors in movies and TV shows usually do many “takes” before the director declares, “That’s a wrap.” Business people who choose this form of communication need to invest the necessary preparation and practice time.
  • The paradox of this kind of video communication is making planned messages appear to be delivered extemporaneously. That requires work, including having powerful opening and closing lines, as well as some good stories, examples or anecdotes. And that usually means a communications professional (in-house or outside consultant) should be involved in message development, along with determining the location(s) of the shot.


If all this sounds somewhat daunting, The Ammerman Experience can work with your budding video star to show him or her the ropes. We have the expertise to get your speaker ready for prime time. Before you know it, that individual will be walking down a hallway, emerging from an elevator or getting a cup of coffee – all the while, delivering messages that will resonate with the audiences who’ll be watching the video.


Contact us at 800-866-2026 to learn more about this executive coaching session.