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7 practical tips to help accountants be natural on camera

Dec 13, 2019

Recording video is hard. You rarely think about ‘how to be natural’ day to day and yet when that little red light goes on suddenly something changes and you’re under pressure. 

It’s understandable, as there are a lot of considerations. “Is what I’m saying making sense? Do I appear professional enough? Does anybody care what I have to say?”. 

There are a million reasons not to and yet everyone is talking about video. Sometimes it feels like you’re swimming against the current.

Whilst all of these are valid concerns the question that should really be asked is:

 

“How well do my clients and prospects know me?”

 

People do business with people, not companies, and when meeting in person isn’t an option, or people are yet to be convinced enough to invest that time, a video is the next best thing.

Being on camera and appearing completely natural is a skill, and like any skill it requires practice to develop. Yes, some people may be born with a natural aptitude but with a little practice anyone can become comfortable with being their real selves on camera. 

Here are some practical tips that will help you start your journey to show your true self on video:

 

 

1. Look into the lens, not the screen.

 

This is a really common one and yet SO easy to avoid. Ever see those selfie videos posted online and you can just tell the person is watching themselves whilst they record it? It almost feels like you’ve stumbled across something private, like when someone’s checking themselves out in the mirror and you really shouldn’t be watching. 

It’s a really easy mistake to make mind you. I mean you’re right there in front of you, moving in real time. The solution; If you’re using a camera at home or in the office, the simple fix is to just not have the screen visible. Flip it down and remove that temptation. Same thing goes for a phone, use your front face camera so that you can’t see the screen.

If you’re taking video on the move this is a little more difficult to avoid and will require a little discipline. See that little circle in the top right or left of your phone screen? That’s the camera. When taking a selfie video stay focused on that area and if you forget to, there’s no harm in trying again.

 

2. Smile

 

A smile is the quickest and easiest way to appear a little more congenial to your internet friends. Now, forcing a smile can feel a little false at times but it’s actually been scientifically proven that faking a smile actually makes you happier. So give it a go. I mean don’t go full ‘The Shining’ but try it on for size and before you know it those endorphins will get flowing and you’ll be your charming, natural self.

Just as important as how it makes you feel is how it makes your viewer feel. Being on camera is like being on stage, you have to over compensate to get across the subtleties that would be easy to detect in person. A smile is a great way to appear friendly, put the viewer at ease and stop yourself from sounding disinterested. 

3. Don’t over script it

 

It can be very tempting, especially as an accountant, to impose structure on things that make you feel uncomfortable. This isn’t how it works with video. 

I mean, how weird would it look if you turned up to a dinner party with a script and started reading from it when making conversation? 

The same applies to being on camera: to appear natural, you need to allow the words to flow, naturally. Just an in-person meeting, your client will feel more at ease if they really believe that you want to help them. If people sense that you working for them is simply a means to an end then they’ll feel cheated and want to leave. It’s customer service 101 and the same rules apply when talking on video.

A happy middle ground can be to make a list of talking points

I actually did this when applying for PF. We’re asked to send in a 3 minute video, so rather than planning it all out I just made a list. 1. Mention previous experience 2. Mention music 3. Mention hot sauce 4. Show them Tate (My dog). It must have worked as I’m here writing this now! On a related note we’re hiring so check out our careers page now if you’re keen.

 

4. Let yourself make mistakes (no one can see them)

 

Credit goes to my wife Jen for this one. She has a YouTube channel with a few subscribers so I asked her what her tip would be and this was it. She also followed it with “You always do that, you freak out when something goes wrong” so you know, it happens to us all.

There’s some real wisdom here. Mistakes don’t matter. 

It’s not the same as a tax return. If you mess that up then worst case scenario you or your client could be prosecuted. Making a mistake on camera is inconsequential in comparison. 

It’s not LIVE (real life is and we don’t worry then). If the mistakes make it into the video it only makes you appear more human and if for any reason you don’t want them included then editing is really easy these days. 

Most phones can edit video now or if you’re using a ipad or tablet you can try something free like InShot.

 

5. Bring a friend 

 

Believe it or not you don’t actually have to record videos alone! 

In fact, having someone else to bounce off can make things flow a lot more naturally. Back in the day I did quite a few YouTube videos with my old band and the ones I enjoyed the most were quite often with another person.

So get someone else involved and you can both promote the video afterwards and share the exposure that follows. The video you’ve made then reaches twice the amount of people. These are people that you wouldn’t usually reach and not only that it appears before them as a ‘warm intro’ via someone that they do know. This is a recipe for success where potential prospects are concerned. 

I believe the kids call it a ‘collab’.

 

6. Forget about professionalism

 

It’s no longer 1999. The internet has removed any mystique that once existed and people no longer want a suit as an accountant, they want a person. So forget about professionalism for a minute and begin to think about how you can share your personality with the world.

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean dropping the F-bomb every other word (unless that’s what your potential clients love). What it means is that you can give yourself permission to be yourself. 

In giving that permission you’ll remove a massive hurdle that forces you to second guess what you’re saying and ultimately affect your speaking. 

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt” Sylvia Plath

I saw this on a toilet door where I used to work and it’s stuck with me ever since. Be yourself, forget about professionalism, and you’ll find that your words and ideas flow much more naturally.

 

7. Change the format

 

Not everything has to be a selfie video taken in your car. If doing this kind of video content makes you feel uncomfortable then mix it up. Have a fireside chat with a client, get your team involved and make a FAQ video structured like a game-show. There are a lot of possibilities, some harder than others I grant you but think along the lines of trying one of these common formats; Vlog (directly to camera), Interview (Asking or being asked questions) or documentary (fly on the wall footage edited together). Find your own brand of expression and don’t worry about what other people are doing.

 

To wrap it up: this is the START of a journey.

Whilst all of these things will help you get started, there really is no replacement for PRACTICE

Developing this skill like any other will be characterised more by your failures than your successes to begin with, so it’s best to embrace that, own your failures, even post a blooper reel! (I love a blooper reel check out this adorable one of James Franco).

Finally, it’s important to remember that not every piece of video you record needs to see the light of day. We’re not in the 1950’s anymore using expensive film. If you don’t like it, delete it, or even better keep it just for you, as part of your journey.

I hope this helps some of you. If you’ve got any specific questions about video drop me an email. We love a bit of #GenerosityPillar around here and I’m happy to spend a minute shooting you a reply.