The Power of Video: JFK, Trump, and You

This blog was originally published on Forbes as The Power Of Video: JFK, Trump And You on Tuesday, June 13, 2017.

Today, among the many celebrations of the centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth, The Paley Center for Media and the JFK Library Foundation have assembled a prestigious group of experts to discuss how the 35th President used “television as an essential political tool, from campaigning for the office through governing a nation.”

Ever since Kennedy met Nixon in the historic first televised presidential debate in 1960, video has become an integral part of politics—from multimillion dollar advertising campaigns to the candidates’ screen presence. Donald Trump parlayed his experience in reality television into the presidential election campaign last year. His performances in the debates against his opponents, his televised mass rallies, his appearances on the cable programs, and his ability to dominate the news cycles, helped carry him from a dark horse in a field of 16 candidates all the way to the presidency.

Television has become an integral part of business, too; consider the many video outlets available for you to conduct your company’s campaigns:

• Video platforms YouTube, Snapchat, Vine, Periscope

• Video on social media Instagram, Facebook, Twitter

• Video on demand produced in-house or by professional packagers

• Video teleconferencing PC Magazine lists the 10 best platforms among them RingCentral, Microsoft Skype, and Cisco WebEx

While you do not have the resources and finances of a presidential campaign, your video presence must be as effective as that of a seasoned political candidate and avoid these four potential traps:

1. The Irresistible Force. When non-professional presenters get in front of a camera, their adrenaline kicks in and they start speaking their words in a rapid, unbroken string.

• The solution: Break the string. Pause—as this blog explains

2. The Immovable Object. Your fixed image on camera becomes static in very short order.

• The solution: Break up the image by interspersing your on camera portions with simple slides with simple messages designed—as this blog explains.

3. The Stare. Eye contact is the most essential element in all human communication, but too much of good thing can be a bad thing. If you stare too long and too hard into the camera lens, you will feel uncomfortable and, even worse, so will your audience.

• The solution: Glance down briefly. You might think that this would appear evasive, but not if you glance during a natural break in your narrative—every time you pause. Rachel Maddow, who spends the first segment (known as the A-block) of her nightly MSNBC program speaking directly into the camera for about 15 or 20 minutes, demonstrates this technique very effectively.

4. The Windmill. Intending to be expressive, presenters gesture, but what often happens is that they wave their hands about endlessly. Nowhere is this more apparent than in network and cable sports television talk shows, where former athletes—whose experience is in sports, and not in presenting or performing—have been (over)coached to use their hands and they do so excessively. Just as with The Stare above, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

• The solution: Gesture by all means, but break up the windmill effect by dropping your hands out of camera range periodically—to the desktop if you’re sitting, to your sides if you’re standing—and punctuate your gestures.

Bottom line for all these traps: Give it a break!

This blog was originally published on Forbes as The Power Of Video: JFK, Trump And You on Tuesday, June 13, 2017.