Four tips for effective and engaging on-camera presentations

Contributed by Dr. Nachamma Sockalingam, Lecturer, TLC

(The content for this post is from a workshop run by Ms. Maura Fogarty, Fogarty Communications)

Blog 3

Recently, TLC organized a workshop on “Delivering effective and engaging on-camera presentations” (on 23 March 2013). This workshop was conducted by Ms. Maura Fogarty from Fogarty communications. Maura has extensive experience in presenting on-camera.

This post summarizes the content shared during the workshop to benefit those who were not able to attend. Please note that a video presentation of this workshop will be made available in TLC’s repository (in TLC’s website) in time to come.

This workshop was well-received, given that many of our UniSIM courses are being converted to online courses.

At the start of the workshop, attendees were asked to share some of the common challenges in preparing on-camera presentations. Challenges mentioned are:

1)   Not being natural

2)   Being conscious/nervous

3)   No immediate feedback from audience

Maura’s tips on delivering effective and engaging on-camera presentations address these challenges. Her tips are to:

1)    Start with 5 minute video scripts

2)    Prepare props and slides

3)    Rehearse

4)    Perform in front of camera

Let us consider each of these points.

Start with 5 minute video scripts

When preparing for video lectures, course developers often start out with PowerPoint slides. What happens is that course developers tend to end up reading the slides than elaborating. To circumvent this, some may write scripts of all that they are planning to say.

Although scripts are useful in planning, they are too long. This means that course developers may end up making more mistakes while recording and this requires them to repeat recording. So a suggestion is to distil the key ideas into bullet points.

One way to derive bullet points from a script is by keeping the keywords, discarding the connecting words. The purpose of the bullet points is to remind us of the points we intend to make.

In writing the scripts and then the bullet points, course developers need to remember that it is important to capture audience’s attention. Since audience’s attention span can be short, we need to keep the videos to the point.

An approximate suggested timing is 5 minutes per video. It is up to the course developers to decide if a video is going to represent a single chapter or multiple chapters depending on their needs.

The video lecture is meant to guide students than to provide students with all the information. Therefore, course developers should keep to specifying important concepts rather than giving a whole lecture. They can then direct students to readings and references for self-paced work.

To engage students, course developers can use techniques such as storytelling and questioning and introduce the content. Keeping the presentation conversational would also engage students.

The overall strategy in a presentation is: 1) to say what you are going to say, 2) say, and 3) summarize what you just said.

Prepare props and slides

Props and slides are the additional materials used in preparing the video lectures. Since we are more receptive to visual cues than auditory signals, it is important that the props and slides are not distracting. Some suggestions are to: 1) keep the slides simple – not cluttered. 2) Use the 1-7-7 rule: Each slide to discuss 1 idea, in 7 lines using ~ 7 words per line, 3) Make use of more pictures, and fewer words, and 4) when using clustered pictures, point out the key points.


It is good to practice in front of a mirror or someone prior to recording. Rehearsing will help us to become more fluent and give us more confidence. This way, the time needed for video recording will also be shortened.

Perform in front of camera

On camera presentation requires an element of performance. Since there is no face-to-face contact with students, course developers need to put in extra effort in their video recording.

Being energetic can engage students. To make the presentation lively, course developers can use exaggerated gestures (a bit more than usual) and tonal variations.

Course developers should remember that a video is only 2-dimensional. Hence to compensate for this limitation, they need to dress up for the video. Suggestions are to avoid white and printed patterns such as stripes and instead keep to solid pastel colours. It is also advisable to wear light makeup. Accessories such as dangling earrings and bangles should be avoided as they can be distracting.

We can relax ourselves before the recording by starting with breathing exercises as well as voice exercises. Saying vowels such as A, E, I, O, U expressively is a form of voice exercise.

When setting up the camera, we need to ensure that the camera is in level with our eyes so that it appears as though we are looking at our students directly and having a one-to-one conversation. It is alright to look at notes once in a while to break the eye-contact.

Overall, presenting on-camera requires preparation, not just in terms of content, but also us. We need to be ready for the recording as we are play an active role. In addition, we have to ensure that materials needed such as slides are also well-prepared. Preparation and practice will help us present with more confidence and engage the audience.



About tlcunisim

This is the TLC UniSIM blog: the virtual community space for associates and faculty members to share ideas on teaching and learning. This blog is edited by Dr. Abdel Halim Sykes, Lecturer, Teaching and Learning Centre, SIM University, Singapore.
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