Most people have a blank, expressionless look on their face when listening to someone else talking. In person, this looks fine. In fact, it would look odd to someone talking to you if you sat there with a big, stupid grin on your face for no reason. However, on television, a blank or flat expression does not look blank. Instead, it looks like a frown. Quite often you will see hotshot
business executives or celebrities introduced with great fanfare on CNN or NBC. However, the first thing you notice is that they look glum, bored or detached. It’s because they have a blank look on their face while they are busy listening to the host introducing them.
The only way around this is to put, and keep, a slight smile on your face whenever you are in front of a TV camera. I don’t mean a gigantic Pat Robertson “send-me-your-Social-Security-check” smile. All you need is a slight smile to look more comfortable, confident and relaxed.
Think of it as showing a few teeth and raising your cheeks slightly.
Here is a TV trick: if you smile slightly, it won’t look as if you are smiling to the people who watch you on TV, you will simply look more confident and engaging. Remember TV cools you down.
Another trick for the TV camera: keep a slight smile on your face WHILE you are talking. This sounds ridiculous, it feels ridiculous, but it works.
A common reaction I get from clients is, “But TJ, I’m talking about serious issues – we just had a plane crash and 10 employees were killed. I can’t smile during a TV interview for a subject like this – people will think I’m an insensitive jerk.”
This is an understandable reaction; however, it shows an ignorance of how the camera works. You will look more comfortable, conscientious and caring if you smile slightly EVEN when you are delivering bad news. The camera minimizes everything. It takes a blank look and actually makes it look like a frown, and it takes a smile and makes it appear neutral. So if you want an authoritative, neutral appearance while having to announce bad news, you still need to smile slightly.
When on TV, you should avoid the following involving your mouth:
• Don’t lick your lips. This looks lascivious on camera. Make sure you drink plenty of water before your interview so that you won’t be tempted to lick your lips during the interview.
• Don’t stick your tongue out while you are speaking – this looks serpentine.
• Don’t bite your lips – this makes you look nervous. If you can’t remember these do’s and don’ts, just remember to keep a slight smile on your face. That will cover up most other potential problems.
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