Tip #507: If You’re Going to Videotape

There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”  Dale Carnegie

I always videotape the participants on the last day of any train-the-trainer or presentation skills training program. The videotape includes both the participant’s facilitation or presentation, as well as the other participants’ (and my) constructive feedback. We do not replay the videotapes during class. Instead, I convert them into DVDs and send them to the participants after the class. This way, they can review them in private.

Over the years, I have made my share of both embarrassing and regrettable mistakes:  misreading the camera to think that it was recording when it was actually on “pause;” missing the first minute or so of the facilitated practice because I didn’t realize there was a lag between when I turned the camera on and when it started to record; running out of batteries when I forgot to bring a cable and a plug; recording entire sessions without sound because I didn’t check the microphone; etc. etc.

I have also reviewed training practice session DVDs that were poorly made. One DVD literally made me seasick because the camera was held by someone whose hands shook, causing the picture to continually move from someone’s feet to the ceiling to a spot on the wall, and occasionally, capturing the presenter. My eyes have been strained and unable to focus because the presenters were wearing clothing with tiny checks or herringbone patterns and or standing in front of a light source (either a window or a screen with the LCD projector on).

So that you benefit from my sad experience on both sides of the camera, I offer you the following suggestions if you plan to be videotaped:

Videotaping Requirements: 

1.      A digital camcorder that can run on batteries and be plugged into a power source. As long as your power supply is reliable, it is better to plug in the camera than rely on batteries.

2.      A tripod to keep the camcorder steady. Do NOT have someone simply holding the camera- they cannot keep it steady enough.

3.      A person to run the camera. Do NOT set up the camera and walk away from it- there is no guarantee it will record all of your movements.

4.      [If applicable] The cables necessary to connect the camera to a computer.

5.      [If applicable] The software to transform the videotaped session on the camera into a .mov on the computer.

6.      [if applicable] DVDs.


1.      Get comfortable with the camera.

2.      Make sure you know when the camera is recording.

3.      Practice panning out and zooming in.

4.      Find out how long the delay is between pressing the “record” button and when the camera actually starts recording.

5.      Make sure that the microphone works.

6.      Practice placing the camera on the tripod.

7.      When the camera is on the tripod, it should be almost above your eye height.

Camera Placement

1.      Plan where you’re going to put your camera as early as possible.

2.      If there’s a video projection screen being used, be sure the screen isn’t behind you in your shot. Presenters often look toward their slides, and having them turn toward the camera will always look better than seeing the backs of their heads.

3.      If you’re in an old building, floors tend to move and creak as people walk by you. Look for a solid spot to place your tripod (yes, ALWAYS use a tripod).

4.      Locate your tripod so your camera can shoot above head level.

5.      Also, locate your tripod down the aisle way so you can zoom onto the front presentation area without catching any audience heads.

6.      Make sure your camera can zoom in far enough to frame a decent shot of the entire person.


1.      Make an effort to include more lighting in the room where you are filming yourself.

2.      If possible, add a few lamps in the area (off camera) and take off the lampshades.

3.      DO NOT stand in front of or next to a window. It is hard to review your video and give you a good critique if you are standing in the dark.

4.      If you are using PowerPoint on a screen, quickly turn it off when you are done with a slide by pressing “B” on your computer. The light from the PowerPoint will make it difficult to film you.


1.      Run a test of yourself and play it back to make sure you are speaking loud enough for the microphone on the camcorder to clearly pick up your voice.

2.      Check to see how long it takes for the camera to start recording after you push “record.” There is usually a short delay. Make sure to prompt the presenter when it is ready for the person to start talking.


1.      Set up near a power outlet. You’ll have less cable to run and less chance of someone accidentally kicking the plug out of the wall.

2.      Always bring batteries as a backup, and bring enough to last the length of the presentation.


1.      The purpose of this videotaping exercise is to capture YOU on tape.

2.      It is important for the camera to capture your movements, so make sure that most of your body is in the shot.

3.      Do NOT zoom in to focus just on your face.

4.      Pan out to capture more space in the shot if you move around.

5.      Zoom in to focus only on you if you are standing still.

6.      Do NOT focus in on any audiovisuals during the videotaping session. Moving a camera back and forth between you and the bright projection screen can be extremely distracting to the viewer.

7.      If you interact with an audience member, the camera should pan out to capture both of you in the shot.

8.      Do NOT move the camera and tripod during the recording session. If it is not possible to pan out sufficiently to include both you and the audience member, then the camera should focus on you alone.


1.      Wear solid colors, particularly pastels.

2.      Avoid fine checks, stripes, herringbone and similar patterns. They can create an unpleasant strobe or blurring effect on camera.

3.      Avoid white, red and orange clothing.

4.      Avoid combinations of contrasting light and dark colors, such as black and white, dark brown and white, or dark blue and white.

5.      Avoid very glossy, sequined or metallic clothing.

Double Check

1.      Finally, practice recording just before the actual recording session begins.

2.      Play back the recording to make sure the focus, sound, lighting, etc. are all the way you want them to be.

May your learning be sweet.


Related Posts