Monday, June 17, 2024

Leadership in Focus: Bringing Out Your Best on Camera

Last updated on November 23rd, 2017 at 01:30 pm


I talk a lot about authentic leadership throughout this book because it’s the key ingredient for effective videos. The point is to be comfortable in your own skin, show your people who you truly are, that you care about them, and that you’re working together toward a greater goal. Communicating with authenticity is no longer optional in the digital age. Gone are the days when a company’s main concern was to keep shareholders happy. Today all stakeholders want to know what you’re up to—from employees to customers and everyone in between.

It’s often said that millennials demand transparency and authenticity from businesses, but let’s face it: We all want that transparency today. I’m grateful to millennials for bringing attention to such a critical point. Business leaders need to step up and communicate honestly and openly if they want to inspire action. It’s the only chance they have to make an emotional connection with their audience.

That emotional connection is the big difference between videos that simply share information and those that evoke action. To be sure, you’ll have a captive audience if viewers are personally invested in your video’s topic. It doesn’t matter how you deliver the message—if you’re announcing something like bonuses or layoffs, viewers will hang on every word. But if you want them to do more than listen—if you want them to act—your audience needs to feel a connection with you.

Humans are social creatures. We need to connect with others and feel that we’re part of a tribe. We make sense of life and the world around us through the connections we make and the stories we tell. Since the beginning of civilization, every tribe has had a storyteller. If you’re the leader of an organization, that storyteller is going to be you.

Even if you have a trusted team to help you craft your messages, more often than not, you will be the one to deliver them to your people.

Don’t worry if you don’t see yourself as a storyteller, or if you’ve only ever used video to share information. The fact is, information leads to understanding, and getting your audience to understand your message is incredibly important. But understanding alone does not trigger action. Emotions lead people to action. This is where storytelling can help you take your videos to the next level, and you don’t need to fancy yourself a novelist to tap into this effective tool. Your stories can be as simple as brief memories that show your audience you’re a living, breathing human.

Let’s go back to the heart of communication basics. To craft an effective message, you have to ask, “Who is my audience? What do I want that audience to think, do, feel, say, buy, or buy into when they hear my message?” This may seem like nothing more than a subtle shift in the way you think of video, but the difference is profound. Through this new lens, making a video is no longer about the information you want to convey. It’s about the audience you want to reach.

When you walk onto a film set it’s easy to forget you’re making a video to connect with a large audience. I’ve seen many leaders approach filming as if they’ve come to answer my interview questions, forgetting the broader audience they hope to reach. David Brancaccio, host of American Public Media’s Marketplace Morning Report, often witnesses this mistake when guests appear on his show. “They prepare for the conversation as if they’re only there to talk to me, one- on-one. They treat the session like a casual talk and forget that I’m actually just the collection point through which they’ll be speaking to hundreds of thousands of people.”

Now, it’s fine to imagine speaking to one specific person as a way of putting yourself at ease. The CEO I mentioned previously did this when he pretended to be talking to his daughter. Just don’t forget that you’re communicating on a much larger scale. Ideally, you’d take the time to think about how you want your message to resonate with that larger crowd, and prepare your appearance with that goal in mind. What if you could speak to each and every audience member with the same level of connection and intimacy as the CEO did speaking to his daughter?

A leader who connects with his or her audience—whether on-screen or off—has the potential to drive real progress. Anyone can have a high-ranking title, but as John Maxwell said in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, “True leadership cannot be . . . assigned. It comes only from influence . . . It must be earned.” A first step in earning influence is to let your people know who you are—that you’re trustworthy, that you care about them and your shared work, and that you have what it takes to lead them to success. Your people simply won’t follow you if they don’t believe in you.


Reprinted with permission from Vern Oakley and Greenleaf Book Group Press. Copyright 2017.


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Vern Oakley
Vern Oakley
Vern Oakley is the CEO and Creative Director of Tribe Pictures, a film production company established in 1986. Since then, Vern has directed numerous projects, many of which have won industry awards. As a filmmaker, he has helped several institutions and leaders tell engaging stories that appeal to and impact the people who matter most. Leadership in Focus is the result of his commitment to the craft and mission to help businesses spread their message.