Maximize Your Video Presence: Lessons from an Emmy-Winning Journalist

by Diane Streleckis - Video is the medium to get your message across these days. That’s why knowing how to be your best self on camera and connect effectively with viewers is a crucial skill for communicators.

Learn what you can do to come across powerfully on video at IABC Philadelphia's virtual event, Leverage the Lens: MVP your VIQ,  on May 24, 2023, noon - 1:00 p.m. ET.


Kerry Barrett, founder of media-training firm Kerry Barrett, Inc., shares highlights from what she’s learned during her 25 years in broadcast journalism. Her experiences earned her an Emmy during her time with NBC News — and can help you up your video-presence smarts too.

Kerry BarrettLeverage the lens

“Video is the most effective way to grow visibility, grow your audience, and grow your personal brand,” Barrett said. “When done well, it’s your 24/7 sales rep, marketing promoter, recruiter—you name it. And it fills that role whether you’re asleep, on vacation, or doing other things related to your business.”

As she noted, “video allows you to scale your messages in a way that’s virtually impossible with text.”

Let go of perfection

Barrett cautions that the desire for perfection can get in the way of connecting with people through the camera. “People can get stuck in wanting to make sure everything comes out of their mouths perfectly. But when you focus on that perfection, the relatability of your presence—your on-camera persona—diminishes,” she said.

“Yes, you want to be what your brand requires, whether it’s polished or quirky or serious or professional. But whether you’re live or being recorded and edited, the most important thing is to be yourself,” Barrett advised.

Crank up the energy

“The camera takes a 3D person and turns it into a 2D being. The flatness of the screen diminishes us—our vocal variety, our inflection, our body movement, even our personality,” she said.

To counter this flatness, Barrett recommends bringing up your energy. “Being energetic in a way that’s authentic to you, on camera, is key,” she said.

Her tip on how to do it: “Imagine how you’d communicate with a friend if you were both at a long table at noisy restaurant where you’re four seats apart. You’d probably lean in toward your friend. Your hand gestures would be bigger, your facial expressions more animated. You’d project more. Your vocal variety would go up and down more.”

You’re still you, she noted, just at maximum energy.

Connect one on one

While video gives you the opportunity to reach many people, it creates a one-on-one relationship with the viewer that’s different from appearing on a conference stage.

“There are some similarities with being on stage,” Barrett said, “but video is a more intimate experience.” That’s why modulation and vocal variety are so important, she noted.

Another thing to keep in mind is your opening. Barrett recommended staying more general. “Instead of ‘Hello, everyone’ try simply “Hello’. That conveys that you’re speaking to that audience of one, which is always who you’re talking to on video,” she said.

Remember video is not a recorded white paper

“Video is not the best place to dive deep into data and statistics,” Barrett said. You might include a data point or statistic, but it should be delivered in a story. “Creating a story around it is what will keep your audience watching,” she said.

If you’re the interviewer and your subject is going down the data rabbit hole, help them by offering an analogy that your audience can grasp.

No matter what, “you want to create meaning and value for your audience,” she stressed. “Lead with what matters to them.”

Go live

The best way to be prepared to speak well in a crisis is to do live video. “When it’s live, you can’t lean on it going through the editing process. You learn how to dig yourself out of whatever hole you or your guest have dug. When you do that, you know you can come out the other side still standing,” she said.

Watch your ‘tapes’

Barrett recommends viewing your recordings to see how you come across—and where you can improve.

“That’s the gift video gives,” she said. “The mirror doesn’t work as well. Plus, video gives you the luxury of watching at a leisurely pace and focusing on the delivery rather than the content.”