These days, tech is cheap, and getting cheaper. Things we couldn’t do just a few years ago are not only possible today, but we have gone even farther. For instance, sending a video message to a friend. Now, with the tap of a screen, we can create a short video, then tap the screen again and it is off to its destination.

Technology has enhanced my instruction, especially when it comes to public speaking. I am fortunate enough to teach in a school where just about every student has access to mobile technology that can shoot, store, and ship video through the internet. I have turned more and more to the use of video for instruction, practice, and evaluation of public speaking. If a student gives speech, and no one is around to record it, then your evaluation of what happened is can be questioned. But when it’s recorded, the student can see for him- or herself what was good and what needs improvement.

As I have asked students to submit more video presentations, I have developed a list of don’ts. These are elements of filming that students unintentionally let into their videos. They distract the audience from the message the student is intending to deliver. 

Top 10 Video Presentation Don’ts in my Class:

1. Holding the Recording Device with an Outstretched Arm. Pretty much every student is going to use their mobile phone to shoot their video, but most students don’t think about who is going to hold their phone while they do it. When they can’t think around the problem, they take a 90 second selfie. The video turns out shaky and informal. Listen students, Just don’t.

2. Place the Camera Below Eye Level. If they’re alone, and they had enough awareness to not use their own arm, they will rig a stand. But sometimes the best they can manage is to prop or lean their phone against something at an upward angle, making them appear as a god-like overlord addressing the lowly subjects. It’s terrifying. It needs to stop.

3. Leaving a Ceiling Fan in the Frame. This usually shows up when students are committing Don’t # 2. The student is standing there, the camera aiming upward, and there’s the ceiling fan whirring in the background. It’s annoying. It’s all I can pay attention to. Students, please turn it off for a few minutes and get it out of the shot.

4. Leaving Mirrors in the Frame. Some students shoot their video in their rooms, which is fine. But sometimes I get to see the whole of their messy space, unmade bed included, because they decided to leave their mirror in their background. This is especially annoying when they angle the recording device up and there is a ceiling fan in the mirror! GAH!

5. Too Much Light in the Background. Some students choose a lovely background, like one of my students who had a golf course behind him, with rippling water. It was beautiful! But if I didn’t know the sound of his voice, I wouldn’t have known who the shadowy silhouette was who was performing the speech. It reminded me of one of those ransom videos, where the person in the recording modulates his voice to hide his identity. Students, make sure the lighting in the foreground matches the lighting in the background, lest you look like a kidnapper.

6. Barking Dogs. Some students don’t exercise good timing or choose great locations for filming. Some go outside, but they are drowned out by the neighbor’s dog. Sometimes it’s a lawn mower, or people skateboarding. And the other elements people forget in filming outside is that you need to talk at least two times the volume you normally would. Students, when you film outside you need to talk extra loud in order to drown out that ambient noise.

7. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. When filming outside, if it’s not a dog distracting the audience, it’s probably a giant steel vehicle. When performing on video, students need to have a heightened awareness of what’s happening in the area around where they are filming. Students, check the train schedule or the flight path. This could also be as simple as looking around just before hitting record.

8. Wearing Pajamas. Some students will finish out their day doing one last homework assignment before bed. And part of that ritual is getting into their bedtime outfit. Let’s not make the “speech on video” that assignment. Students, you don’t wear that out in public, but that’s what you’re doing if you are sending it to a teacher for assessment. And, while I am on the subject, stay in dress code on the video.

9. Filming Late, Late at Night. Everyone knows the game of procrastination. Depending on a student’s situation at home (like taking care of younger siblings), I can understand wanting to wait until later to film. But some of my students choose an unholy time of night to make their videos. That means the lighting is very low, they are positioned right in front of the camera so their head takes up more than half the screen, and they are talking just barely above a whisper. It reminds me of The Blair Witch Project. Students, it’s best to shoot your video before 10 PM.

10. Sitting Down. Something about shooting a video in the sitting position causes students to relax too much. They speak more softly and use less formal speech. If they are to come across as delivering a speech before an audience, students should stand and dress formally. Students, standing will help put you in the mental space that you are delivering a speech before a large audience. The only exception to this would be if it fit into your message and helped you connect with your audience. But if that’s not the case, stand up!

Using video can really enhance public speaking instruction. We should use it whenever we can. But When students are not in the classroom, they take on the frame of the context in which they are shooting the film. Help remind them to put themselves back in the mental framework of the classroom. Better yet, encourage them to see themselves before a large audience. This will help them will do a great job!

Do you have your students present on video? If so, what can you add to this list of don’ts? Have you given any tips that have led to success? We want to hear about it. Please leave a comment below. And if you think others will find this helpful, please share!

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