Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Did you ever watch yourself?

I was recently invited to teach a lesson in communication at a Heinz College course for future consultants. I was invited by the associate dean of the Heinz College School of Information Systems Management, Andy Wasser. When I went to the classroom, I saw that Andy was wearing a microphone, which he transferred to me after he introduced me. Then, of course, I saw the video camera in the corner of the room.

I lectured for about 30 minutes, aware that the camera was following my every move while animating myself as much as possible. If I were going to be taped, I thought, I wanted to make a good impression.

It wasn't the first time I had ever been taped. As a long time PR guy, I had seen my share of TV interviews, mostly for a minute or two. I had seen my name in newspaper quotes and heard myself on brief radio snippets. And, I have taught for five years on the Internet, knowing that the sessions were being recorded. But, this was the first time I had ever been videotaped at length, and taped doing the thing I thought I was good at, teaching.

When Andy sent me the link to the taping, I watched it, cringing at every mistake. At times, I actually felt as if I were watching someone else. It's spooky! "Who's that old guy?" I wondered. "He needs to learn to face the camera and not turn to reveal his bald spot." For all the enthusiasm and energy I thought I had, I didn't see enough. It awakened me!

I suppose I should have done this long before. My colleague at Heinz College, Chris Labash, tapes his students in his Professional Speaking classes all the time. And, he provides them one extremely valuable service; he tapes them in a mock job interview. I strongly suggest to anyone looking for a job to be taped in a mock interview. You will see yourself as others see you and you may be surprised. In fact, you may be aghast!

If you're not looking for a job but have a public position as a salesperson or customer service representative, or any other role that puts you routinely in front of others, you need to do this. You will see yourself as your customers and colleagues and others see you. And, you may not recognize that person!

I wasn't aghast, but I wasn't thrilled, either. Even so, I asked my colleague, Bob Taylor who handles Internet stuff at Heinz College, to put the link to the video on my website for my friends and family to watch. I also put a link to an interview I did for the Voice of America (the TV version of VOA). I have to say that I felt better about that performance. It was subsequently translated into Urdu and gave me a good laugh watching my lips move while someone else spoke in a language very foreign to me (the link on my website is in English).

So, I invite you to watch me at and I STRONGLY encourage you to get yourself taped. Call Chris Labash; he does this kind of work as a consultant. He'll help you improve your presentation. And, you'll get a look at yourself that will be both interesting and enlightening!

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