The Camera Eye

by Dave Atkins on February 4, 2009

in Creative Life,Essay,Personal Brand,Social Media

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ABC Studio Camera Interview

Staring into a television camera for a remote interview was a surreal experience. I felt spontaneity and improvisation that is challenging to describe. I suspect, for celebrities, the feeling changes, and it becomes like just another conversation. Those who have never done it probably think it sounds terrifying. There is fear, but not terror. For me, I felt the sensation of being completely and utterly “on,” with no safety net, no ability to control or plan, and an almost detached sense of hearing myself respond in the moment.

In that moment, I found my instinct and preparation ruled the day. There is not time to consider 5 seconds ago and no time to plan the next 5 seconds. There is faith that who I am will show and hope that what I’ve told myself is truth will reveal. But there is no analysis, there is only the moment…a moment that goes on for several minutes and then is gone.

I was one of several people interviewed by ABC’s Tory Johnson about the Salty Legs Job Club here in Boston. By interview standards, this was easy–just asking me about my layoff, job search, why I joined this club and how it has helped me. It wasn’t as substantively difficult as standing up at town meeting and speaking in favor of a controversial measure. But this type of interview is very different from many “hot seat” moments.

The interview is conducted in a studio with me just sitting in a chair looking at the camera and listening to an earpiece. “Keep looking at the camera!” “Don’t look around!” It took tremendous concentration to keep focused on that camera lens and not to let my eyes dart around as I normally do, especially when thinking.

Without a person to look at, I had no visual feedback on what I was saying. I had to listen…but keep looking at that camera!

Neuro-Linguistic studies have shown that people subconsciously move their eyes to different places depending on how they process information. When talking to another person, face-to-face, we spend a great deal of time mirroring and negotiating empathy to establish rapport. But in the absence of another face…what would happen? For me anyway, I would be doing a lot of imaginative thinking, trying to fill in the gaps based on listening and theorizing. If you go to the first link above, you will see drawings that illustrate how when we do that, our eyes will be looking…all over the place! And on camera…not a good look.

Maybe I’m over thinking it, but if I look a bit stiff on the broadcast, it is not so much fear of the interview as the effort and focus involved in doing such a blind conversation.

But it was an incredible rush. It was not like being grilled in front of a tough audience or job interview. In those cases, you have the pros and cons of body language and nonverbal communication. But on camera, I’ve got nothing; no feedback other than what I’m hearing in the earpiece. Still, there is something exciting about that…something authentic and testing. I try to plan many things but in this circumstance, preparation is everything. I was fortunate to be coached by another club member, Robert Padgett, a PR professional, and of course, the subject matter is me, so that is a topic I should know. But it is still very validating to throw myself out there and land on my feet.

I prepared by knowing myself. I prepared by my attitude and demeanor and commitment to do this and not look back. I didn’t do it just to help find a job–although of course I hope people see the interview and that leads to more opportunities. I did it because I knew it would challenge me in personal ways that would make me grow. And it would, of course, give me something to write about until the day when people want to hear more of what I have to say about topics other than being laid off.

Salty Legs Job Club

When the interviews are available online, I will link from to the segments on our founder, Susan Kang Nam, talking about creating this job club and one of our members, Madeline, talking about how being a member of the club helped her leave one job and find a more fulfilling one.

The club does not have a website, but all our members are very online. Rachel Levy, a Boston area marketing professional, is blogging her job search and publishing great articles on using twitter, video thank you notes, and automating/organizing the job search effectively.


Mike Sachleben January 9, 2009 at 9:16 am

Congratulations on the interview, Dave! It sounds like you liked this first brush with fame – even if pieces of it were a bit surreal!

I look forward to seeing the final cuts of the interview once ABC News has posted it. Please forward it to me as soon as you can!

I’ll talk with you soon,

Sarah Bourne January 9, 2009 at 9:20 am

Fascinating and insightful post, Dave. I’ve always wondered about what it’s like for people being remotely interviewed; I’ll have more sympathy in the future!

Christine Perkett January 9, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing your experience. I blog for Tory and am happy to hear you were able to connect with her. I hope things are looking up!

Susan Kang Nam @pinkolivefamily January 10, 2009 at 12:31 am


You did a great job on ABC news taping Wednesday night. I may have mentioned it to you numerous times by now right? :) It’s Friday night and I couldn’t sleep yet again – you know how that goes. I was still thinking about the taping Wed. Night and here I am reading your post yet again and your post brought back more memories of our experience from that night. I agree. It was truly authentic and despite all the uncertainties about it all I felt it brought us all closer together in spirit via supporting one another (and def Robert Padgett was excellent in coaching & prepping us until that last second when we had to get on that interview). Madeline was eloquent in her responses and I was very proud of her as well. :)

Despite everything that is going on with this economy – and the recent WSJ article doesn’t help any more than only confirm our fears – def. a nightmare post on employment report ( Yet I have to continue to believe that there is hope. Positive outreach, supporting one another during these time both on and off-line is more than necessary it is pertinent and essential in surviving and getting to that next chapter. Know what I mean?

Thank you for your detailed post on your perspective and sharing your thought process & experience. Definitely a great highlight and overview of our experience with you, Madeline, even Rachel coming to support us, and def. Robert coaching us throughout. That was great! Honored to have been with you all. I plan to share your post with Tory and Terry (ABC news producer for Job Club) shortly :) Also, I hope to have you, Madeline and Robert give us a short presentation of your thoughts to our club members right after ABC news airs these 3 segments. More to come! :)



Asha January 10, 2009 at 5:38 am

Hi Dave,

Congratulations!! I came to your website after seeing your interview on abc news on the net and it was really good to see your interview.

All the best!!

Madeline January 10, 2009 at 10:42 am

Thanks for sharing, Dave! You did a great job!

Lenay January 10, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Hi Dave –
I saw your interview today. Great job! I used to be a Recruiter for J&J – but left to pursue a home business offering a software for people to help them pay off their mortage and debt in a fraction of the time, without refinancing and without changing their monthly budget. It’s a great opportunity to help other during these hard economic times, and yet put money into your pocket.

Please contact me if you’d like to learn more. Maybe this could be the right fit for you!


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