The Camera Eye

by Dave Atkins on February 4, 2009

in Creative Life,Essay,Personal Brand,Social Media

Update:
You can now view:

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 blog.davewrites.com 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.

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