Looking and Sounding Like a Pro on Camera with Maria Ngo and Ray DuGray


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Lights, Camera, Advice!

Have you ever taken media training in case you need to be on an interview? You may think it's unnecessary for your role at work, but the truth is everyone should be prepared to do an interview at some point, especially if you're in marketing!

Recently, our CEO Stacy Jones sat down with two experts in celebrity interviews that learned everything they know from moving to Las Vegas and starting their company. In this blog, Hollywood Branded learns how you can improve your on-camera presence in order to look and sound like a professional host from the advice of Maria Ngo and Ray DuGray of VegasNET Media.

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A Little More About Guest

Maria Ngo and Ray Dugray are the hosts and executive producers of the Las Vegas Liberty talk series, The Strip Live, and founders of Vegas Net Media and vipnetmedia.com, where they feature on-camera interviews with influential people from around the world. They also do consulting on their other site VipMediaMakeover.com. They have personally interviewed and showcased hundreds of top celebrities, entrepreneurs and industry experts, including Stevie Wonder, Donald Trump, Tony Bennett, Sir Richard Branson, Kevin Costner, the Kardashians, Joe Jonas and even Bart Simpson.

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Interview Transcript Highlights

Question: So, what got you to today to be here? How did you end up getting on the hottest red carpets in Vegas, as well as on the West Coast, the East Coast?

Answer: Maria: I wish I can say it was easy road, but it's been extremely challenging. Although, I would say it's been worth it. Aboutt 15 years ago, we were living a very stable, comfortable, great, easy going life. Ray was a retired paramedic and moved over to fire. He also ran an EMS and health and safety training company in Canada. So, I was helping him promote and run events for that. He was also speaking and traveling all over the world.

I had to go and open my big fat mouth and say, "Ray, I've had a dream all these years." And I shared the dream, and that was to interview some of the biggest names, celebrities, entrepreneurs on how they became successful. Well, we had no broadcasting background. And mind you, we were in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. So, really not a lot of celebrity opportunities to be interviewing people, right?

Hee said to me, "You know what? You're a US citizen, I'm a Canadian, we can go anywhere." So, we did research and ended up in Las Vegas. Let me tell you with a lot of knocking on doors, getting phones hung up on me right, left and center, I finally was able to get us on Vegas TV, which is a local television station here. We started taping our shows over at Planet Hollywood every month, bringing in entrepreneurs and then eventually moving over to celebrity red carpet. We actually had a lot of the local PR agencies contact us and say, "Hey, we'd like to have our talent on your show." And that's really how it started.

From there we have not stopped. It was very challenging and we often joke that, we were sitting one our biggest interviews with the sit down interview, for Stevie Wonder. At the time we couldn't even afford a cup of coffee. I was praying that he didn't ask us to go out to eat, because we didn't have any money to go out to eat. Isn't that crazy?


Question: How did you decide on Vegas instead of New York or LA?

Answer: Maria: Ray and I actually honeymooned here, believe it or not, just because we were really busy and a travel schedule. We started researching the area and we just loved it for what we wanted to do recreational-wise. And I'm just going to be honest, the cost of living is way cheaper than California, and the taxes. So, from the practical point of view anything-

Ray: Yeah, the truth of the matter is that that aspect of it was very strategic. We did do our research and we thought if we were going to have a show, it would be great to have it at the epicenter of entrepreneurship in the world. That was the whole thing. So, we thought, "where would be a good location for it?" And the reality is, is people from all over the world come to Las Vegas, so it's easy to access the content. But there was also the lifestyle component. We really wanted to make sure that our business didn't become a corporate and something funky that really didn't serve us. We really wanted it to be about a mom and pop kind of business that just we get to do really cool stuff and live a really interesting life, which we do.

But I do want to make sure that people understand the underlying message of this story because people want to know the blueprint.  And the truth is it's totally not duplicatable. If there's anything that I would suggest that people do, if you're going to take away something, this is really just about giving up security. Again, Maria mentioned it, I was a professional firefighter. I had a pension. We had a great income. The business was doing well. But Maria planted a seed about a dream, and it's not like I jumped in and said, "Oh yeah, let's do that. That's such a great idea." But she planted the seed and it percolated in me. And I got to a point in my life where I said, "You know what? Let's just go for it. Let's just do it." And it was scary. It was risky.

And if there is a message, I would say, if you have a dream folks, roll the dice, go for it. And it's been a tough journey. It hasn't been easy for us. But I think we'll come to the point at the end of my life, where someone is going to ask me, "Do you have any regrets? Are there things that you would do differently?" I'd say, "Yeah, there's things I'd do differently." But I'd have no regrets for not going for it. I mean, for going for it and risking it all. here was tremendous losses along the way and also tremendous gains.


Question: What are some of the biggest marketing mistakes in what you do?

Answer: Ray: We use an acronym called BLAST. If you want to remember that, it's have a blast on your next webcast, podcast, livecast, broadcast or any cast. It doesn't matter. The principles are the same. So, let's break it down. I'm just going to give you an overview, and then I'll throw on a few killer tips that you can take away.

So, B of BLAST is be, just be. And what that means is be yourself. We often have interviews with some very notable influencers that are hitting the stage on a regular basis. They're household names. They're celebrity. But they don't do a lot of camera work. And we can not believe how different a personality changes, once you put someone on camera, even though they've been on stage in front of thousands of people. And the reason is, is because there's something that happens when you go on camera, especially if you're looking at yourself. What are the things that happen and the difference between coffee shop talk versus a presentation on camera, is you actually go from your heart to your head immediately. You go into head thinking. The moment you're in head thinking, everything gets thrown out of whack. Your messaging is out of whack. Your body language is out of whack, everything, facial expressions, everything is funky.

What I encourage people to do is think about the B part as being present, just be present. Don't think about which buttons to push on your podcast, to get the recording. If you have an assistant, to do all that. But really, really, if you're a host, focus on your guest. If you're a guest, focus on your host. And that's the only thing you should be focused on other than your message. That's the thing, focus on your message. But really the B is be yourself, be present and believe in yourself. This is about confidence. Believe in yourself. And what you can do to really help you believe in yourself is practice doing more and more interviews, more podcasts, more webcasts, more livecasts, all that.

The next is L. This is how to look like a pro on camera. Simplest tip I can give you here, just get yourself a better webcam. I'm talking like 5,000 bucks. Just get yourself a better webcam other than the one that's maybe on your laptop or if you're using your phone. But just take a look at the image and you say, "Can that be improved?" And that would be huge, just a better piece of technology. But another one, and this is you'll laugh at this Stacy and anybody who has heard this tip. Once they learn this tip, they can no longer watch interviews without some kind of smile on their face, because it is about positioning your eyes at the upper third mark on your frame.

Maria: Be conscious of that. That's all part of the look. I think one thing to think about though, for our users, and I know I've experienced this, we're so used to having our laptops right in front of us. And that when you're actually doing a video conversation, you need it to be set back a little bit. You don't need to be typing and right up there because you actually can get a better line of sight when it's pushed back just a little bit from you.

The next letter A, is how to act like the pro on camera. Act like a pro is really just all of your behaviorisms, mannerisms, gestures, facial expressions, how you are presenting yourself with movement. So, head nods, if you're a host, you want to nod your head to acknowledge. You want to gesture naturally, please, folks. You all will often ask us, "Well, how should I gesture?" Just gesture the way you gesture, the way when you're natural, when you're in the coffee shop. How do you gesture when you're in a coffee shop? How do you gesture when you're on a stage? It's different for everybody. It's just be yourself, again, back to B. So, how to act like a pro, is act like you should appropriately in that circumstance.

The next would be S, is how to sound like a pro. The biggest tip I can give for this, especially if you're doing podcasts, actually, well, if you're doing anything really, you know what? We can cover up video easily. Bad video, no problem. We cover it up with B-roll. We put graphics over top of it. You cannot fix bad audio. So, we got to get the audio right, when we're doing any kind of on-camera, off-camera, audio, podcasts, webcasts, livecast, any cast. When you're recording it, go with a good microphone. Spend the money and get the proper equipment so that you got great audio. The next thing that goes in alignment with good audio is good internet speed and good bandwidth.

The last is the T. And this is tech. This is tech. How to use technology to look and sound like a pro on camera or on a podcast. Again, on any kind of cast that you're doing, how to use the pro the proper technology. This is all your... We already talked about having a good camera, having a good microphone, but this is could be your accessories. This is your computer that you use. This is the chair that you sit on. Whether you want tripods or different type of supporting arms for your cameras. This is all lighting units. And okay, here's a question. I'll give you this, because this is a question that comes up often is, which light should I use for at a basic level, which lights should I use? Because that can get very overwhelming for people. There's a lot of choices. The short answer is just find a daylight bulb lamp in your house and light your face from the front. Just make sure you close the curtains in.

Question:  Any other recommendations when it comes to for lighting?

Answer: Don't have windows in your background, that creates back-lighting issues where your face is going to get really dark. So, that throws the lighting off. So, make sure you close curtains. The best thing that I suggest is put a big curtain right across like I have right here. And for those of you that are listening, you're not seeing it, but for those you that are watching this, you'll see just a black curtain covering up the backdrop.

The lowest cost is finding that daylight bulb in your house. But if you want to get a little more fancier, just get a fluorescent ring light. And they go in different sizes. I think there's a six inch, an eight inch, 10 inch, 12 inch. There's all, the 18 inch. It really all depends on how much lighting strength you need. So, how far are you going to be away from the camera? If it's just lighting your face, easily a 12 inch ring light would do the job adequately. And then again, depending if you're doing a standing shoot. But it works really well. Because the most important thing is you really want to make sure that your face is well lit when you're going on camera.

Check Out The Podcast!

Maria and Ray have SO MUCH great information from their experience in celebrity interviews, check out the podcast below to learn more about how to make sure you're fully prepared for an on-camera interview!

Every week we have a marketing professional on our show to share their tips, tricks and lessons learned from their professional experience. Check out some of our other podcast blogs from earlier this year: 

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