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Leadership in Focus: Bringing Out Your Best on Camera

Leadership in Focus: Bringing Out Your Best on Camera

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Leadership in Focus: Bringing Out Your Best on Camera

268 pages
3 hours
Apr 4, 2017


And . . . Action!
If a message feels important enough for video, it’s likely because you want to move the audience to action—potential investors to take a stake in your company, current employees to embrace a new initiative, prospective employees to bring their talents to your organization.

Your video can help you inspire your tribe—the people you want to influence—to take action. But if you want them to do more than listen, your audience needs to feel an authentic connection with you. 

Veteran filmmaker Vern Oakley offers strategies that can help you relax and be their best, authentic self in front of the camera. The return on investment will be a stronger connection to those you want to reach; heightened respect, prestige, and interest in their organization; a stronger brand; and a longer-lasting legacy. 

​Leadership in Focus is a comprehensive, entertaining guide for leaders who realize that it’s not just what you say on camera that’s important—it’s how you say it. Whether a CEO, middle manager, or budding entrepreneur making YouTube videos to influence their tribe, this book will help them rally others around a message.
Apr 4, 2017

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Leadership in Focus - Vern Oakley

Advance Praise for Leadership in Focus

Humans have been storytellers for tens of thousands of years, perhaps sharing news of the big hunt around the campfire. Now, video allows us to tell our stories to the world, but most executives freeze up in front of the camera. Vern shows you how to develop, deliver, and distribute your stories for maximum impact and business growth, and he does it in an engaging and approachable style. I wish I had this guide when I started creating my own videos a decade ago.

—DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT, bestselling author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, now in 29 languages, from Albanian to Vietnamese.

Every business major takes a writing course, but that’s not our future. Instead, everyone with something to say is going to need to say it on camera. And Vern Oakley’s crash course is a great place to start.

—SETH GODIN, author of Unleashing the Ideavirus

In today’s environment, if you don’t know how to communicate authentically on camera, your brand, reputation, and impact will suffer. Vern Oakley is the perfect guide to bring film mastery to change makers, leaders, and entrepreneurs.

—PAMELA SLIM, author of Body of Work: Finding the Thread that Ties Your Story Together

Vern Oakley is right: Video is a great tool for moving people to action. In today’s 24–7 media culture, leaders need to know how to be convincing and authentic on camera. His timely approach will make effective performers out of even the most reluctant and camera shy among us.

—MARSHALL GOLDSMITH, executive coach, business educator, and New York Times best-selling author, ranked the number-one leadership thinker in the world by Thinkers50

"It’s easy to feel phony and powerless when the red light goes on. Vern Oakley’s book Leadership in Focus translates the art and science of authenticity and helps the reader understand how to maintain that connection when the camera starts to roll—a compelling, readable, and actionable book."

—AMY CUDDY, author of Presence and associate professor at Harvard Business School

Good marketing is good storytelling. And today, telling your story on camera is a critical skill. This book will help you do this well.

—JACK TROUT, global marketing expert and author

If you understand that your company is your brand, then you understand that your leaders are your hero products they are your brand ambassadors and your brand emissaries. And they need to express themselves to your audience with total authenticity on camera. This seems so obvious today that it’s astounding that no one has written an essential how-to book like this before. But they haven’t. And luckily Vern Oakley is the guy who wrote it for us. This should be part of every company’s HR employee welcome packet—for all current leaders and those who plan to be.

—JULIE CUCCHI, founder of 98pt6, a brand expression agency

"Just as Vern does when he produces and directs a CEO in a corporate message video, this book guides the reader through the critical process of using the camera to create and communicate your message to the people who matter most. Leadership in Focus is required reading for current and future CEOs, CCOs, and all aspiring leaders!"

—PAUL BISARO, former CEO of Allergan

Vern Oakley has raised the bar on corporate storytelling. His work connects with people in ways that build knowledge, belief, and a human (albeit virtual) relationship. In a world where trust is an increasingly rare commodity, this is an essential guide.

—LORRIE HECKER, director of global communications at Hess Corporation

This book uncovers the unstoppable power that comes from authenticity. It will be dangerous in the wrong hands . . . but a force multiplier in the right ones. After you absorb this, people who’ve known you as a communicator will wonder what in the hell transformed your ability to forge a connection on camera.

—DAVID C. BAKER, author of Managing Right for the First Time

We all have a story to tell. Telling it in front of a camera can be daunting. We freeze up, stammer, hide behind a mask, and come off looking like a cartoon of ourselves. Vern Oakley has had a highly successful career helping politicians, CEOs, and ordinary people tell their stories for the camera. His secret? He’s a good listener. People want to tell him their story or the story of their company, project, or start-up. To be convincing on camera requires authenticity. Viewers need to believe you, and that’s what Vern’s book is all about: how to prepare for, approach, and be yourself in front of the camera. Next time you appear for a taped interview or make a statement for a television producer, you’ll be able to use the medium more effectively.

—DAVID LYMAN, founder and CEO of the International Film and Television Workshops

Modern leadership requires you to be straight, authentic, involving, and inspiring. Vern knows the maieutic art of getting all of this out of you to capture it with the eye of his camera. We used his videos as a very effective culture-building tool throughout the whole organization worldwide.


Revealing your humanity as a leader carries a big premium in business today and will more so as Millennials’ values come to drive global markets. Vern Oakley has an uncanny knack for showing how—and when—to speak through your soul.

—ELSIE MAIO, CEO of Humanity, Inc/SoulBranding" Institute

"For those of us in the business of helping leaders and executives connect and engage in a very real, authentic, and transparent way, Vern Oakley’s Leadership in Focus drives it all home. Nothing is as real—and revealing—as video, but I have to say that Oakley’s insights and tips are valuable whether the camera is rolling or not. Oakley encourages people to communicate in the most effective way possible—by sharing and baring themselves to their audiences. Leadership in Focus is a great read for leaders, aspiring leaders, and anyone in the position of supporting them!"

—BETH LEVINE, founder and principal of SmartMouth Communications and author of Jock Talk

An excellent read for anyone who is thinking about owned social media space in the corporate function.

—DON STACKS, professor of public relations and corporate communications at the University of Miami

There’s an old Hollywood saying: ‘The camera loves her.’ Vern Oakley has written an invaluable guide to getting the camera to love you—and your audience to love you as well.

—STEVE LANCE, PS Insights, coauthor of The Little Blue Book of Advertising

Leaders know they have to be good at the podium. But in this media-intensive world, another crucial skill is looking relaxed and authoritative on camera. Vern Oakley is a seasoned director who provides a valuable service for all of us who want to project our authentic selves.

—DAVID BRANCACCIO, public radio and TV host

Whether sharing the most corporate communication or most heartfelt human story, real people can struggle using their genuine voice. Vern Oakley gives us a reminder and a resource to be real. As a creative director, I value any guidance that will help put a reluctant leader at ease on the screen—and let their message shine through.

—TARA STREET, founder and brand consultant of Braid Creative

This isn’t a book just about film. It’s also about being open and transparent and making an emotional connection with stakeholders—all vital skills for leaders today.

—DR. DAVID BURKUS, author of Under New Management and The Myths of Creativity

As I read this book, I kept thinking nothing can impact an executive’s image more than a perpetual view of their performance in a video or film. This is about the executive and the corporation. Being on film is now a for-sure in today’s world. Not reading this book before you are next recorded is a mistake. Learn from decades of experience. Countless examples, tips, and considerations can prevent you from making a mistake that will live forever on a server. Not just a good read—a must read (and follow)!

—PAUL DELFINO, author of Avoiding Skewed Entrepreneurial Strategies

"Vern Oakley, a master of production in the world of corporate videos and an accomplished filmmaker in his own right, uses his prodigious skills to relate to a broad audience the key elements required to communicate a message in our YouTube-driven world. Oakley furnishes a simple yet complete guide to the art of communicating authentically for the camera. Leadership in Focus: Bringing Out Your Best on Camera is essential reading for all who are critically concerned in conveying a message to a specific audience (something Oakley wonderfully refers to as one’s Tribe) with power and relevancy in our audio/visual, social media-dominated world of twenty-first century communications."

—TODD LEAVITT, former chief operating officer of NBC Studios and former president of the Television Academy

It’s not what you say but how you say it. This book will help any executive learn to use video to his or her advantage. Using the tips described here will help you come across with greater credibility, greater clarity, and greater command of the message.

—SHELLEY SPECTOR, president of Spector & Associates, Inc.

Even the most confident, charismatic leader can turn into a heartless, robotic, stuttering mess in front of a camera. And what little life is still beating in their performance will be quickly snuffed out by the media training they got for dealing with live media interviews—which this isn’t. If you or your leaders will be spending time this year shooting corporate videos, do yourself a favor and read this book.

—PAUL SMITH, best-selling author of Lead with a Story and Sell with a Story

"Reading Leadership in Focus rapidly prepares for their video shoot executives who want to make more authentic and compelling videos to connect with their organizations. The book answers questions you won’t think of until after too many unsatisfactory takes. A small effort for a big ROI."


Before you put your boss in front of the camera, put this treasure of a book in his hands.

—BLAIR ENNS, author of The Win without Pitching Manifesto

"Leadership in Focus provides a behind-the-scenes look at how to create effective video presentations in a digital world. Learn how to create videos that connect with a new generation that seeks authenticity and an emotional connection with today’s business leaders. Vern Oakley provides the formula to bring your best self forward on camera to effectively promote your company’s vision."

—JACK SCHAFER, PhD, retired FBI special agent

"If Cisco is correct and 82 percent of Internet traffic will be video by 2020, then you would do well to read Vern Oakley’s Leadership in Focus: Bringing Out Your Best on Camera. Oakley makes the compelling case for mastering communication in this medium to inspire, engage, and motivate all your constituents— employees, colleagues, customers, community, investors—to influence their positive perception of you and your organization and to call them to action on your behalf. Oakley advocates and guides you to your authentic self on camera. What could be more valuable for our times?"

—MICHAEL GOODMAN, professor and director of the MA in Corporate Communications program at Baruch College, The City University of New York, and director of CCI Corporate Communication International

It’s one thing to understand the role of video in business communication. It’s another to know how to use video to solve actual business problems. Vern Oakley gets that. This book proves it.

—DANA RUBIN, founder and director of The New York Speechwriters Roundtable

"In our cynical world, authenticity is now a commodity. Emotional connections matter more than ever before, and how we communicate with others must start from an honest place. This is especially important in the world of corporate video. In these pages, Vern shares the secrets of his process with us, always stressing the advantages of ‘keeping it real’ while communicating with others via film and video. In Leadership in Focus, Vern has created an invaluable resource for corporate leadership and the people who produce their content and in doing so further confirms what I’ve always known: Vern Oakley is a CEO whisperer. I can’t recommend it enough!"

—GARY NADEAU, screenwriter and director

Virtual town halls via video are a key tool for leaders to communicate with employees in a meaningful timely way. I’ve worked with Vern Oakley in three different major corporations. He’s the best in the business at creating interactive video experiences that help drive cultural change in a company.

—KATHY FITZGERALD, chief communication officer at PSEG

"In his book Leadership in Focus, Vern Oakley has found a successful way to capture and share with the reader what comes so naturally to him in his video work with top-level leaders and organizations."

—MIKE MARTORELLA, executive coach and advisor at MMI Communication, LLC

"Leadership in Focus is a master class in the art of effectively communicating on camera—engaging, informative, and filled with teachable moments that illustrate what to do, what to avoid, and how to become a ‘suit with a soul.’ Since we live in a digital video world, it should be a must-read for any leader—in a corporate setting or elsewhere—who has to communicate a vision and motivate others to take action."

—PETER LIGUORI, CEO of Tribune Media

Working in Hollywood, I have the benefit of collaborating with actors who have many years of training. For those who can’t invest all that time, this book is a shortcut to help you tap into a great performance by showing more of your authentic self. You may not win an Oscar, but then again, you might. An inspiring, actionable and even spiritual book.

—PETER WERNER, Emmy-, Directors Guild of America–, and Oscar-winning director

Vern Oakley’s book is a crucial read for any modern-day CEO or anyone involved in preparing top executives in the art of performing on screen. Vern gives a mix of real insights, together with practical tips based on a deep and intuitive knowledge of his subject. Performing on screen is an area that is rarely covered amidst the multitude of books on other aspects of leadership, and yet it’s a skill that every CEO in today’s world simply has to master.

—RUSSELL AMERASEKERA, leadership and performance coach at Pearls & Poison

No matter how experienced you are, facing a camera can be hard. Vern Oakley makes it easy. He reminds us that communication is about honesty and passion, advice that’s worth following even after the shoot is over.

—MICHAEL BIERUT, partner at Pentagram Design

"Leadership in Focus is an important book and a timely one. With this new book, Vern Oakley provides an insightful, eminently readable, and highly useful approach to mastering the newest core leadership skill. Although it is clear to all that video has become one of the most important tools for leaders, it is less clear how to make the most of it to achieve mission. Oakley shows us what works and what doesn’t, and in so doing, he provides us with new insights and valuable learning for all leaders."

—DANIEL WEISS, president of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher and author are not engaged in rendering professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press

Austin, Texas


Copyright ©2017 Vern Oakley

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the copyright holder.

Distributed by Greenleaf Book Group

For ordering information or special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Greenleaf Book Group at PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709, 512.891.6100.

Design and composition by Greenleaf Book Group and Kim Lance

Cover design by Greenleaf Book Group and Kim Lance

Illustrations by Taylor Lee.

Cataloging-in-Publication data is available.

Print ISBN: 978-1-62634-240-8

eBook ISBN: 978-1-62634-241-5

Part of the Tree Neutral® program, which offsets the number of trees consumed in the production and printing of this book by taking proactive steps, such as planting trees in direct proportion to the number of trees used: www.treeneutral.com

Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper

17 18 19 20 21 22   10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

First Edition

To all the leaders who have shared the sacred space between director and actor.

Thank you for expressing your vulnerability, your passion, and your power, and for having the courage to trust not only me, but also yourself.




Never a Better Time to Be on Camera

Speak from Your Heart: Connect with Millions

Nobody Wants Perfect

The Sacred Space

The Leader Has No Clothes


It’s Not Just about the Words . . .

Meet Your Film Crew

Find Your Groove in Front of the Lens

Anatomy of an Effective Video

Teleprompter 101


Post-Production Magic

The Rewards of Preparation

Making the Leap from Being Good to Great on Camera


Return on Investment

Leveraging Video in Times of Crisis

Creating Your Legacy




About the Author

Note to Readers

The video examples referred to throughout this book, along with a host of downloadable resources to help you bring out your best on camera, can be found at vernoakley.com.


"Film is incredibly democratic and accessible.

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