Breaking The Ice
As a Los Angeles wedding and special events videographer I’ve chuckled many times over the entertaining spectacle of a photographer trying to entice a baby to smile for a photo with whistles, bird calls, teddy bears and funny faces with parents and relatives on the sidelines doing the same. But what do you do with a group of nervous adults whose language you don’t speak and who don’t understand what you’d like them to do?
As a professional wedding and special event videographer that works often with particular nationalities, having a couple of tricks up your sleeve that can help adults feel more comfortable in front of the camera can make a big difference in how your shoot goes. Here’s a simple strategy that I’ve seen in action while on a video shoot where a couple of photographer friends of mine were trying to pose a very conservative group of foreign visitors that seemed to be more than a little bit insecure.
I watched the photographers instantly warm up the shoot by trying to say a few words to the guests in their native language. I don’t really know exactly what was said, but the reaction was instantaneous. The looks of amazement and the laughter that ensued said it all…the whole ambiance changed. Almost magically and because of their little gesture the language barrier-related awkwardness that prevented people from being themselves vanished. Reaching out to the guests in a way they could relate to put them at ease.
Even though the conversation wasn’t destined to go beyond those few words, the whole feel of the photo shoot went in a new, more enjoyable direction after everyone had a good laugh at the photographer’s apparently less than perfect pronunciation.The rapport had changed for the better and the shedding of inhibitions produced some honest-to-goodness smiles. I thought, what a great icebreaker, and what an extraordinary transformation those few words created. We all now had uninhibited, smiling people to record. Everyone was happy. Why was that?
Camera shy? Cultural differences? Being in a Foreign country? Self-consciousness? I can only speculate what the issue was. What ever it was, it wasn’t much of an issue any longer. A little unanticipated gesture broke the ice.
As a videographer, I work often with Spanish speaking clients, particularly at Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, Ca., where I record weddings and baptisms. Greeting guests in Spanish is an instant rapport builder. “Hola, bien venidos,” (Hello, welcome!) is a great icebreaker that invariably elicits a warm if not surprised response that this very American looking videographer is actually speaking Spanish. It’s like suddenly being welcomed into the family where a whole different level of interaction opens up.
So, practice a few relevant phrases to use the next time you’re in a similar situation with this one caveat: Don’t butcher the language or intentionally anglicized a foreign word. It’s obnoxious hearing things like, “no problemo.” Showing a sincere effort in bridging a communication gap can make your day, and your shoot much happier.
Visit my blog at www.24ktsound.com and please feel free to share your own similar experiences and advice.