The thought of being on camera used to make my palms sweat. Let’s be honest, it made my eyebrows sweat. But over 4 years that Elena and I have lead a team of videographers, I've had to appear on camera a lot. So much so, that I can identify some tips that have helped me be more comfortable and authentic on camera. Oh, and bit less awkward (still #awkwardforlife). I'll share these things today, and maybe they'll help you and your team be more at ease when the camera comes on.
Whether it's a webinar, training or company branding video, you may have been asked to share something on camera with a professional audience. If you're like me (any many of our peers!), the idea of appearing on video can be anxiety-invoking. The horror!
But video is a powerful way to communicate with your colleagues and customers. Rather than avoiding on-camera appearances, embrace them as an opportunity! In the past 4 years, my team and I have filmed over 1,000 people in a professional setting. In this post, I will share what I have learned about using storytelling to help them communicate and be confident and authentic on video.
First, let’s talk about why video can be so hard. Here are some things that cause video anxiety:
Do any of these sound familiar? They certainly do for me. And you may have a few of your own that aren’t on the list. The good news is that there are ways to get around each of these hangups. Here are 4 tips that have helped me be more comfortable and authentic on camera.
First thing’s first. If the biggest anxiety you have about appearing on camera is your appearance, there are a few things you can do to feel confident and look your best.
1| Lighting. Natural light is best. Good lighting brightens your face, helps bring out your natural color, your eyes and your smile. Check out this video on how to get beautiful lighting for your video. This applies to webcam video too; face a window!
2 | Angles. Shoot from straight on at eye level, or very slightly above. Don’t get crazy mounting the camera from the ceiling. A slight angle will erase that double chin for you. Whatever you do, don't opt for an angle below your face.
3| Clothing. Pick something you’re totally comfortable in, and opt for jewel tones. They brings out your natural coloring. Our friends at Wistia do an awesome job of covering this topic.
4| Backdrop. One of the things that blows my mind is trying to look professional on video without looking stiff. In the office, that can be easy, but at home? Stage a simple background. Rather than doing a webcam video with your messy bed, closet or bookshelf in view, opt for a simple backdrop.
Brick is beautiful, provides just a little color and texture. White is also clean.
You want the audience focused on you, not distracted by what’s behind you. Of course, if you’re featuring a location or work environment, make sure to get plenty of shots of the environment. If you’re going to feature it, show it off without the audience having to look past you. That might involve a little editing with b-roll or simply panning around slowly after you’ve said what you need to say.
Repetition is the single biggest thing that helps me be comfortable on camera. Not necessarily practicing the content verbatim, but being confident with the flow of information I’m sharing. Rather than scripting your notes, create an outline. This forces you to speak more naturally rather than reading or reciting from memorization.
Another thing I find helpful is using a video tool, like Loom, to go through my pitch, presentation or training by filming it, and then watching back the video. Once you get over doing this, and practice 2-3 times, appearing on camera will feel much less precious and more achievable. Bonus points if you send to a friend or colleague for real feedback. Tools like Loom or Vimeo Review Pages make it very easy for them to leave time-stamped feedback.
Who doesn’t love a little help from a friend? I had this insight when watching videos with my 5-year-old on YouTube. Kids do not care about how weird they are on camera. It’s beautiful. Just spend 15 minutes on YouTube Kids. You’ll see a 7 year old playing with PlayDoh for 45 minutes. He’s got 7M views. You’ll see adorable twins making unicorn cupcakes. 2.4M views.
In fact, check out this video.
Here we are a couple minutes in and one of the sisters is just hanging with her unicorn while the other cooks. Get yourself a friend who can help carry the video while you hug your unicorn.
It’s so much easier to be comfortable on camera when there’s another person there to distract you from the camera. And even if they can’t appear on camera with you doesn’t mean you have to be solo.
Try filming your content interview-style. Having another person there helps to break out of robotic speaking patterns because you’re actually interacting with another human.
Which brings me to my next tip…
Talk to Your Audience
When I stopped thinking about the “audience” as some anonymous body of people judging me from auditorium seats, my on-camera presence got much better. Instead of thinking of the audience as “they” - whether that’s co-workers, industry peers, company leaders, or customers - think of them as Colette, Nathaniel, Skyler. REAL people.
Because that’s how each individual experiences your video, as themselves, not part of a massive audience.
You can bet those kids on YouTube aren’t thinking of all the kids watching. They’re thinking of one kid, a friend, with whom they’re sharing an experience.
This re-frame may sound minor but it makes a big difference. And one way to achieve it? See Tip #3 and enlist a friend to actually attend filming with you.
BONUS TIP: Use Humor
One last thing I’ve learned about being comfortable on camera is not taking yourself too seriously. Be humorous, share outtakes. People relate to that, even if you stumble or mess up. It’s a reminder that we are all human.
One final thought, one of my mentors, Josh Braun told me something last year that stuck with me and gave me confidence. Remember, you are the gift. You have something special to offer people, knowledge, insight, experience. Video is just a medium to do so.
Did I miss anything? What helps you be comfortable and authentic on camera? Hit me up in the comments!
Elena and Abby bring you innovative stories from the workplace.