Being yourself on camera is one of the most important skills that anyone can have in 2021 and beyond. So much of our lives are now happening remotely and that new normal is here to stay. Businesses have moved their operations online, people are working from home, and we are all trying to stay in touch with loved ones via FaceTime and Zoom.
You would think that speaking on camera comes naturally to everyone. That it’s just the same as a regular conversation except through a screen. But working as a communication coach during this past year has made me realize that speaking on camera is not so easy for everyone. People get anxious and struggle with bringing their authentic selves into video conversations.
This can be a problem, especially in a moment where video has become the best substitute for face-to-face conversations. It can spell out missed opportunities for entrepreneurs and jobseekers. It can worsen the feelings of loneliness and isolation that we are all experiencing with lockdowns and quarantines.
If you are not able to bring your authentic spirit into a conversation and clearly share your message you're going to lose clients, you're going to miss opportunities and you're not going to be able to create and maintain deep connections with clients, family, and friends. The good news is that speaking on camera is a skill that anyone can learn and perfect with a little bit of practice. Here are five of my best tips to help you out conquer your fears and communicate successfully every single time:
1. Remind yourself that you’re having a conversation
So many people turn into robots the moment they get in front of a camera. It’s one of the most common issues that the clients that take my "Connecting on Camera" workshop struggle with. They’ll stand super still, keep a blank facial expression, and speak with almost no emotion. They think that they have to be perfect and that’s the exact thing that turns people off. It becomes difficult for them to connect with the person on the other side of the screen because they don’t come across as real or authentic. When you see that light on your camera go green, place the person that you are most comfortable with right where the lens is. Picture your best friend in front of you and talk to them. Your guard will go down and all that fear will start melting away. You’ll stop being worried about how you sound or how you look and instead focus on bringing yourself into the conversation.
2. Write down your talking points
What a lot of us do - and I do it myself all the time - is that we get on a live, start talking and then go: “Oh crap! What the heck was I saying? What did I want to talk about?” This is when we start getting nervous and going off on tangents and all these fears start to arise. Afterward, we’re left feeling frustrated because we were not able to get all of our ideas through or touch upon important points that we were hoping to discuss. Before you get on camera, think about what you’re going to talk about and jot down bullet points. Ask yourself: “What is my goal for this exchange? What are the most important points that I want to get across?” I usually keep my outlines on a post-it note right next to my camera lens. This serves me as a guide for the entire conversation and helps me avoid having to look down or away from the lens when I want to review my notes.
3. Get in tune with your body
Body language plays a huge role in communication. The way you present yourself, how you speak, and the expressions on your face are very influential factors in how people perceive you. Before getting in front of the lens, make sure that you are physically ready. First, get that energy fired up to be on camera. Move your body to some great tunes! Remember, our minds, bodies, and spirits are one. When we move our bodies and get them into a positive state, it also takes our brains into a happy place. Lastly, check your posture and check your breathing: sit up straight, push your shoulders back, and take deep breaths. Doing this will not only calm you down; it will also help you speak more clearly and appear more confident.
4. Frame those nerves as excitement
Once you start overthinking how you appear to others, it will show. It will make you feel uncomfortable and you will, in turn, communicate that discomfort to your audience. This is when people start speaking very fast or using a tone that’s too low. They make awkward pauses, they freeze, or they just go completely silent. Remember: speaking in front of a camera is something that makes us all nervous. Even skilled actors and experienced keynote speakers get nervous. I get nervous too! But I also have an excellent trick to help me out: frame those nerves as excitement. When you frame anxiety as excitement, you are transforming it from a negative emotion into a positive one. Thinking: “I am nervous because I am excited to do this” instead of: “I am nervous because I may screw up” will do a lot to help you see that glass half-full.
5. Practice and take imperfect action
Nobody is born knowing how to speak on camera. It takes a lot of work and takes the ability to look at your mistakes critically so that you can improve them. This is why people review videos of themselves speaking or acting. It’s why dancers practice in front of a mirror. The more you speak on camera, the more you’ll normalize it, and the easier it will become. Oftentimes the same things we struggle with while communicating on camera are the same issues that we have with communication off-camera. Take stock of what those things are and work to correct them. Soon enough, you’ll see big improvements in your communication both on and off-line.
The only true failure is not trying. Play the long game, take imperfect action, and fail forward towards becoming better. Focus on building confidence and a resilience mindset. Lastly, just remember: this is a skill that everyone can learn!
If you are interested in continuing to improve your communication skills, I have created a Facebook group called Becoming a Master Communicator through Imperfect Action. It’s a beautiful community of people who are all working to get better at communication - especially on camera. We regularly have members go live and do fun exercises to improve our communication skills. Come join us and improve your communication skills in a friendly and supportive environment!