Updated: May 3
Camera anxiety, video anxiety, zoom anxiety… There are many words that mean you are camera shy. Many people who are camera shy now have the unpleasant experience of communicating daily through video chat because of Covid. It has become so critical to communicating on camera that by doing so can actually benefit your work life dramatically. Working from home means you are traveling to work less, have more time with family, and just overall have more time to spare.
Before we help you become more comfortable around the camera lets describe what it takes to get over camera anxiety. As an actress and Broadway star Renée Marino took fate into her own hands to play “Mary Delgado” in the film Jersey Boys. As she describes it, she was able to get her feature film debut because she was able to be her authentic self and present herself properly on camera. Throughout her time acting she has learned many ways to control the fear and anxiety that comes with a camera being pointed at you.
Now Renée Marino spends her time helping entrepreneurs, aspiring actors, leaders, and anyone who is willing to improve their professional lives by teaching them how to effectively communicate on camera. She is here now to share some facts on how it is being on camera. You can attend her workshops or get one on one training with Renée Marino herself and expedite your journey to becoming your best self on camera.
As we dissect these strategies keep in mind that on some level you will need to be patient and train although some of these strategies can be used right away.
One example of a strategy that can be used right away is to make your environment as comfortable as you like it.
Some people like to have a clean environment by having a clean desk and surroundings. Do you feel uncomfortable in your chair or does your back hurt as you try to sit straight? Put a small pillow behind you for comfort. Being comfortable and away from distractions can drastically reduce your anxiety.
Remember you have way more leeway with video chat. You can have your speech typed up for example, if you are not screen sharing you can have notes typed up which will make it easier to stay on topic and not go off on a tangent. Some issues arise however, such as internet problems but it should be noted that these issues are out of your control and nothing to worry about. Even Zoom at one point went dark in a certain region during the pandemic so do not blame yourself for these issues.
Control your movements. Being behind a camera (or maybe sometimes with no video just audio) you might shift in your chair or get anxious. To counteract this just keep using hand gestures if it helps. It doesn’t matter if anyone sees them either, it will just be helpful in staying calm and collected. Hand gestures not helping? Invest in a simple fidget toy that you can play with as long as it won't be much of a distraction.
Practice is the main answer. Practicing what you wanted to discuss would help greatly in staying on topic. Try to get a hold of a coworker or member and go over the points with them. If this member is on the chat it can be helpful as they can jump in when you start struggling. A quick side tip would be to create a signal with this person as you can use this later to let them take over the presentation if needed.
Increase the time you are on camera. This seems very counter-intuitive but the more you are on screen the more you will simply get better.There are multiple factors here. First, you will gain experience each time you are behind the camera. Second, The more screen time you will get the more desensitized you will actually get to being there. Lastly, the more you present the more you will become familiar with your audience and in the end you will no longer present to just strangers but people you know you and want you to succeed.
There are external factors working for you. Most likely you are working with coworkers and these coworkers are the ones you are presenting too. Keep in mind they do not care that you are not the best presenter in the world. They care more about what your message is. It can be a little assuring that your audience wants you up there and they want to hear from you. If you are presenting in a zoom meeting, realistically people are only paying half attention and will not scrutinize you for an imperfect speech.
Sometimes fighting your anxiety with logic won’t work. Your Anxiety itself is based on irrational fear. Trying to use rationality to deter this will be meaningless. This is why sayings like “Just be yourself” or “Just calm down” do not work. Instead deter this by practicing more which is a true and tested way. The second best way is to have supportive listeners to help you present.
Understand that fatigue is a real thing. If you are repeatedly in front of the camera just keep in mind that there will be times where too many zoom meetings just become overwhelming no matter how prepared you are. The solution to this really varies as it's not a one size fits all technique. Ask yourself some questions like “Am I scheduling the events when I like or does the other party have control over it?”, “Is it possible to have a fixed schedule of availability on a week to week basis?”, or “Am I able to control any boundaries that can help me take breaks?”. Finding the sweet spot between when you can recharge enough to attend the next zoom meetings.
These skills you learn now are transferable. One thing you might be wondering is why should you even worry about learning to deal with camera anxiety. The pandemic has to end at one point and you will soon be back in the office operating like usual. Although that may be true, this pandemic has made it clear that video conferencing, although it has its flaws, saves more time than attending a meeting in person. Since the pandemic, working from home might be a reasonable norm for a lot of careers. If you are in the situation of learning these skills now you are making a worthwhile investment.
Well I hope you end up using these tips! You are well on your way to overcoming camera anxiety. The first step is always research. Still feeling overwhelmed? Reach out to Renee Marino today to get a One on One training. And remember you're still learning a very important soft skill that can potentially boost your business and set you apart from others.