The camera is ready to roll, but as soon as the recording starts, your face freezes, the words stumble, the brain blocks. This is what happens to the majority of people when placed in front of a camera.
I find that one of the major challenges of speaking on camera is that there is no live energy to feed off, so one needs to bring enough energy of their own to make up for the lack of live audience spirit. Following on from my previous article on the subject, here are some helpful tips that you can apply which will help you present on camera with confidence and charisma.
In our presentation skills programmes, we highlight the importance of familiarising yourself well with the material. Do not try to memorise your whole speech – you will find that is not a very effective technique. Instead, identify the key points in the message that you wish to share. Write down your main points in bullet form and practise speaking about them in a natural way in conversational style. This will help you come across as genuine.
It is also beneficial to frame your narrative. ‘Framing’ is a technique for structuring your thoughts. A simple way of framing can be to structure what you are speaking about in terms of past, present and future. For example, if you want to talk about how you created a positive change, you could explain how things were before the change, how they are now, and how they will be in the future. Another way of framing could be to talk about the problems that exist, followed by the solutions and the benefits.
Defining the frames of the story will help you remember the core content and give the story a natural quality. Instead of searching for lines or specific sentences, you are recalling general aspects of the structure.
Just like in all kinds of public speaking, be it on camera or off, it helps out immensely when you practice beforehand. Practising out loud will enable you to get into your flow and will reduce the number of takes you will need during recording. ‘Winging it’ is not the way to go. Even though with video there is the benefit of editing (unless it is live), not every post-production editor will know how to cut your speech the way you would have liked it to be.
When you practice beforehand you will internalise the message you wish to share in your mind, which in turn will help avoid filler words, those ‘ems’ and ‘uhms’. In this way, when you present you will sound more professional, convincing and concise. So get practicing!
A helpful tactic is to grab your smartphone, record yourself on camera and check how you look and sound. This will give you the opportunity to check what needs improvement. It will also help you get comfortable with the idea of on-screen presence. As you watch your video, ask yourself: ‘What does my body language communicate? Is there as sense of melody in my voice or do I sound monotonous?’ Observe whether you are smiling and what your hands and eyes are doing.
It doesn’t hurt to put that extra effort into choosing your outfit. When preparing to present on-camera, plan your attire. Avoid tight clothing, instead choose clothing that you are comfortable in. Consider the fact that clothing with tight stripes or very small patterns does not work well on camera as it creates a distorting effect. It is best to opt for solid colours, and that does not mean you need to be dull. Choose clothing you feel good in. Looking the part can help you feel confident in front of the camera, so go for your favourite flattering colour palette and feel free to add some personal touches that help you feel and look amazing.
If you are working with a cameraperson, ask them for their advice. They can see what the viewer will see, so ask them how you look and how you come across on camera. You can also ask them to do a short recording before you begin, so that you can see and hear yourself.
Each time you make a recording, take a look at it afterwards and review it. This will develop your personal awareness and allow you to improve your performance for next time.
It is also beneficial to build a network of trusted people who want to help you speak better on camera so you can keep improving your technique. Find someone who will look over your videos and provide you with constructive criticism. If you want to get better at speaking on camera, you need to hear an honest and helpful opinion.
Today, we all have the opportunity to be ‘video stars’, as video is everywhere. Being in front of a camera can be nerve-racking, but it can also be exciting. By applying these tips, you can avoid looking and sounding strange or off-balance. Embrace the opportunity you have been given and go for it!
Missed part one of this series on speaking in front of the camera? Read it here.
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