Even if there is no official videographer for your upcoming speech, it is very likely that someone in attendance will be recording on their smartphone or other mobile device. You may be shocked to learn that even the most experienced public speakers can get nervous when they realize their every move is being recorded for posterity. But by the end of this article, you’ll know how to ace your screentest and keep your nerves in check.
Here’s a quick rundown of how to be comfortable in front of a video camera: Dress comfortably, stay hydrated, practice with your own video camera, talk slowly, and keep sentences short and to the point.
There is so much more to learn how to be comfortable in front of a video camera but those tips should get you started. If you’re interested in learning more, I have a ton of other awesome tips below.
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How to be comfortable in front of a video camera: The basics
A lot of preparation goes into giving a great speech or presentation. A lot more will go into giving a great speech in front of a camera. Some people even think talking in front of just the camera crew is worse than speaking to an entire auditorium full of people.
Whatever your worry, following these basics of becoming comfortable in front of a camera should help.
#1 Write a great speech or presentation
The most obvious preparation step you should take is to write a great speech. Without a killer speech or presentation, it won’t matter how comfortable you are in front of the camera or not. You’re going to bore your viewers if you don’t have something interesting to say.
Some people are natural writers and natural speakers, but they are a rare lot. I have written extensively on how to write a great speech or presentation. You can find specific articles right here on my site covering every aspect of speech writing you can think of.
But check those out in detail later. For now, this is a quick list of tips to write your best speech ever.
- Research your audience
- Research the industry you’ll be speaking about
- Understand the lingo and use jargon sparingly
- Tailor your speech or presentation to the situation (even if the video of your speech will be seen online globally)
- Find interesting sub-topics that haven’t been covered yet (or haven’t been fully explored elsewhere)
- Find current industry trends that are relevant to your topics
- Keep sentences short and precise
- Use everyday language and avoid difficult words you would not normally use
- Write your introduction last
#2 Practice your speech out loud
You will see this advice a lot on all kinds of websites because it’s one of the best things you can do to get ready for your presentation. Listen, you would not enter a bicycle race if you didn’t know how to ride a bike. So, don’t think you’re going to get up on the stage to give your speech if you haven’t already tried it out a few times.
One of the biggest mistakes people make while practicing their speech is trying to memorize the whole thing word for word. That will never work. While it’s certainly possible that you can memorize the entire speech, when you get up in front of the audience, you’re going to sound robotic.
Instead of memorizing the whole thing, memorize a few key points, a few sentences from each section, and practice adding humor in appropriate places.
Some people write several versions of their speeches and pick one based on the audience after they see them in person. That’s not necessary. If you know your topic well, you should be able to go a little off course while giving your speech based on the audience’s reaction to what you say.
If the thought of going off-script terrifies you, that’s okay. You can stick with what you originally wrote. But again, don’t recite it line for line.
#3 Time yourself giving your speech
While you practice your speech, make sure your time yourself. You might be surprised how quickly people speak when they’re nervous. It’s a lot faster than when you read it quietly to yourself.
If you find yourself speeding through your speech and leaving way too much unused time at the end, practice reading slower. You want to read at a normal speaking pace, paying attention to the flow and rhythm of your words. Oh, and don’t forget to make proper pauses in your speech.
If you still can’t seem to slow down, try some relaxing techniques before you time yourself again. Don’t scoff at breathing techniques. These things really work! A nice bonus is that you can use all of these breathing techniques to keep yourself from getting emotional or extra nervous or bursting into tears while you give your speech.
#4 Practicing how to be comfortable in front of a video camera
Part of your practice sessions should include actually being in front of a video camera and giving sections of your speech. At the early stages, don’t try to give the entire speech on camera. Pick a section or two—at least 2 minutes—record yourself saying it out loud, and then sit down to watch the video.
While watching those sections, you should be able to pick up places where you stumble, mumble, stammer, or you seem visibly fidgety and uncomfortable. Take note of any places in your speech where you look particularly uncomfortable or the wording doesn’t sound natural.
After you’ve viewed your video and taken your notes, ask a friend or colleague to watch the video with you. Don’t show them your notes. Ask them to take their own notes and tell you what they notice during the video. You may be surprised that they don’t pick out the same problems that you saw.
If you and your friend have a different list of issues with your video, pay closer attention to your friend’s list. We are our own worst critics; we’ll pick ourselves apart if given the chance. Your friend, on the other hand, has a more realistic view of how you did, so listen to them.
#5 Edit your speech if necessary
Editing your speech after practicing it a bit and seeing parts of it on video is almost always needed. What sounds good on paper, and sounds good reading it to yourself in your office, is not always the same thing as what will look good on video. Be prepared to adjust what you wrote.
What are the biggest problems people make while writing and reciting their speeches?
Using words that aren’t natural to themselves or the industry
I mentioned this above, but it bears repeating. Keeping your speech natural and industry-specific will help you stay more relaxed. If you try to stuff in a whole bunch of words that you’re not used to saying, you’re going to look unnatural and uncomfortable especially on camera.
Stumbling over awkward sentences
If you keep stumbling in the same places in your speech, your sentences are awkward. The stumble is your brain’s signal that something is wrong with the wording, even if it looks great on paper. You must reword those parts.
#6 Record the entire speech
Once you have fine-tuned your speech and you’re sure that it is worded perfectly, it’s time to record the entire speech. At this stage, you will be timing yourself and looking for places where you stumble, mumble, or seem particularly uncomfortable.
You should also be looking at what you’re wearing and how your body language looks. Do you seem stiff? Are you standing in one spot the entire time or do you move around? Are you pausing in the right places?
Like you did with the previous recording steps, invite your friends over to view your video with you. Ask them if there’s anything that you could do better. Did they notice any unusual ticks or distracting physical habits you should pay attention to?
This step is especially helpful if your friends happen to be in the same industry and understand what the speech is about.
Getting comfortable in front of the camera: Hot tips for success
The following tips will help you look and act your best while giving your speech in front of a camera.
#7 Try different clothes
Since your speech or presentation is being recorded, it’s possible that your video is going to end up on the internet. You don’t want a worldwide audience checking out your high-water pants and your stained shirt. When giving a speech, you should always look your best. This is especially true when you’re being videotaped.
Your first step in choosing the perfect outfit is to put together two or three that you think will look best. You need to keep in mind the lighting that will be used wherever your speech is taking place. If it’s in an auditorium, there will probably be really good lighting. You can get away with more colors or more interesting clothing.
If the speech will be taking place in a dingy and dark club, for example, your clothing choices will be a little more limited. Remember that even though today’s video technology is high-tech, bad lighting can ruin even the best shot. If you’re wearing all black and your speech is taking place in a dark club, the video will be completely unwatchable.
A lot of thought needs to go into what you wear. Other than the possible lighting situations, you also need to think about your comfort and how you’re going to look to your audience and the viewers at home.
I’ve covered some of this in my detailed list of tips for dressing for public speaking over here. But a quick rundown includes dressing for comfort, choosing clothes that are appropriate for the industry, dressing slightly better than your live audience, and picking the right colors.
The final step in choosing the right outfit is trying them out in front of the camera. I know, you’re probably sick of being recorded by now, but that’s all part of the plan.
Seeing yourself on video over and over should help relieve some of your anxiety. Especially if you nail that outfit and then give your practice speech. You can see a sneak peek of what your audience is going to see. A lot of people find that as a confidence-booster.
#8 Stay hydrated
I cannot stress enough how important it is that you stay hydrated while giving your speech. A dry throat can be painful, but worse, your audience will notice. It can affect the speed of your speaking and how well your voice carries. It can affect your tone and any emphasis you try to make during your speech.
Not only will staying hydrated make your speech better, but it gives a natural place for you to take a pause. Strategic pauses can be used for emphasis or to just get your bearings when you start to feel nervous.
Staying hydrated is good, but drinking too much can make you seem nervous. It can be a little distracting for the audience. Once again, practice taking sips of water or tea in front of your camera at home to see if it looks natural.
Special tips for recording a live speech
There are two distinctive ways that your speech or presentation may be recorded. The first and most common is recording a live speech. These tips are specifically geared for having your life speech recorded, however, some of them can apply for other situations.
#9 Mark the stage
If you’ll have access to the stage or speaking location before the event, you have an advantage. You can put small marks on the stage to help give you a visual cue of where you should be standing or places you can walk to.
Mapping it out in advance can help you add emphasis to your speech. It’s much more interesting to watch a presentation when the speaker moves around naturally.
It’s also worth noting that moving around during your speech can help your body stay relaxed. It’s a good way to burn off nervous energy.
#10 Put a friend or colleague in the audience
For some speakers, it’s helpful to have a friendly face in the audience.
If at all possible, arrange for a friend or colleague to be in one of the first three or four rows. They should be close enough that you can see them, but not right up front. Keeping them a little distance away will encourage you to look out at the rest of the audience. That is an important skill in keeping your audience engaged.
You can continue to look to your friend for moral support throughout the speech.
Special tips for recording a presentation with no audience
On rare occasions, you may be asked to make a presentation with just the camera crew in the room. For some people, this is a dream come true. There’s no audience to be nervous in front of!
For others, however, this is a nightmare. Many people who fear being recorded in this manner can’t stop thinking about the thousands of people who will be watching them on YouTube or on social media.
Aside from standard ways you can help handle stage fright for any speech or presentation, here are some specific things you can do to get more comfortable in front of a camera when there’s no audience.
#11 Schedule the video wisely
If you have any control over the recording time, make sure you schedule it at the time where you’re feeling your best. If you’re not a morning person, for example, aim for late afternoon or early evening recording times.
#12 Use a mirror
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many times you record yourself giving your presentation, you still have some ticks or bad habits that you’d like to curb. Don’t feel bad, this is pretty normal.
One of the most effective ways around this is to bring a large mirror to place in the room. You want the mirror behind the camera but at an angle where you can see yourself.
Every so often, check the mirror to make sure you’re sitting up straight or you’re not tapping your fingers. Just check to be sure you look good and that you’re presenting yourself professionally.
#13 Choose your crew
If you have the option of choosing the camera crew, choose people that you’re used to speaking in front of. This will help keep you calm.
If you can’t choose the people recording your presentation, ask to have a friend or colleague in the room with you. Having a friendly face nearby can help calm your nerves.
#14 Limit distractions
Even if you have little control over the time of day that the video is taken, the people in the room, or the location, you should be able to ask for certain concessions while you’re there. By limiting the distractions in the room, you can keep your mind focused on your presentation.
You can ask to have superfluous props or equipment removed from the room and ask that extra people not be allowed in during recording. Do so politely, however. You don’t want to offend anyone.
Conclusion: How to speak in front of a video camera?
It really is that simple when you’re learning how to be comfortable in front of a video camera. I know it can seem like a lot to keep in mind, but the more you do it, the less nervous you’ll become.
That’s one of the reasons I’ve suggested recording yourself so many times during your preparation process. By the time you get to the big day, you’ll be so used to talking in front of the camera you may not even notice.
How do I stop being shy in front of my camera? For speakers who wish to touch worldwide audiences with their videos, being comfortable in front of the camera is important. Practice, dress well, use good lighting, and speak clearly. The more you do it, the less nervous you will be.
How do I get more confident in front of a video camera? Practice is the best way to get more comfortable. Keep doing it. Watch yourself on video and take notes. Ask others to watch your videos and give tips on doing better.
How do I use notes in a speech? Realize that notes are just notes, and shouldn’t be the full manuscript of your speech. Cue cards can be very effective when speaking in public. Make sure you are writing down key words and phrases to remember. Try not to look down at your cards too much. (full article here)