5 tips for talking in front of a camera

If you have a business, and want to get your product out there, at some point you are probably going to find yourself in front of a camera (or a camera phone) talking about your business.

We are all so used to seeing people in front of the camera talking to us every day on social media, that no one mentions the fact that being in front of a camera can be a nerve-racking experience. 

It’s harder than it looks, and if you aren’t chatting away to that invisible audience every other day, then when you do have to do it, it can be kinda awkward.

Before we get started, I might add that most of my skills are in film sound and voice overs. I have been in front of the camera many, many times, and I have recorded a lot of people in front of cameras.

Disclaimer: Yet, I’m still awkward the first time I jump in front of the camera.

Nine times out of ten, if the person in front of the camera isn’t trained to be in front of the camera, then that first take is going to be like a deer in headlights, stuttering over themselves or forgetting what they are supposed to be saying.

Hot tip, that first take is very rarely the one you use. I’ve watched it time and time again as a videographer and sound recordist. I’ve also had the pleasure of recording plenty of totally cringeworthy moments of myself that were promptly deleted.

So, here are a couple quick tips if you find yourself in front of a camera and you are little anxious about the whole situation:

1.  Before you press the record button take a moment to breathe.

Recording yourself talking to some imaginary audience is more nerve-wracking than most people appreciate, especially if you aren’t used to it. If your brain is running off some inner monologue you probably won’t make it to the end of whatever you are meant to say.  

Freezing up once that camera starts rolling is pretty common, even to those who are used to it. Often people will get flustered and start talking too fast, forget to breathe, stutter, and sometimes stare blankly at the camera as their brain shuts down.

So, before you make that customer-attracting performance, give yourself a moment.

Take a breath.

Relax.

Then begin.

I have seen that simple action work countless times. Someone who was flustered and all over the place suddenly just nails whatever they needed to say.

It gets you focused and in the moment, and it calms those nerves. Anxiety and nerves are the biggest enemies you have to slay first.

One thing that can be said for spending a good amount of time in front of a camera, it teaches you to be present and ‘in the moment’. Not being completely focused will result in a lesser performance.

Stop thinking so much.

Relax. Take a breath. Do the thing.

2.  If you make a mistake you can always edit it out, or do it again.

This is film, it isn’t theatre. If you make a mistake, you are allowed to stop and start again. Don’t put pressure on yourself to nail it the first time. People forget that. The moment that camera starts rolling it is as if the person in front of it is onstage in front of a million people, and if you blunder or forget what you are saying EVERYONE WILL SEE IT.

One of the most repeated lines I will say as a videographer ‘ Don’t stress, we can do it again’. I want the best performance out of you, too. I am there to make you look good. If you start talking nonsense and stuttering every word I promise I won’t show it to the world.

Don’t be hard on yourself, don’t get angry for not getting it right or forgetting what you wanted to say. Just because you recorded it doesn’t mean you have to show it. If you feel embarrassed or stupid or awkward, it's alright. Work through it till you get what you want.

It’s always a little awkward in front of the camera at the start, but as you warm into it, as you calm your nerves you will get more comfortable having that lens pointed at you. Once you get into the rhythm of it, the words will flow more, I promise.

Guaranteed the moment you start to get stressed or angry or frustrated it will make it harder. Remember the first tip; be calm. If it doesn’t work out, 9 times out of 10 you can probably just do it again. No biggie.

3.  Learning something word for word will generally sound pretty robotic

Most of the time if you know your product and are passionate about it, you can generally talk about it in an engaging way. Having a general idea of what you are saying is great, learning it word for word and trying to stay to exactly what is written will generally make you sound less sincere (unless your acting skills are on point). 

You want to sound as organic as possible, and the audience can see you thinking about what you need to say next. Your thoughts will always betray you on camera.

Write out what you are going to say then throw it to the wind. Be fluid like water, do a couple takes, try a couple different things. Keep it fresh. The good takes will always be the ones that you deviate from what you originally planned slightly. 

You want to know enough about what you want to say to keep it concise and to the point, but not enough that it is delivered the same way every time.

If you happen to be lucky enough to read a teleprompter while you talk, still remember this rule. While you don’t have to worry about that mental power trying to remember what to say next, you will have to keep the energy high so it seems like you are talking to the viewer and not… well… reading off a teleprompter.

4.  Have a water bottle handy

Being nervous while talking generally leads to a dry mouth and you need that saliva to speak comfortably. Have a sip every couple takes.  Keep your mouth,  throat and that larynx lubricated with the power of hydrogen dioxide.

This is the vocalist in me coming out, and I don’t want to get into the anatomy of this, but water is going to be something your body will naturally start to want after 10-15 mins of talking in front of a camera. Talking with a dry throat is harder and makes the experience even more uncomfortable.

This doesn’t include soft drinks either. Fizzy drinks and talking equals carbonated air reflux and burps. Fighting back burps mid-take will stop your flow.

Keep with water.

5.  Don’t be a perfectionist, but don’t be lazy either.

We have two types of people here. The perfectionist will always try to do it better and pick their performance apart. If you are that person, ask yourself two questions: Did you say what you needed to say? Did your spiel achieve its purpose? Does the idea of sharing that on social media not horrify you? 

If you can answer yes to all those questions it’s good enough. As long as you feel it is 75% good, then you are probably fine.

For those who are on the other side of the tracks and want to get it done as quickly as possible, give yourself 5-6 tries then stop. Generally, you have this sweet spot after you have done a couple takes when you start to be a bit more comfortable and confident on camera. 

If you are doing it repeatedly though, there is a point when it starts to go a bit flat. If you can push yourself to do 5-6 takes of saying whatever it is you want to say to your customers, then you will probably hit that sweet spot.

When it comes to talking in front of the camera, being calm, being relaxed, and being in the moment are the three things that are going to put you in the best mental state to give a good performance. Like anything, practice makes perfect, but if it’s something you only do here and there, and it’s not something you are entirely comfortable with, then the above tips will give you a good headstart in tackling those on-camera appearances. Above all, trust yourself, trust your knowledge and trust your expertise. You got this! But if you’re still in doubt about your in-front camera qualities, give us a shout and we’ll help with your visual marketing, big or small.

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