Go From Shy and Scared to Fearless and Confident on Camera
As a producer, one of the things I deal with most often is someone who is really nervous about being on camera.
And I totally get it, I remember some of my first times on camera where I was sooo nervous, all I could do was nod my head and then say "cool" and freeze in between answers and then look down at my notes. I even took to wearing long skirts so you couldn’t see my knees shake.
It was really embarrassing and I knew I had to do something to improve. So I started watching people on TV that I really admired and took notes. That gave me the confidence to start trying new things each time I had a chance to go on camera.
Back then, it was a lot more difficult to get time in the studio. Today, you can record your practice on your phone in the privacy of your home!
When I work with someone who hasn't been on camera before or has had a bad experience, I encourage them to watch someone they really relate to on TV or the internet and notice what they do.
Don’t try to mimic them - use them as a a visual reference of how they ask and answer questions and how certain actions come across on camera.
Why Do We Get Nervous on Camera?
There’s lots of reasons people freeze up or feel nauseous when they think about being in front of the camera.
Even some Hollywood stars still get nervous when they think about wanting to deliver a stellar, even Academy Award worthy performance.
What it boils down to is because we want to do a great job, we have internalized our fear of failure or looking or sounding stupid and fear takes over our physical senses. We are more worried about what people are going to think about us than the message we want to deliver.
Harness Your Nervous Energy
Happily, you can learn to harness your jitters and turn them into positive energy and presence with a little bit of practice. Here’s three tips to help you stay calm on camera:
1. Use your energy to fuel you, not hinder you.
You can get in the right emotional place, where you can’t wait to share your message.
Think of this as having a conversation, and connecting with one person on the other side of the camera.
My favorite tip on this is think of someone you love, a best friend or sibling an envision them when you look into the camera lens. It might take a little practice at first, but you’ll definitely feel the difference once you start doing this.
2. Be prepared and know your purpose
Sound familiar? To review the 3 P’s check out podcast episodes 2,3, and 4.
Create a strong outline for what you want to say - NEVER memorize answers - you’ll sound robotic and if you forget your answers, typically you’ll freeze and lose your place.
Know your key messages backwards and forward so you can free your energy to engage with your audience.
If you show up with low energy and you’re really excited about what you are sharing there is a huge disconnect. The camera already diminishes your energy, you need to pump it up!
The opposite is also true - you need to be serious in your delivery, you don’t want to come across as over the top happy.
3. Practice - your material
This doesn’t mean memorize - run through your presentation until you feel confident you know where you are going - get your key points clearly in mind.
I can’t emphasize this enough. I’ve worked with people who have memorized their answers and then draw a blank and freeze up on camera. Getting them out of the mental rut they are in can mean 40, 50 or even in one case 90 takes to get a simple message delivered. Knowing where you’re going will allow you to improvise and stay on track.
Have a plan for recovery if you mess up - and be yourself!
Acknowledge it and then move on - it’s kind of like the old stage adage, the show must go on, pick up and move forward.
Then be intentional about relaxing. Pay attention to where you have tension in your body. This awareness will help you manage your energy.
Tips to Help You Relax Before You Go On Camera
I learned some of these tips from Hollywood actress Barbara Niven. She says she still gets nervous before auditions and performances!
Breathe deeply 3 times - in and out and slowly count to five. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. If you are in a public place, breathe through your nose taking very deep breaths and take time to become of highly aware of your surroundings. Turn your attention to your external environment instead of within.
Listen to music - Think of an event or memory or song that makes you really happy or powerful. Visualize being there and how you feel. You will bring that energy with you into the moment. If you can’t listen to music you can create the same effect by imagining the song in your head. You can also listen to music that is appropriate to the emotion you want to convey in your message - try it, it works. Smile!
Move your body and say Yes! This is an energy trigger. Moving around helps you to get your blood flowing and break the thought patterns that are keeping you stuck in fear.
Barbara says she always does this right before auditions. To use this trigger, stand up, jump up and reach your arms into the air like you are trying to grab the clouds and count to three and say YES! Do this three times with each yes getting louder.
Once you practice this at home several times you can get the feeling down and do this silently inside your head (so you don’t feel so geeky in front of an audience).
Summing it up:
1) Use your energy to your advantage. Your on camera appearance is an opportunity to share your message and serve and help others. Thinking about this really helps to shift your energy from focusing on you, to those you want to help.
2) Take time to prepare and know your purpose. Be clear about your purpose and messages - practice, but don’t memorize and make note of areas where you stumble, it’s a good signal that you may need to re-write, revise your content. Your delivery should be natural, so that means creating messages in your own voice.
3) Practice, practice, practice. Create a strong outline for what you want to say - NEVER memorize answers - you’ll sound robotic and if you forget your answers, typically you’ll freeze and lose your place - know your key messages so you can free up your energy to engage with your audience.