How to Get Comfortable in Front of a Video Camera—7 Tips

Anxiety is practicing failure in advance.” ~Seth Godin

No one believes me now, but when I was young, I was terribly shy. I hated to speak in front of other people. Much to my horror, when I was in 9th grade, I had to deliver the “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech from Julius Caesar to the rest of the class.

Face on camera monitor.   One day I was reading the speech and mumbling it to myself as I sat at the kitchen table. My mother overheard me and insisted on hearing the speech. I stumbled through it with my head down, barely whispering. It was embarrassing just to read it to her.

She insisted that I stand on the chair and deliver it aloud—truly aloud. I protested. I whined. I got up on the chair.

Despite my utter reluctance, she coached me for the next hour to truly deliver the speech as if I were Marc Antony and really cared about Caesar. Although I hated my mother during that hour—and the following days when she made me repeat this effort—when it came time to deliver to the class, I was ready.

I climbed onto my chair in the classroom—meeting gasps and stares because you just didn’t do such a thing in those days—and gave the first real performance of my life. It met with stunned silence, and for 20 seconds I thought I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.

And then I got a standing ovation from a bunch of teenagers. It was stunning, and a pivotal turning point in my life.

If I could stand up and speak to that group of hyper-critical peers, then you can learn to speak in front of a camera—even without my mother there to force you to get good at it.

Seven Tips for Overcoming Your Self-Consciousness on Camera

  1. Set up a conversation with a friend via Zoom, Google Hang Outs on Air, or some other online recording.
    1. First just chat, and record it. You’re on camera…it’s really this easy.
    2. Then deliver your material to your friend, and record it. Again, just talk to him/her, as if it’s a conversation.
    3. Set up your call with several friends and record it. It’s a way of practicing without pressure.
  2. Put your camera phone on record and do a walking, talking, moving “selfie.” It doesn’t matter what you say; you’re just getting comfortable with the lens.
  3. Give a webinar limited to 5-10 people. Record it. Keep it conversational.
    1. You can do a Q & A session first—we’re comfortable answering questions in our field—and then do one with your course material.
    2. Recording the group puts everyone on the spot but also takes you off the spot. And yet—you’re on camera. You just forget that you are.
  4. When it is time to record your course, picture your friends on the other side of the lens.
    1. I’ve actually put names of people or even pictures right below the camera lens to remind teachers to speak to their friends. Try that if you need reminding.
  5. Remember that mistakes are okay, even if you are recording live. Editing magic!
  6. Remember to breathe.
    1. Deep breathing (not panicked breathing) will slow your heart rate and put energy into your voice.
    2. I’ve written Breathe into people’s scripts many times.
  7. Practice! Then practice again.
    1. Practice standing up and speaking aloud, not reading your material.
    2. You want to practice until you are comfortable with every word and how you feel speaking it.
    3. Use the practice to revise anything that you can’t say easily or that doesn’t make sense to you; to build in pauses; to figure out camera breaks; to mark out points where you need to restate your teaching point or be a bit dramatic.
    4. Practice until you are very comfortable but stop short of memorizing the material.
    5. Memorized material tends to fall flat unless you are an experienced actor.

If need be, you can always climb onto a kitchen chair, set up your camera, and record from there. Weirdly, that height really does provide extra confidence.

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Contact Marcy for help crafting your online course. 

Marcy McDonald is an Online Course Producer. She helps Subject Matter Experts and Professors create online courses with better content, delivery, and production, for better teaching. She’s developed ~450 online courses for lifelong learners, worked in video and audio studios, and filmed in the field (literally).

Please send me your questions for future issues, and tune in next Friday for Issue #48 of “Everything You Need to Know to Create Outstanding Online Courses.”


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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