Here's a hypothetical question from an imaginary client:
“Just added original YouTube videos to my content marketing strategy. Now I’m 100% comfortable talking in meetings, but for some reason when I get in front of that camera… I freeze up. I just can’t get my words out the way I want. Got any tips for looking confident on camera even if you’re nervous and feel awkward?”
For most marketers it’s easier and less intimidating to take an hour to type out their thoughts rather than take 10 minutes to get in front of a camera and speak them.
That’s a shame though, because when done right (e.g. Gary Vaynerchuk), video can be the fastest, easiest, and most effective way to communicate your message.
So what do you do if you look like a deer in headlights when it’s lights, camera, action?
There’re two areas you need to pay attention to:
What you do BEFORE you start filming; and
What you do DURING filming
Generally, the before is more important than the during.
Because when you take the time to prepare correctly you're much more likely to enter a flow state where all the right words just come to you.
Everything you do in preparation for filming should be done with a single goal in mind:
Giving yourself all the necessary tools to be your most confident self on camera.
So let’s start with the before, and we’ll graduate to the during.
Know what you’re talking about like the back of your hand
If you don’t know what you’re talking about (like REALLY know what you’re talking about), it’ll be obvious right off the bat. You’ll be stuttering, stumbling over your words, and saying “uhm” every other sentence.
As a general rule of thumb, don’t make a video about a topic unless you can effectively teach it to someone. Do your homework ahead of time and you’ll actually sound like you know what you’re talking about (because you do).
Keep your script & notes simple
Don’t try to memorize an entire page of notes or script word-for-word.
That’s hard as hell as is
You’ll sound like a robot reciting it
Your notes should be in bullet point form and serve as a general outline for the topic of the video. Your script (if you even need one) should be concise and broken down into short sections of a few sentences each so you can transition smoothly from section to section.
If you’re finding it difficult to stay on topic, put your outline onto pieces of poster board and have someone behind the camera hold them up and cycle through them.
Internet marketer Tyson Huggins said it best,
“Don’t learn your lines, learn your content.”
Forget the idea of “the perfect take”
I don’t care if you’re Leonardo DiCaprio, there is no such thing as the perfect take. You will ALWAYS find something you don’t like, think you could do better, or want to change.
Don’t focus on the minute details.
Instead, focus on delivering highly relevant content with high energy in a clear and effective manner. If you can do that, your videos will already turn out miles better than the majority of the s*** out there today.
Don’t try to be anyone but yourself
The best video “performers” are the ones that are truly authentic - on AND off camera. They don’t become a “character,” they don’t pretend, and they don’t imitate - they are simply THEM.
So, let your personality shine!
Inject your own unique persona into your videos, acting as you do around your closest friends. This will make you stand out from your cookie-cutter competitors who are simply trying to imitate someone who’s already done it.
Know your target audience like you know your content
When you’re filming, your camera isn’t your audience - your viewers are. THEY are the ones you are filming for, THEY are the ones who are important.
So to reach them effectively, you must know your target audience the same way you know your content - like the back of your hand.
Specifically, condense all the characteristics of your audience into a single person. Give them a name, a personality, and a distinct physical appearance. Think of this person as a close friend.
Then when you’re filming, don’t think of it like you’re talking to a camera. Think of it like you’re talking to them! Even print out a picture of them and tape it below the lens if you need to (or have a friend stand next to the camera and talk to them)!
Forget that you’re talking to a camera, because you’re not. You’re talking to your audience.
Dress with purpose and comfort in mind
Your clothes have a huge impact on not only how your audience perceives you, but how YOU perceive you.
On days you plan to film, wear an outfit you are comfortable and confident in. Something that you can move freely in, but that is also an outward representation of your personality and profession.
Above: Style coach Tanner Guzy always looks sharp on camera, even when he's not in a suit.
Stay away from saturated colors and other loud or obnoxious pieces. Any attention given to your clothing is attention taken away from your message.
Whatever your unique style, keep it simple, clean, and consistent.
Master the art of relaxed high energy
This is one of the most difficult parts of being confident on video.
You must find a mental and physical in which you are relaxed, but also full of energy. This state will allow you to deliver your message in a way that is natural, but also entertaining.
To get relaxed before filming, do whatever it is that relaxes you! You likely already know what this is (whether it be working out, taking deep breaths, yoga, or something else). Whatever it is, 5 minutes before filming, do it.
To maintain high energy, do whatever it is that energizes you! It could be the same thing that relaxes you or something completely different. Do some push-ups/jumping jacks, drink a cup of coffee, splash cold water on your face, do power and abundance poses, etc.
Also note the time of day you feel most high energy and try to film in that window.
There is no one-size fits all trick for this because everyone is different.
However, if you consistently find it difficult or mentally taxing to be in a state of relaxed high energy, you likely have some internal health/hormonal problems that need addressing (hint: drink plenty of water!).
Optimize your environment
Your environment (like your clothing and mindset) greatly influences your confidence.
Find a place to film that you are familiar with, comfortable in, and truly enjoy. Limit all distractions so that the camera (your audience) is your only focus. Only surround yourself with essential personnel, and make sure they are people you actually feel comfortable around.
Set up the room with great lighting and acoustics. Place your camera just slightly above eye level. Place markers on the floor if you’re going to be moving around a lot so you know where you are in the frame. Even place a mirror behind the camera so you can periodically check in on your body language if need be (as long as it’s not too distracting).
Whatever it is that you do to optimize your environment, it should be done with the goal of keeping you relaxed, focused, and high energy.
Practice is the best preparation
At the end of the day, there is no substitute for practice.
Before you shoot the final cut, you should be shooting multiple practice shots, watching them, analyzing them, and determining what you need to tweak to get the best possible results.
If that’s not an option, practice in front of a mirror will suffice.
Pay attention to your delivery (how you sound), your body language (how you look), and your words (what you say). Pick out any nervous tics you have and squash them.
Even if only for a few minutes, put yourself in front of a camera every single day.
Get used to talking to a camera lens the same way you do a person and you’ll quickly become a natural on video.
Put things in perspective
The root of your nervousness is likely that you care about what other people think of you. So you must become aware that others’ thoughts of you are insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
At the end of the day, you are a minuscule piece of flesh and bone on a tiny rock hurtling through time and space. In context, what you do in life likely does not matter at all! Therefore, others’ opinions of you matter even less!
If accepting this is difficult for you, I’d recommend picking up Ed Latimore’s Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower.
Because until you accept this fact of life, you will never truly be able to unleash your inner confidence.
So that’s that before. BUT... the before is only half the equation.
Your audience will see nothing of what you do before filming. They will, however, see EVERYTHING you do during filming.
Just like the before had a single goal, so does the during:
Acting as if you are having a personal conversation, not filming a video.
This creates the perception that you are casual, confident, and trustworthy. But, like most things, that’s easier said than done. Here’s how.
Maintain eye contact with the camera
Just like eye contact is crucial in developing trust with others in person, so it is on video.
Imagine the camera lens as the eyeballs of the single person you created that encompasses your entire target audience (like described above). Then maintain eye contact with this “person” (i.e. the camera lens) as you would in any normal conversation.
^^Not like this.
As a general rule, at least 70% of your time on camera should be spent looking directly into the lens. However, do not let your eyes become stiff. Allow them to wander occasionally and blink like normal.
Keep in mind that it’s a conversation, not an audition. Treat it as such.
Speak in your natural voice, but project, vary your speed, and inflect
Just like you wouldn’t try to change your voice in a normal conversation, don’t try to do so on video, either. Use your natural voice (which shouldn’t be hard, you do it every day)!
If you find your natural voice is a bit monotone or boring, you must learn to project, vary your talking speed, and use inflection to emphasize important points.
To project: breathe in deeply, fill your lungs from the bottom up with air. Loosen up your jaw and face muscles. Instead of trying to speak louder, speak BIGGER by opening up your throat. Speak from your diaphragm, not your chest or throat. Use the air in your lungs as a cushion to propel your words into the world.
To keep it interesting, vary the speed in which you speak. Pause slightly after important points to give your audience a chance to internalize what you’re saying. Sometimes speak faster, sometimes speak slower, but vary your speed.
Similar to the speed of your words, vary the way you emphasize them as well. This is called inflection. Be careful not to just be louder - these are not synonymous. Inflection is about using your belly, throat, and jaw muscles to change the way your words leave your mouth.
So speak in your natural voice in a clear and simple manner; but project, vary your speed, and use inflection to keep your audience engaged.
Use open body language as an outward display of confidence
Next to what you say and how you say it, your body language is perhaps the most important part of appearing confident on camera.
This is because body language is very primal. In social situations, we subconsciously pick up on it almost instantly. Because before modern society became so cushy, interpreting the body language of others was crucial for one’s survival.
Above all, confident body language says, “I’m comfortable,” “This situation is natural for me,” and “I have no fear.”
Here’s how to say all those things without even speaking a word:
Have great posture.
Stand or sit up straight, but relax your shoulders so as to not become stiff.
Keep your head still.
Focus on a single point (the lens - aka your audience's’ eyes) while looking up just slightly; as looking down with a tucked chin indicates the need to protect one’s neck from vulnerabilities (a sign of weakness).
Use hand movements to emphasize important points.
But do not be fidgety or hold your own hands. Move them naturally and keep them visible as this is a sign of transparency (and therefore of confidence).
Move steadily and unhurriedly.
Do not be too still or too fidgety (both are signs of anxiety). Take confident strides rather than timid steps. Move with purpose, slightly slower than normal (confident people have no reason to move fast).
Use silence to your advantage.
Silence can be unsettling. So when you maintain confidence and composure during a period of silence, you enhance your image in the eyes of your audience.
Do not cross your arms, look defensive, or use any other closed body language. Expose vulnerable parts of your body (a sign of confidence) and stay relaxed.
Express your emotions outwardly.
Smile with your eyes and do not be afraid to use exaggerated facial expressions to emphasize important points. Just be careful not to try too hard, confident people don’t do that.
Confident people don’t beat around the bush. They tell it like it is without fear of consequences. Directness communicates that you feel safe (a sign of confidence). So face the camera directly, talk into it with purpose, and use gestures to amplify your message.
Talk a bit slower than normal
In your day-to-day life, you are likely guilty of speaking a bit too fast (I certainly am). But confident people don’t speak fast, they speak with conviction.
You want your message to resonate with your audience, don’t you? For that to be possible, they first must fully understand it. When you talk too fast, you make that difficult (or impossible).
Slow your roll, even if it feels unnatural at first. Pause after important points and vary your speed like mentioned earlier.
Above all, speak with purpose and conviction.
Embrace your mistakes and use them to your advantage
While filming, you WILL make mistakes. There is no getting around this (no matter how much you practice). So when you mess up, don’t immediately start over.
Instead, practice using your mistakes as an opportunity to display your authentic confidence.
^^Leo cutting his hand in Django was completely unscripted, but he kept going and it turned out to be one of the best scenes of the movie.
When you find yourself getting off topic or stumbling over your words - keep it going, even turn it into a joke! By showing your audience that you are indeed not perfect, you connect with them on a deeper level (everyone can relate to someone who makes mistakes).
And anyway, you can always edit out your mistakes or shoot another take. Remember, there is no such thing as the perfect take!
Do all these things - before and during filming - and you will be well on your way to achieving that Gary Vee level of confidence on camera.
That was a lot, so here’s everything again:
Know the topic like the back of your hand
Make a simple, short outline of your content
Forget the idea of “the perfect take”
Don’t try to be anyone but yourself
Know your target audience like the back of your hand
Imagine you’re talking directly to your audience, not a camera
Dress with purpose and comfortability in mind
Get into a state of relaxed high energy
Optimize your filming environment
Shoot multiple practice shots so you know what to tweak
Put things in perspective - no one’s opinions of you matter!
Maintain eye contact with the camera
Don’t talk to the camera, talk to your audience
Speak in your natural voice
Project your voice
Vary your talking speed
Inflect your voice for emphasis
Communicate confidence with open body language
Talk a bit slower than normal
Embrace your mistakes and use them to build trust
A parting piece of guidance:
Study the speeches of the world’s best speakers and alpha male (and female) characters in movies.
Pay attention not so much as to what they say but how the say it, what they look like while saying it (body language), and how what they say makes you FEEL.
Because no matter what your goal is in making videos, the way you make people feel is ALWAYS more powerful than the words you actually speak.
Now go set up that camera and make some killer videos for your brand!
...Which one tip in this article was your biggest "A-ha" moment? Leave a comment below and let us know...
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