If you’ve been asked or planning to be in front of the camera, most experience a sense of some excitement mixed with a lot of nervous anxiety. Not to worry, it’s natural. Even the most seasoned actors, anchors or on-camera personalities experience it. Over time it becomes more excitement than nerves, though jumping on-camera for the first time is scary for everyone.
Being in front of the camera is not a natural place to be. Add the lights, a microphone and people staring at you, while recording everything you say or do, can be intimidating. Understand, everyone involved in the production wants it to look and sound great, so the director and camera operator will do everything to make you comfortable, while helping you look as good as possible.
How to Speak on Camera
When someone watches the final video, they become a captive audience. It’s your opportunity to have a direct, personal conversation with that viewer. Simply reading a script from a prompter or going over a list of bullet points, isn’t going to capture the viewers’ attention. Become familiar with the script or information, understand its meaning and motivation, so when you’re on camera it becomes that engaging conversation.
Engage the viewer with conversation, not a lecture. No matter if it’s a script or you’re sharing a story in the interview style, simply be yourself and consider how you would engage someone one on one in a meeting or socially.
Speak with concise clarity. Sometimes when we get excited or nervous, we tend to speak at a faster pace to share as much, as quickly as possible. It’s ok to speak at a slightly slower pace and may be helpful in adding dramatic effect or being understood with more clarity.
Most people have a nervous tick or cadence when speaking publicly. When pausing for the next train of thought, they’ll use “ah” or “um” to keep the conversation going. Since most productions are edited, don’t worry about filling such moments. Silence between takes is golden. It’s ok to pause between thoughts, even take a break if needed.
One of the biggest challenges is proper use of inflection. When emphasizing words or thoughts, the standard conversational habit is using volume for impact. In a production, this results in audio levels from quiet to distorted. While this can be fixed during editing, it’s best to practice emphasis using tone and inflection.
Your only focus should be on the material and finding a sense of calm. Trust the production crew and others to provide direction or suggestion to help make you look great. By preparing in advance, knowing the script or material, you should become more confident and relaxed while on-camera.
With a scripted production, overcoming all these challenges while reading your lines in a confident, relaxed, conversational way can be a lot to ask of the unseasoned person. In many ways, even if you’re on-camera as yourself, reading lines requires a few acting tricks.
Use proper posture. Body language can reflect mood and energy as much as facial expression or vocal cadence. Always sit-up or stand straight and tall.
The camera will capture your mood and energy, so if you’re not excited about it, the viewer won’t be either. If you’re open to direction, as the director or camera operator for help. Otherwise, pretend you’re speaking to someone for the first-time and share your own passion or excitement.
Most important, when appropriate, smile! Positive facial expressions sharing joy, happiness, excitement, will add that extra positive layer to your on-camera appearance. The viewer is always engaged by happy.
It’s OK to Ask
Communication is key.
Most video shoots are recorded, so don’t worry about being perfect from the start. If something doesn’t sound right, or you’d like another shot at dong it better, it’s ok.
If you’re one who gets dry mouth when nervous or you expect to be in front of the camera for a prolonged period of time, bring a bottle of water or ask for one. It’s common and expected.
Sometimes being on camera can become overwhelming. If you need a break to walk around, shake-off nerves, or gather your thoughts, it’s ok to ask.
The bottom-line, the production crew wants you to look your best and they’re ready to help you become as comfortable as possible.
What to Wear?
Picking what to wear can be daunting, but there are a few guidelines you should consider.
Never wear clothing with patterned stripes or small dots.
Avoid pure white, bright red, or wearing all one color.
Earth tones with complimentary contrasts are best.
Most important, wear something comfortable.
Most studios are temperature controlled, but if you’re on location consider the environment. Do you sweat when nervous? Would your natural movements during typical discussion be restricted? Is there need to constantly adjust an article of clothing?
When wearing a blazer or jacket, to avoid the collar from rising up or moving off-center, slide the tail of jacket so you’re sitting on it.
It’s not a bad idea to bring an alternate outfit, blazer or tie. The camera operator or director will offer the best judgement of what looks best on camera, while making you look great too.
Avoid wearing excessive jewelry. Large earrings or necklaces can become visually distracting or cause unnecessary noise. Since microphones are typically placed in the lapel region, even small movements can cause layered or loose jewelry to be heard with the microphone.
What Do I Do with These?
One of the biggest challenges when being on camera, “what should I do with my hands?” especially when standing. Too much movement, and it becomes distracting. Too little, and one starts to look like a robot. Then the more you think about it, the more unnatural it starts to feel. The best advice; go with it, do whatever feels natural without over-thinking it. The camera will capture the energy and intent you present in the moment. If you’re sincere and genuine in your movement, it will go unnoticed.
Remember, everyone gets nervous. No one is perfect. Even the professionals on-camera several hours a day screw-up from time to time. Take your time, understand the material, ask for direction or anything else you need to be comfortable. Most of all, be calm and have fun!