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Confidence On Camera: Five Tips to Nix the Nerves

MVM’s Kiaora Bohlool explores the issue of Glossophobia.

Everything’s fine, people.  We’re cool, calm, collected.  Hey, no worries!!

THEN??

The videocamera comes out!!  (Dramatic gasp, please.)

Whether being interviewed, hosting a vlog or speaking on camera at a taped event, being on camera can undoubtedly spike the blood pressure and stress you out. Speech anxiety is known as Glossophobia, and it’s a top fear for up to 75% of the population.

With a video production company on Maui, I’ve met with many a person who’s friendly and relaxed as can be, chill and talkative…

Then when I open my camera case, that someone all of a sudden begins backing away, needs to be somewhere (ANYwhere) else, or starts throwing dirty looks and resentful glances at my unassuming videocamera.

What happened to our first sentence up there??  Remember, no worries?  Well, everything’s NOT fine anymore — your mind is racing along with your pulse!!       

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could maintain your cool cucumber status…before, during and after your appearance? Or even exude confidence as you communicate on camera?

So let’s work on that, with five simple pieces of advice from a person who’s spent her career in front of and behind the videocamera.  That’s, well, me.

With a degree in Broadcast Journalism, I spent almost two decades in the TV news business as an anchor and reporter.  That meant live reports, stories and newscasts daily in news markets around the country, like California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Minnesota.  I also spent years as a T.V. show host/producer and online lifestyle, news and business broadcaster.  That includes a role as Dining Editor and Video Content Manager on Maui Now for around four years.

So my point is, I’m familiar with the concept of being on-camera.  At the beginning, it was nerve-racking for me too.  I look back on my early work and cringe! But I learned some skills along the way that might help you too, whether you’re prepping for a one-time appearance or gearing up for a regular talent gig.

1.  Bite Your Tongue!! Wait, What??

It’s not a CATastrophe!! Start by staying hydrated so you have the tools to communicate.

While you may do this to hold back any swear words (as you nervously prepare to confront the camera!)… what I’m talking about may help in the heat of a too-long moment on-camera.  A news consultant told me years ago that using your back teeth to —gently — squeeze your tongue can activate salivary glands, in case your mouth is going dry.  This tip can assist in a pinch, say if your on-camera appearance is lasting forever and you’ve been talking a while, but obviously keeping water on-hand is mighty helpful too!

2.  Just Breathe.   

A deep breath is a powerful thing, especially when you take more than one.

Well, duh.  Everybody’s doing it!!  But “belly breathing” — where you inhale through the nose as deeply as you can, hold for a few moments, then breathe out through your mouth — can have a calming effect.  Pushing oxygen all the way down into your abdomen, instead of shallow breathing that stays in the chest, tells your body to relax.   It takes some conscious thought to practice this, but is a skill worth mastering.  Start with three deeeeep breaths in a row. Put some quiet focus into breathing before your on-camera appearance, but also remember to breathe deeply during it, when you have a chance (like while an interview question is being asked).  And a big long sigh of relief when it’s all done never hurts either!!

3.  Plan & Practice: This Builds Confidence on Camera.

Summarize your points on paper, then aloud, to help your mind access them on-camera.

Being prepared and knowing your subject material goes a long way toward being able to communicate it clearly and comfortably.  You’d be surprised how easily people do this if they know their stuff, once they get talking.  So what’s your main message?  How would you sum up your history?  What should people know about your mission, your services, your longterm goals?  If you’re preparing for an interview, ask the reporter or producer for questions ahead of time.  As for your answers, an effective method is to list bullet points in short phrases.  Don’t make too many, because you want to be able to remember them.  However, DON’T memorize a bunch of sentences or you’ll typically coming off sounding like a robot.  But DO practice your bullet points out loud — ideally in front of a mirror — so you can share those messages naturally and exude genuine confidence about your topic on camera.  This technique also works for on-camera vlogs and social media live videos.  Defining those bullet points can also help you to hone in on your personal image or business branding (and we can help you build that identity).  In an interview situation, stick to the messages that matter.  And when I say “stick,” I mean like glue — secure those main points and always find a way back to them in your answers.  Be like a politician; no matter what question you get, steer your answer back to those points, to your platform, to your professional brand.  ‘

4.  Think of Something…Else.   

So many things on the mind! Harness one to calm down.

Your mind should focus on the message or script once the Record button is pressed, and prior to that, meditation can be a great way to clear your mind and can tap into your zen.

But here, I’m talking about those nervewracking final moments as the camera’s getting set up.

Yikes!!

Your big on-camera opportunity is rapidly approaching. The minutes are ticking away. If you’re feeling anxious and finding it tough to stay calm, first BREATHE deeply…then put your brain somewhere else, anywhere else, even for just a few moments.  The mind is a powerful thing, and directing your thoughts can help you find peace when your heart is hammering. 

What works for one person may not work for another; it all depends on you.  Visualize a relaxing beach or mountain scene.  Bring loved ones or playful pets to mind.  Use humor and pretend the crew’s naked.  Focus on a happy memory, like a wedding day or birth of a child.  Go deep and remember family or friends you’ve lost.  It may sound dark,  but that method can actually help to gain some perspective in a panicked moment; as in, this on-camera gig is NOT the worst thing in the world, right??  

5.  Give Yourself a Break.  

Taking a break, and breaking up your takes, can ease the pressure when possible.

I mean this in three ways.  First, if your on-camera appearance is being taped, don’t be afraid to stop and start over if you want to try again.  Not with every question, please…but a video producer wants your clearest, most compelling responses, so it’s okay to do a few takes until you get it right.  With all the interviews I’ve done, I often find the first and last attempts at an answer are typically the best takes.  Some people are one-take wonders, “soundbite machines” as I call them, but if you’re not, it’s alright! 

Second, if you have a lot of on-camera work to tackle, take a short break in the middle to refocus or relax.  Do keep in mind, if you’re doing a “live” interview, then you can’t stop or start over, so if you make a mistake, just push on and do the best you can.  Roll with it; we all have our less-than-best moments.

Third, no matter what, taped or live, if you made some errors, maybe stumbled over your words or said “um” or “like” a few too many times, don’t beat yourself up incessantly; we’ve all been there, even the pros.  So, “give yourself a break,” since it doesn’t do much good to be hard on yourself, does it??  Take notes on what can be improved, bravely ask for feedback from trusted friends or colleagues, and put energy into doing better next time.  And keep in mind, we do offer media training and camera comfort courses if you want some custom tips and professional, no-pressure practice. 

Bonus point: when you are all done, savor a sense of accomplishment, take an actual break and reward yourself with something or someone you love…or even better, both!!

A few other tactical things to think about:

  • If you’re nervous, sometimes it’s easier to be sitting down for interviews, or even leaning on a counter.
  • If you have any control over when the shoot happens, schedule it at YOUR best time of day; when you feel sharpest and have the most energy. 
  • Limit your on-camera time to just a short introduction and farewell statement (what’s in between can all be covered with graphics, photos or footage), or keep the video short. If you want more insights on video length, check out our blog “How Long Should Your Video Be? Ask Yourself THIS.”
  • Remove as many distractions as possible, be mindful of background noise, staff interruptions, office phones ringing, loud traffic and so forth, depending on where the shoot is. 
  • That reminds me…set your cell phone on silent — if you can stand it, even detach from from your device while you’re on-camera.  And maybe sometimes when you’re off-camera too!!  

I would say “Have fun!!” but I know for some, going in front of a camera lens will simply never be that.  Those of us in the video business get used to it, but we always don’t expect others to do the same.  So stock up on water, breathe deeply, plan ahead, practice your points, visualize as needed and at the end of the day, just do the best you can and be proud for putting yourself out there.  Own your sense of accomplishment. And just know confidence on camera can be practiced and improved. Even if the camera will never be your best friend, it can at least be a polite acquaintance!  #ExpandYourMauiBrand