Before You Shoot Your Next Video: 3 Tips for Speaking on Camera

One of my favorite acting teachers liked to tell this story about how once, when she was directing a feature film, there was a famous actor in a leading role who would get so nervous after she yelled “action!” that her first few performances on camera seemed stiff.

My teacher knew that this celebrity was a good actor who just needed something that would loosen her up. So, she walked up to the actor and hit her (lightly) with the rolled-up script. They had a friendly relationship so this was seen as humorous, not hostile, and it worked. It worked so well that before every take, the actor would ask my teacher, “Would you hit me with the script?”

One of my goals for next year is to make some of my own videos (which I imagine is on your list too or should be) so I’ve been watching examples of videos from everyone including: CEOs, nonprofit leaders, high-priced business coaches, fashionistas, thought leaders and teaching artists. And a lot of you look stiff. Because I’m not close enough to hit you with a script, I want to hit you with some performance tips on how to look natural on camera so you show up as your best, most authentic self.

Here are 3 practical tips for speaking on camera:

  1. Practice Warmth – The video you’re making is going to be viewed by one person sitting at their computer. So, your performance needs to feel personal as if you’re chatting on Skype not addressing the faceless masses. Imagine the specific person you’re talking to and pick someone who, when you think of them, you smile. Put that person in the camera lens and talk to them.

  2. Maintain Good Eye Contact – This is imperative, especially at the beginning of your video. I’ve noticed people looking down at what I assume are their notes or at the ceiling in the first few seconds of the video. Don’t do that. Memorize your first line so you can look at the camera. Then, it’s fine to look away.

  3. Listen to the Music of Your Voice – Is your voice falling into the same pattern with every sentence? If your sentences all have the same inflection, you risk lulling your audience to sleep. If you notice this “sing-song” quality in your voice during the shoot, stop the recording and have a normal conversation so that you re-capture the music of your natural speaking voice. This is why it helps to have a public speaking coach or a camera-person with you so that you’re talking to an actual person.

What other problems do you notice in your own or others' videos? Send them to me and let’s see if we can fix them together with or without hitting each other with the script. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Please comment below.