Talking directly to the camera can feel really uncomfortable. Whether you’re an actor or a business owner, it doesn’t matter. There’s just something about it that feels intimidating. It can feel like you’re talking out there to no one and yet to everyone, and it’s one of those things that if you can’t get it right, you’re going to disconnect your audience right away.
Now, as an actor and YouTuber, I had spent a lot of time in front of the camera, although my acting experience didn’t really help because we generally don’t speak directly to the camera. And it’s just been from creating these YouTube videos, creating online courses, doing Facebook Lives and all of that that has really helped me finally relax and be myself in front of the camera, and that is what I’m going to help teach you today. So stay tuned for my eight tips on how to talk to the camera in a natural and engaging way.
Tip #1 is to structure your script in advance, but when I say structure it, I mean you need to get yourself an outline, but you don’t want to actually create a script. There’s a time and place for scripted videos, but usually they feel like advertising, which is not what your audience is generally going to want because they feel like they’re being sold to and it feels unnatural. Whereas if you can just sit there and talk from the heart, they’re going to trust you so much more and are going to more likely keep listening and hopefully take action at the end of the video.
The way I do this is basically just decide on, what is the number one thing I’m trying to say on my video and what are maybe three points that I could use to explain this better? So I just have bullet points for myself and make sure I remind myself to start and end the video with something, with some sort of action, and then that’s it. And obviously the first few videos you create, maybe the first 50 videos you create, you’re going to talk a lot more than you want to. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to go off script. That is totally fine. The more you do it, the better you get.
Tip #2 is to really use your own language. Don’t think that just because you’re on camera that you need to start using bigger words or to sound more intellectual. It’s completely the opposite. Just like when we read things online these days, you know, it tends to be at a lower reading level than it used to be because we are trying to hold people’s very short attention spans. That is exactly what you need to do when you’re on camera. If you do need to use jargon to explain something, also explain the jargon saying, “This word means blah, blah, blah,” and then see if you can give it a nickname or something like that moving forward, so that your audience feels, you know, on board with you and not like you’re talking down to them.
#3 is to do with your focus. Now it can take a lot of practice to get used to staring right down the barrel of the lens. Sometimes we can get distracted and we look just to the side, when you’re looking at the little monitor. Sometimes your eyes just might start drifting to a different point in the camera, and this is just something that it can, again, make your audience feel disconnected from you. So to fix this, when you’re just getting started, it can be a really good idea to just get a little piece of fluorescent tape or even a cute little post it note that you’ve drawn a happy face on and stick it just above the lens so that you’ve got a point to keep coming back to.
Now, just because I’m saying you need to eyeball the lens doesn’t mean that you have to stay locked in this glare for the entire video. We naturally look away when we think and doing that while you’re doing your video is actually going to make you look more natural. So feel free to have a think, but then always bring it back to that point that you’ve marked.
#4 is so important. I want you to remember who you’re talking to. And when I say who, I don’t mean the thousands or tens of thousands of people you’re hoping to reach. I’m talking about that one person that you’re really hoping to affect today. So I want you to visualize them as either a family member, a friend, or a client. Obviously depending on who you’re talking to, your tone of voice might change slightly, and you might be more upbeat. We might talk faster or slower. So I want you to really visualize one individual that you’re creating this video for, and communicate the message just to them. And remember that even if just one person is positively affected by this video, you’ve already done your job. It takes so much pressure off than feeling like you have to impress the masses.
#5 is, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, of those little blips. If you’re prerecording a video, obviously if you make a really big mistake, you can go back and fix it. So one of my techniques is if I realize that I messed up a middle of a sentence, I figured out where the beginning of that paragraph is, where that thought is, and I go back and I start it again, which makes it so much easier when I edit it. But if you’re on a Facebook Live, obviously there’s no option to do that, and believe it or not, people love it when you make mistakes. If you come across as too confident and polished and pulled together, you can seem intimidating and people may actually be turned off.
So my main advice is that, don’t let yourself get flustered if you make one of those mistakes. If you kind of apologize for it and you look uncomfortable, you’ll make your audience uncomfortable. But if you make the mistake, if you do something weird, laugh it off and go, “Well, that’s not what I meant to say. What I was saying is,” and people just love it. They connect with you even more. They can see that you’re human and that you’re real, and it helps them to realize that they can create imperfect content as well. It has this flow on effect. So please, embrace all of the blips.
#6, start by breathing in, not by sighing. This is a really big one that I learned from my acting work is that if you start by a scene by letting your breath out, you start flat, there’s no energy in you. Whereas if we breathe in … “Hi everyone, I’m so excited to see you here today.” It just gives you this instant boost of energy and you’re going to look more confident and you’re going to sound energized and people are going to be captured by you from that very first moment, which is so important. You’ve got about three seconds to capture their attention, and for them to decide whether they’re going to keep watching or not. So this is such a huge one to make sure you do that right.
And speaking of energy, #7 is that you really do need to speak with more energy than you would probably day to day when you’re speaking one-on-one to someone. Don’t compare it to speaking in front of a crowd, that’s obviously a different thing. But if I’m telling you you’re going to be sitting here and talking to one person, if my friend was sitting right in front of me, I probably wouldn’t have this posture and I wouldn’t have quite so much energy.
As an estimate, I feel like I usually turn up the energy by 10 to 20% depending on the topic from my usual day to day energy. And that’s just because you kind of … The camera can zap you of a little bit of that energy, and again, we’re fighting to get people’s attention here. They are flooded with videos in their news feeds and content and ads, and unless you come out there and you look really excited about what you’re talking about, they’re probably not going to get excited about what you’re talking about either. So remember, energy first.
Of course, part of energy is smiling. I don’t mean locking in in a smile and going, “Hi everyone, so this is the video I’m going to talk about today.” That’s creepy. It’s really creepy. But if you can remember to just make a little joke every now and then and bring in a smile, and just move your face the the way you would in real life, because I feel like people tend to either get really serious on video or they try and put on the fake smile on video. Find that happy medium, and it’s just going make all the difference. It’s going to relax you too, which is really the number one goal here.
Now, #8 is probably the one that you’re gonna roll your eyes at, nut practice, practice, practice. I am now up to … I’ve actually lost count. Hundreds of videos, hundreds, which made hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours of talking to the camera, and there is always more to improve. But if I had not started when I did, I wouldn’t be here right now. It can be so tempting to think, “Okay, I’ll start once I … insert something here.” So I’ll start once I’ve lost five kilos. I’ll start once I’ve got some better ideas for content. I’ll start once I’ve got the best studio equipment, you know, that I can. All of those things are excuses, okay? It might sound like perfectionism, but perfectionism is an excuse to not take action. So what I want you to do is start today. Okay?
Your first video will probably be terrible and that’s a good thing. I want you to embrace that. Go, “I can’t wait to make a terrible first video,” because that means you have the chance to make a second video, which is going to be better, and then a third, and then a tenth, and then a hundredth. So you have to start now. If there’s one thing I could do, if I could go back in time and talk to younger [Katherine 00:08:56], I would tell her to just start taking action on all the things she dreamed about five years ago, 10 years ago.
So many things I started so late in life, because I thought I had to be given permission to do them. If I just started, I can only imagine the progress I would’ve made by now. Who knows? I could have millions of subscribers, but I didn’t. But so now please just learn from my own mistakes and stop making excuses, okay? An imperfect … See, I’m stumbling now, but I’m going to keep this in just to make a point. An imperfect video, but that is created from the heart, that has value in its, you know, in its core, so you created it for a reason to try and enrich someone’s life, is so much better than the perfect video that doesn’t exist. That’s all I’m going to say.
So these are my eight tips. I really hope you can apply them straight away and start taking action. Tell me what your favorite one was below, or if you’re someone that has been creating videos and you had to get over that mental block at some stage, tell me what you did to get over that. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks as always for watching. Hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss my upcoming videos, and if you know of someone else that’s struggling to get in front of the camera, please share this video with them. It might just change their lives. All right. Thanks for watching. Bye.
Kat is an actor and personal branding coach as well as the host of The Personal Branding Project Podcast and her self-titled YouTube channel. She started her career off by playing Marilyn at Warner Bros Movie World, went on to perform in the original Australian casts of Jersey Boys & Hairspray and eventually found herself writing/producing her own work before becoming a self-employed copywriter and marketing strategist. She now offers 1:1 Coaching and Online Courses for entrepreneurs, freelancers + multi-passionate creatives.