So, the day has finally come. After all of the planning and preparation, the lights have been switched on, you have a microphone looming before you, and the camera is staring you down. Your mind has conveniently gone blank, and you begin to feel your palms go sweaty. You hate public speaking, but you thought being on camera would carry less tension. You were wrong. More than anything, you just want to raise the white flag of surrender and retreat to your office. Why did you even agree to do this?
Hold on there. Slow down. Let’s rewind. As with most things in life, being on camera isn’t nearly as bad as anticipated: doubly so if you practice a few simple tips to help secure success. So, I won’t waste any more time cueing it up. Here are the not-so-secret secrets to being comfortable on camera, or, how not to freak out when you’re in front of the lens.
YOU ARE NOT A UNIQUE SNOWFLAKE
First and foremost, remember that you aren’t unique in your feelings. We are all made of the same stuff, and we all tend to react in a somewhat similar way to circumstances. And, one thing you can count on is that when we are presented with a situation that we are unfamiliar with, nerves are a natural consequence.
The best way to combat those uncomfortable feelings? Acknowledge that you are not alone. You are not the first person to experience stress when you have a lens trained on you, and you are far from the last. You are not strange. You are not weak. You are not incompetent. You are perfectly normal and gloriously conventional in your response to the stimulus at hand. That is all.
You are just as uncomfortable as I am when I have to participate in marketing or outreach videos for Motion Source. You are just as nervous as the previous participant in line, and the one to follow you. You are painfully normal. Take heart in this mundanity, knowing full-well that absolutely nothing is wrong with you.
When people are about to enter a nerve-wracking situation, the common advice is to take some time beforehand to decompress. Draw the blinds, put on the soothing sounds of Kenny G, take a series of deep breathes. If this works for you, fantastic; by all means, go for it. But if it doesn’t, then acknowledge what does--regardless of received wisdom--and indulge in it.
I, for one, tend to do worse with peace and quiet before a situation that I am nervous about. If I sit in place, focusing, unsuccessfully on my breathing, attempting to empty my mind, the only effect it has is ramping up my apprehension. Give me distraction any day. Staying busy and engaged is what helps prepare me for the inevitable. If my mind is attached to a task at hand, it is less likely to wander off to what I am dreading. I fully acknowledge, and accept, that the way that I function is not inline with common advice in regards to how to handle nerves. And, I am okay with that. I am going to continue to do what works, and I urge you to do the same.
Know thyself. Know what helps to take the edge off before something that is going to hone it. Perhaps you are like me, and need to organize your day so that you have something intellectually engaging cued up directly before being on camera. Maybe you fare better with nerves after having exercised--can you use your lunch break to hit the treadmill, or even jog in place for 15 minutes? Or, you might perform best after a period of quiet relaxation; in which case, by all means, draw the blinds and get the G going.
Physiologically, there are a few things you can pretty much be assured of when you get nervous, and these include increased body temperature and a dryness in your mouth. Guess what works very well to mitigate both of these conditions? That wonderfully refreshing liquid that makes up 85% of your brain: water. Taking that last fact into consideration, it is safe to assume that you will function much better cognitively if well hydrated. And, who amongst us cannot use a little cerebral support when we need to perform?
Something else that I have found with water is that it serves as an excellent safety blanket of sorts. I do not relish being on camera; in fact, my feelings are only slightly removed from full-on dread when I have to sit in front of the lens. However, having a bottle of water on-hand signals to me that I am taken care of, accomodating for my bodily needs. If I get thirsty, or begin to feel myself heating up, I can take a sip and stem the symptoms. The act of grabbing the bottle and hydrating is a bit comforting in its own right, as it allows for a moment of respite from the task at hand. It’s a small thing, but every little relief counts when you are in a situation that is taxing on your nerves.
PICK THE RIGHT TEAM
Obviously, we are very interested in being that team; but, whether it is us or someone else, you want to select a video production team that you feel comfortable around. All humans tend to be pretty talented judges of character, an ability that has benefited us for some time from an evolutionary perspective. When you speak with a production team over the phone, or meet in person, you will develop a sense of whether or not these people seem like a group that make you feel confident and at ease. If they aren’t, then it’s time to consider an alternative vendor.
In part two of this article, I will cover what our team does, specifically, to make interviewees feel more at ease, ultimately working to ensure the success of the project. Stay tuned!