It is fascinating just how easily unnerved we can be by an inanimate object. Many people expect to get anxious about standing up in front of a room full of other human beings, but, seriously; what’s so scary about a camera?
As silly as it may sound, being camera-shy is a real thing. There’s something about being recorded, I think, which makes speakers very aware.
The term “speaking to camera” is often referred to as speaking “down the lens”, and it means exactly that: literally looking straight down the lens. If you are concerned about this, explore other options first. For example, is it possible to conduct your piece as an interview – in which you answer questions posed by somebody who is sitting, or standing, just to the right or left of the lens? This way you can maintain eye contact directly with your interviewer – and ignore the camera all together.
If your only option is “down the lens”, however, then do exactly that: treat the camera like a person’s eyes, and don’t break contact.
I have often said that one of the keys to engaging speaking is somehow managing to appear natural, to talk to your audience as if they were a group of people that you know well.
The key to being engaging on video, in a webcast or on Facebook Live is much the same. Use some imagination: try to ignore the piece of cold technology and instead understand that the camera isn’t the audience; it’s the route to the audience. It’s the medium, the channel. In other words, when you’re looking at the camera you should be looking through it. Imagine your best friend is inside that lens; don’t get too hung up on the fact that you are being recorded. Simply deliver your piece-to-camera as you would to a person.
Part of this is simply a process of becoming comfortable: the more times you perform to camera the better you will become at it. But it’s also about, from day one, understanding what the camera is: a tool. The camera is helping you reach people; don’t let it get in your way.
When we talk naturally, we don’t worry about a few verbal slips. We smile a lot, and maintain eye contact. We make connections. All of this is possible with a camera if we simply imagine it is our friend .
Whatever your message, worry less about perfection, smile as you would at a friend, and keep looking down that lens.
If you use just a little bit of imagination in front of that camera, when you see the video back you’ll be surprised: you’ll feel that you’re talking directly to the viewer, and that the camera was never there at all.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?