In 2020, we all spent a significant amount of time in front of the camera. Even with all the hours we’ve logged on Zoom, speaking on camera and connecting to your audience on video may still feel unnatural for many of us.
Even though video is accepted as the placeholder for face-to-face communication – it’s important to realise to best represent ourselves with this technology, we may need to alter our usual style of speaking and presenting.
Whether you want to feel more impactful and powerful over Zoom, or connect to your ideal customer using video on Instagram or social media, or create video modules to demonstrate your expertise to compliment your online course, stepping up and showing up on camera with confidence is possible.
I believe the key to this transformation is by tapping into the knowledge of your breath and body.
A SHORT ILLUSTRATION OF WHY THIS WORKS: MY STORY
As a trained actor and choreographer, my education provided me with an incredible resource: understanding of my physical self and trust in the mind-body connection.
The body is an all important instrument for an actor, yet the benefits of this physical training aren’t confined to the world of theatre.
I first realised my onstage training could be invaluable off stage during my career in retail management. In my role, it was common to be called to the till point to problem solve a challenging customer situation. I began to use the journey from wherever I was in the store to the till point, to consciously prepare myself.
During the short walk, I would slow my breath down, release any tension in my shoulders, face, hips and arrive with a soft, open facial expression and a strong yet open stance. Before I even said a word, I could often see the customer – who at times were poised for a fight – begin to move down a gear towards calm.
Time and time again, I – and the customers I worked with – benefitted from this brief preparation.
I share this example to illustrate how by connecting to my breath and body and by being intentional with my non-verbal communication, I was able to positively influence the outcome of these potentially challenging customer interactions.
SO WHERE TO BEGIN?
I believe there are three things you can do to improve how you connect to your audience on camera:
- Cultivate an awareness of your breath & body and get to know your usual on-camera presentation style
- Identify how your emotions tend to impact you in these situations
- Use best practice strategies to be intentional with your non-verbal communication
In this article, I’ll guide you through these three phases and offer prompts, questions to spark reflection and share best practice exercises for you to try.
CULTIVATE AN AWARENESS OF YOUR UNIQUE PRESENTATION STYLE
For many of us, we spend little time thinking about how we communicate, and instead focus on the words we choose to speak.
But by reflecting on our natural (or “default”) presentation style, we can identify whether how we are communicating supports the words we’re saying, or not.
Imagine you are speaking on camera in a setting that feels comfortable to you (whether on Zoom with your favourite colleague or chatting on Stories about your new product) and ask yourself:
- Are you animated with your gestures and facial expressions? Or are you more reserved with how you convey emotion?
- How do you punctuate your speech? Do you speak in ‘commas’ or ‘full stops’? (A ‘comma’ style may be more flowing, with sentences running together where as a ‘full stop’ communication may have more pauses.)
- Do you look into the camera as you’re speaking? Or do you look elsewhere?
- Do you take up space and are prominent on screen? Or do you shrink away from the camera?
There is no right or wrong answer here. You are simply assessing how you tend to communicate on video.
Now ask yourself:
- Do you feel there’s a difference with how you connect and interact in person versus when you’re on camera?
- How do you want to come across to your audience? (Warm, personable, serious, approachable?)
- Does your natural presentation style support you in this?
Allow these answers to influence any shifts you may want to make when we dive into best practice.
IDENTIFY HOW YOUR EMOTIONS IMPACT YOUR BREATH & BODY
Often when it comes to speaking on camera, there is an emotional ebb and flow happening underneath the surface.
I’d like you to imagine a scenario where you’re speaking on camera in your “stretch” zone of comfort. What happens in your body when you imagine this?
- Does the emotion manifest as a tendency to keep speaking and forget to breathe?
- Or does your mouth begin to go dry?
- Does tension appear in your jaw and tongue, so it feels like you have to push the words out of your mouth?
- Do your palms begin to sweat or your toes nervously tap?
Your emotions impact your breath and body. This in combination with your natural presentation style, means there are potentially two competing forces influencing how you are communicating non-verbally to your audience.
Rather than let this play out unchecked, by becoming intimately familiar with our own habits and how our body reacts to stress and emotion, we can build new pathways to create a purposeful way to communicate.
GET INTENTIONAL WITH YOUR BREATH & BODY
Here’s where we dive into best practice strategies for you to action, moving us closer towards embodying our most confident selves on camera.
HARNESS THE POWER OF YOUR BREATH
Breath literally powers the sounds you make. It is vital to ensure your message is heard. Breath can also be activated in specific ways to change your emotional state.
Rather than trying to ‘think’ through your emotions – let your breath do the work for you.
Try this: slowly breathe in for a count of 4, and breathe out for a count of 5. Repeat several times focusing on allowing the breath to find calm and stillness.
SET UP A STRONG AND OPEN POSTURE
Open body language is a cornerstone of confident presenting. You’ll find your audience will lean forwards, rather than disengaging. From a place of openness, you will find you react more fluidly – with honesty, empathy and vulnerability.
This is important even if you’re only filming from your shoulders upwards. What your lower body is doing impacts the rest of your body. It’s all connected!
Try this: Either seated or standing, plant your feet. Imagine them growing roots into the earth, and allow this connection to ground you. Roll your shoulders backwards several times, releasing any tension and creating a sense of openness across your collar bones. Lastly, reach upwards and outwards, feeling a sense of spaciousness around you. Drop your arms down by your sides whilst maintaining the feeling of expanse across your chest.
CHOOSE YOUR FOCUS WITH CARE
Eye contact is the crux of speaking on camera. Even if you’ve taken the time to calm any emotions, and have set up a strong and open stance – if you aren’t looking at the camera, it is going to impact how your audience receives your message.
Set your camera at eye level. Too high, and it will appear as if you’re looking up at your audience (which can be read as you aren’t to be taken seriously) or too low, and it will seem like you’re looking down on your audience (can be perceived as patronising).
Once it’s at the right level, look with focus at the camera but without the tension of a fixed stare.
Try this: Release any habitual tension in your face by giving yourself a massage. Use your fingertips or knuckles to work your way around your face. Pay particular attention to your brow bones, the space between your eyebrows and your jawline.
CREATE A PRE-CAMERA ROUTINE OR RITUAL
Think about it – if you were meeting a client or pitching to a potential collaborator, you would likely use the journey to the face-to-face meeting to review your key points, walk off (and even literally shake out) any jitters and maybe even take a few deep breaths before walking into the room.
I strongly encourage you to carve out time before you hop on camera to emulate this kind of preparation. By creating a short pre-camera ritual, it also offers the opportunity for consistent practice, time for you to flex your presenting muscles and amplify your confidence.
Try this: Create a checklist of what you need to set up your technology. Then reflect on the earlier question “How do you want to come across to your audience?” Lastly, go through the best practice strategies above as they are ideal pre-presentation exercises. Together, these can form the basis for a simple yet effective pre-camera routine to set you up for success.
SHOW UP AS YOUR BEST SELF ON CAMERA
Even without spending years in drama school, you hold self-knowledge about your own unique presenting habits. Tap into the resource and knowledge of your breath and body to transform how you connect and communicate with your audience on camera.
It is possible to step up and show up on camera in a way that truly represents you at your best.
Where you can find me
About your author
“I believe cultivating confidence is a practice. And I believe it begins with aligning your breath, body and voice. I’ve seen the positive impact it’s made in my own life and career. Connecting to your audience from this place of empathy & authenticity amplifies your message. And when you are fully present, and truly heard, anything is possible for you and your business.” – Heather Jeffries, a Presentation Skills Coach.
You can find out more about Heather and her business here.
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