Almost nobody believes they are good on camera. Unless of course, you were to poll a group of actors or news anchors.
If I’m being honest, there are times in which I believe I’m not great on camera either, and I’ve shot hundreds of videos over the past few years.
So, this begs the question, are we all actually terrible on camera, or are we just making a few simple mistakes that cause us to believe that?
Well, fortunately, I’ve got your answer.
We’re all just as prepared to be on-camera as we are to compose an email.
I know this because I’ve personally worked with dozens, likely hundreds, of professionals to help them get better on-camera, and I’ve witnessed the most terrified, doubtful communicators come to regard themselves as naturals in less than an hour.
And you can get there too.
In this article, I’d like to break down with you five of the most common mistakes that people make in front of the camera, why those behaviors occur, and how you can easily fix them.
1. Believing you’re no good on camera
There is no greater mistake that you could make than to set out to do something that you already believe you can’t do. That’s a fact of life, and being on-camera is no different.
If you believe that you’re not good on camera, or that you can’t ever be, you most certainly will not be.
But, If you believe that you can be good on camera, then you certainly increase your chances that you will be.
So what do we do? A common piece of advice you might hear to combat self-doubt is “fake it ‘til you make it.” While I think there may be some truth to that, I don’t think it applies here.
We don’t need to fake confidence. Instead, we need to readjust what our definition of “good on camera” really means.
In this context, here’s what it means for us. Being good on camera equals being helpful. Full stop.
That’s your job. To be as helpful as possible and eliminate distractions.
This simple foundation of belief will eliminate 50% of the most common mistakes you could ever make on camera. In fact, without this belief that our job is simply to be helpful, it makes the following tips much harder to apply.
2. Stopping at every mistake and miscue
I’d like to use an analogy here to illustrate why this is actually a big deal.
Known as “free soloing," this form of climbing means that once you’re on the rock, you better finish the climb.
Spoiler: if you haven’t seen the movie, Alex makes it to the top.
It’s an incredible film, but it’s also a good visual representation — rock climbing I mean — of what happens when you’re quick to give up and start over.
Imagine you’re scaling a rock wall, and every time you don’t get your hold just right, you just let go. Can you imagine how little progress you’d make?
Bringing this back to being on-camera, there’s no better way to hinder your growth as a communicator than to stop and start whenever you make a mistake or flub a word. You must keep going. Perfectionism is a hindrance at best, a tragic flaw at worst.
This is why we developed what we call the “No-Stop Rule”. Put simply, you can do as many takes as you need to, but you can’t stop in the middle of a take.
This not only greatly improves your on-camera performance over time, but it also makes editing your footage easier and reduces the amount of time it takes to record a video.
3. Trying too hard to sound smart
We’ve all seen this before, but maybe we didn’t quite realize it. You’re watching a video, and the whole time you’re saying to yourself “I don’t like this person at all” or “I don’t understand a single thing this person is saying.”
Oftentimes, this isn’t because that person isn’t likable or doesn’t know their stuff, it’s that they were trying to make themselves look like a genius.
We’re all very capable of this. I often find myself slipping into this trap too. Inevitably, at some point while delivering your message, self doubt will creep in, even subconsciously, and make you think you or your message aren’t good enough.
Make no mistake, though. Although it might seem counterintuitive, your trustworthiness isn’t judged by how eloquent you are. Instead, it’s judged by how relatable you are.
Your viewer is a real person in the real world and they don’t want to be lectured or sold to. They just want to make good, informed decisions and purchases.
If you don’t believe me, think about the last time you looked for a product review or unboxing on YouTube. You’re more likely to trust content that looks and sounds relatable and genuine, not the perfectly scripted, highly produced review that feels more corporate.
Consider that next time you get ready to present on camera. Again, our job is to be helpful, not to look like the smartest person in the room.
4. Not using your hands
Now, let’s discuss your built-in visual aids, starting with a thought-provoking question: “why the heck does talking with your hands even make a difference?”
Well, I’m glad you asked.
Body language expert Mark Bowden, author of Winning Body Language, puts forth some pretty compelling arguments that non-verbal communication has been an indicator of trustworthiness since before humans even had shared language.
As Mark explains it, when we were roaming around in tribes we weren’t exactly quick to trust people outside of our own group. In fact, in order to survive you’d have to be pretty good at judging whether someone was a friend or foe — and be able to do it relatively quickly.
A good way to identify if someone was a friend or foe? Whether or not they had a weapon.
If you could see their hands, particularly open palms, you’d be able to tell they were not a threat.
Even today, one simple way to display a “universal sign of trust” is just to show your hands and you immediately look more trustworthy.
For that reason, we need to show our hands and also use them to enhance our message. Simple gestures like numbers, pointing, or showing A and B options with your hands actually make a huge difference in helping someone understand what you’re explaining
So, don’t sit on your hands, fold your arms, or put your hands in your pocket. Keep them out, ready to go, and show you don’t have weapons.
I’m kidding of course. Just use them for communication.