When someone pulls out a video camera or points their phone at you, do you head for the hills? Even if you know it’s important, stepping in front of the camera can be terrifying.
Eamonn O’brien from The Reluctant Speakers Club gets a phenomenal amount of views on YouTube. We’re running the Go Do Video workshops together and I asked him to join me and reveal his tips for speaking on camera when I talked to him for the Blogcentric podcast.
Eamonn’s tips for speaking on camera
When did you first make a video? When did you start to create them for your business?
The first time I ever made video was back in the early 90’s except we didn’t call it video we called it film, because I used to make commercials. I made about 300 commercials in lots of different languages so that’s where I cut my teeth.
Back to then, people used to say to us in the advertising industry ‘oh don’t do things on video, that’s not very good quality, you’ve got to use proper film’. Of course, today video is really quite incredible in terms of what you can do.
For my business, I started experimenting about 5 years ago. I started with quite a formal approach but I realised very quickly that, you know what? That’s not very personal. It’s a bit clinical, it’s a bit meh.
Do you remember what your first video was?
I do, funnily enough I watched myself back recently. As a professional speaker I’m used to being in front of an audience but when I watched those videos I thought ‘oh, I don’t know who that fella is, he doesn’t seem that enthusiastic or engaged’. They sound like I’m trying not to make a mistake.
I’m the same when I look back on my early videos, I’m very posh and proper and I think
I do not ooze personality in those videos. I still sound posh, my mother would be proud but yes, definitely, there was personality missing from my early videos.
Oh yes, absolutely, you could see that I was trying to use the elocution lessons that I never had. I was going to speak terribly properly.'You could see that I was trying to use the elocution lessons that I never had' @thereluctantscClick To Tweet
It always seemed a little bit like I’d had a personality bypass.
I think a lot of us suffered from that back then. I think we have to remember that internet marketing was quite different 5 years ago.
One of the nice things about video is letting your personality out. But how do you do that if you are terrified of the idea of getting in front of the camera?
1. Don’t give yourself a big job
My first tip is don’t give yourself too big a job to do. This is the single biggest issue people have when they have an expertise and they go out to do public speaking in general, never mind standing in front of an inanimate camera. They try to cram too much into what they are trying to do.
The problem is that the camera is looking straight at you, at your eyes and you’re always going to see that this person doesn’t look particularly comfortable and then they’ll feel the same.
So don’t try to do too much with your video, make it easier for yourself, just give yourself one job every single time you do a video.
2. Take baby steps
My second tip is take small steps. Don’t be jumping in and trying to do Olympic standard swimming at the outset. Give yourself a little bit of slack.Take small steps. Don't be jumping in and trying to do Olympic standard swimming @thereluctantscClick To Tweet
For instance one of the things that I did with my podcast is that I turned it into a vlogcast using Google hangouts on air. For the first few weeks before I went live I practised in private areas so that I could see how it was going, so I could get more comfortable with (A) my subject and (B) what happens when you are in front of a microphone? What happens when you are in front of a camera? What happens in terms of the noise around you?
Before you move on from that you said ‘Private spaces’ what do you mean by private spaces?
What I meant by that is that you could create an audience of one, you. For example, you can do that with a Facebook group where you’re the only member and create live videos there so you can have a bash and see what happens.
You don’t even have to do that, you can just shoot videos of yourself for practice. You’re not trying to be perfect as you do this, you simply want to get used to being in front of a camera, used to how that feels, used to what you need to do from an energy perspective.
It can also be useful to create little challenges for yourself. So maybe the first video you create is a 10 second, 20 second, 30-second deal.
That sounds like a good plan. I think I did something similar myself when I was preparing to start doing live video. I started with Snapchat because that was 10 seconds long so I think you’re on to something there. It worked for me, it worked for you, it will work for everyone else too.
3. Warm up your voice
OK, you’ve decided on the video you are going to make, you’ve decided to do a few short ones to warm yourself up. I know you have some interesting techniques then for getting your voice ready in front of camera.
Absolutely, a lot of this comes from the world of singing. There are just little things you can do that will make your voice more interesting and add a bit of energy to it.
Before I talk about the exercise I want to talk about why you are doing it.
If someone is listening to you, if they are watching videos but not watching intently, if they’re out and about and on their mobile phones and they’ve got headsets on. These people want to feel you’re excited to be there.
You don’t want your voice to be backwards in your voice box. Instead, you want it a forwards because it sounds more bright, energetic and interesting. When you are on camera you need extra energy because it can make you and your voice seem flat.
If you’ve watched yourself on a video for the first time you’ll be astonished. You’ll wonder where the energy is.
You tend to lack energy because you’re looking at a lens and the lens doesn’t give you any feedback. If you are in front of people you’ve gotta be interested in them. So that’s why I encourage people to do exercises to get their voice forward, that will just up their overall energy.
Simple things like getting air down to below your belly button, to your diaphragm and getting used to the air coming through your nose and then out. It’s as if you are pushing it from little bellows below your belly button.
A simple exercise would be to take a deep breath in. Put your hands just below your ribcage and take a deep breath. And then breath out ‘haaaaaaaaa’
If you do that a few times you will get used to where the sound should be coming from.
Another thing that I encourage people to do it’s what’s called ‘motoring’, it’s a technique used by a lot of singers.
Take your breath in, and go brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Now do it again and go up and down with your brrrrr, be a little musical with it.
Did you notice how that almost immediately, as soon as you started to do that your voice becomes a little bit brighter, that you get a little bit of energy?
To be honest I’ve got a big smile on my face. Maybe the listeners can hear a difference in my voice now that I’ve done that.
So just 4 or 5 minutes of you just brightening your voice up before you create a video. It’s amazing what it will do for you.
Another thing you can do is, as you take your big breath in, instead of doing your ‘ahhahhahhh’ just have a big old yawn. It just relaxes your body.
And another exercise is to give yourself a gentle face massage above your eyebrows, your cheeks, your chin and then open your mouth and go aaggghhhh.
All of these things seem strange but you’re relaxing your body and pushing noise forward. The brighter your voice is the more engaging it is, the more interesting that is and the more musical it is.
4. Talking to real people
You have a picture of your family that you show during the workshop, tell me why you show the picture of your family.
It’s important that when you’re on a video you should not be lecturing or preaching. You want to imagine you’re having a conversation. A little thing I like to do is have a picture of my family behind the camera, a good distance away maybe 10 feet and imagine I’m talking directly to them.I have a picture of my family behind the camera and imagine I'm talking directly to them.Click To Tweet
It just changes your tone, it changes how you feel and it relaxes you. All of those things are important because they create a nice energy.
You don’t ever want to be an actor when you’re on camera. Going back to when we were talking about the BBC voice earlier on and how posh your voice was?
You want to be the real you. All you really want to add is brightness and energy as if you are talking to a real person, and that you care. So having someone you care about and imagining that you’re looking straight through that lens and talking to that person, it is fantastic.
I think that’s a good tip and if it’s not your family it could be, maybe you have a favourite customer that you get on with because sometimes that can help.
5. Don’t look at yourself
I know there’s something else you recommend. When I shoot a video on my phone I have the screen facing me so I can see the shot. But you think that’s a bad idea?
Yes, I really don’t like that because if you are looking at your image you’re not looking directly at the audience and they see you looking away from them.
The key thing is not just the sound but what the audience sees. It’s important because you should be looking through the lens as if you’re looking directly at a person. What I like to do with my smartphone is to turn it the other way around looking directly at the lens. This means you are not distracted you are not looking at yourself and away from the audience. It makes it more personal.
That’s very true. I think that’s something you’ll see all the time if you are a Snapchat user or an Instagram story user. People who have been using Snapchat or Instagram stories for a while have got used to looking at the camera instead of looking at themselves.
I think as well it can be a mistake to stare into the camera the entire time. Would you agree?
Yes, if you are having a conversation with somebody and you are literally staring at them all the time you’ll freak people out.
When you’re having a conversation with people off camera your eyes wander. You want to feel like you are having a conversation with the person on the other end of the lens, not with the lens so don’t stare at it the whole time.
Thanks Eamonn, that’s been really helpful. Just a reminder that if you are scared of getting in front of the camera, if you are scared of making video in general and if you think it’s going to be a whole lot of hassle you should come to our Go Do Video workshops. More info here.