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Are You Camera Shy? How To Get Over Your Fear of Being on Video [Ultimate Guide]
(Day 28, Speaking Palooza 2019)

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Are You Camera Shy? How To Get Over Your Fear of Being on Video

By Carma Spence

Are you using video in your business yet? Or are you letting the fear of being on video stop you from using one of the most powerful tools available for self-promotion?

Video is an important part of modern life. We video record our babies’ first steps. We record moments from our lives, such as concerts, beautiful vistas, cute animal antics, and that weird thing happening in the parking lot. Video has become such an integral part of daily life, it is not surprising that it is also an incredibly valuable tool for marketing yourself and your business.

Video Statistics Tell a Compelling Story

One-third of the people on the Internet use YouTube. They use it to learn things. They use it to be entertained. They use it to share moments with family and friends.

Social video is more powerful than any other kind of video. More than 100 million hours of video are watched per day on Facebook. 45 percent of people watch more than an hour of video on Facebook or YouTube a week. And 82 percent of Twitter users watch video content. In fact, 1200 percent more shares are generated by video than by text and images combined!

Video increases engagement and conversions. Including video in your emails can result in a 200 to 300% increase in click-through rates. And, including the word “video” in your email subject line can increase open rates by 19%. Adding video to your landing pages can increase conversions by 80%.

Research shows that as much as 54% of consumers want to see more video content from brands and businesses they work with. If you are not using video in your business, you are leaving money on the table.

In this post, I will share a variety of tips, techniques, and tools you can use to overcome your fear of being on video camera and create compelling videos that will attract, engage and convert your ideal clients and customers.

Are You Camera Shy? How To Get Over Your Fear of Being on Video

Table of Contents

 

Are public speaking and speaking on video the same thing?

I know people who are very comfortable speaking in front of a live audience who freeze up when they need to speak on camera. And, I know people who are at ease on video but break into a cold sweat if they have to speak in front of a group. So, is speaking in front of a camera the same thing as speaking in public?

Yes and no.

Yes, because you use many of the same skills: Vocal variety, message clarity and organization, authenticity, etc. If you are a good public speaker, you have what it takes to be good at speaking on video.

However, the answer is also no because you use additional, different skills when recording video, live or otherwise. For example, the experience of the person watching your video is much more intimate than when they are in an audience. Therefore, you need to be much more conversational than you might be on stage. In addition, how you maintain eye contact is very different. With a live audience, you have multiple locations you need to look. With video, you have only one the camera lens or your interviewer.

Other differences between public speaking and speaking on video include:

  • Long-form vs. short-form: With a live presentation, you usually have more time and can go into your topic more deeply. Most videos are five minutes or less so you need to be succinct and focus on your keywords or phrases.
  • Recovering from mistakes: When you’re speaking on the stage (or on live video) and you make a mistake, acknowledge it and move on. However, when you’re pre-recording video, you can fix the mistake by backing up, repeating what you just said correctly and then edit out the mistake in post-production.
  • Posture: Whether you’re on stage or on camera, good posture is important. However, when you are on video, you will be more likely to be seated, which makes it easier to slouch. Be mindful of this!

The difference between speaking on stage and speaking on camera is much like the difference between acting on Broadway and acting on film or television. When on stage you need to project more and have more noticeable gestures. However, because video brings you much closer to your audience, you need to lower your voice (compared to on stage) and keep your gestures smaller.

The difference between speaking on stage and speaking on camera is much like the difference between acting on Broadway and acting on film or television.

What Causes Camera Shyness or a Fear of Being on Video?

The fear of being on video is a form or camera shyness and performance anxiety. There are a lot of reasons you might feel the fear of being videotaped. Here are the most common.

Fear of being stared at or seen

For some people, the root of their fear of being on video stems from a terrible fear of being seen or stared at. Ophthalmophobia, the fear of being stared at, and Scopophobia or Scoptophobia, fear of being seen or stared at, are generally caused by a combination of predisposition (genetics) and experience (traumatic events). If this is what causes you to avoid the video camera, rest assured that you can overcome this phobia with a variety of techniques, including those covered in my earlier post on overcoming the fear of public speaking.

Fear of blushing

I don’t know about you, but I am an easy blusher. In fact, sometimes I’ll blush without even feeling a thing! Blushing is a physiological response in which blood rushes to the surface of your face causing you to turn any number of shades of pink to red. It is part of the fight, flight or freeze response and is not under your control.

For some people, the fear of blushing or Erythrophobia, which is a form of social phobia, causes them to fear being on video. The interesting thing about this phobia is that you are not actually of afraid of blushing itself, but of the reactions that you think others will have to your blushing. There are a number of ways you can overcome this fear, but the bottom line is you need to shift your mindset from caring what others might think about your blushing to caring more about the message you want to convey on video.

Fear of not looking good

As far as my research could find, this isn’t an official phobia. However, I know many people who don’t go on camera because they don’t like the way they look. Sometimes this fear stems from low self-esteem and can be overcome through improving confidence. Other times it is due to a lack of knowledge about lighting and other ways to create good quality videos. And sometimes this fear grows out of a phenomenon called the mere-exposure effect.

Psychologist Robert Zajonc first described this effect in 1968. Apparently, we react more favorably to things that we see a lot — for example, our own image in the mirror. When we see a picture of ourselves, it just looks wrong because it is a flipped version of what we are used to seeing as our image. Because our faces are rarely — if ever — symmetrical, this flipped version can feel mildly disturbing and cause you to feel that your video image doesn’t look good.

One cause of the fear of being on video is the Mere-Exposure Effect

Fear of appearing foolish

Are you an approval seeker? Are you afraid that someone watching your video will think you are silly, foolish or incompetent? No one wants any of that, however, the approval seeker takes it up a notch and avoids doing anything that they believe will make them look foolish. And that can translate into a fear of being on video.

However, as Shannon Thompson, a mental performance consultant, says, the fear of foolishness is often much greater than the actual consequences of being seen as foolish.

In today’s world, authenticity is becoming more and more important in business. People want to do business with those they know, like and trust…as well as those they can relate to. If you are “perfect,” with never a chink in your armor showing, then you will turn away more potential clients than if you allow yourself to be genuine. Sometimes, being a bit foolish, makes you seem more human and relatable.

Fear of not sounding good

Along with not looking good, some people don’t like the way they sound, especially in video. Although a good mic and video editing equipment can help with this issue, it also stems from the fact that the voice you hear when you speak is not the voice everyone else hears when they hear you speak. What we are hearing when we speak is not only the sound waves in the air but also the sound waves bouncing around in our heads. There is nothing you can do about it, so you’re just going to have to break through that aversion.

Another thing that can adversely affect our voices is stress. For many years I couldn’t stand the sound of my voice. It sounded so high-pitched and child-like. During those years I was also under a lot of stress. Once I got out of that stressful situation, my voice changed — and I could hear the difference in recordings I made before and after the stress let up! So, one way to improve the quality of your voice on video is to make sure that you are calm and relaxed when you start recording.

Fear of the unknown

Perhaps your fear of being on video is caused by your lack of know how. That is a fear that is easy to overcome. Below, I share with you some basic tips for being filmed that you can follow to make sure that your videos are good.

Fear of attention or being exposed

Social anxiety is very common and not only introverts suffer from it. Being on camera, sharing your videos on YouTube, and doing Facebook Live events are all strategies for increasing attention and exposure, which is frightening for many people. However, you have to ask yourself:

What is more important to you? Growing your business and making a difference in the world?

Or staying small and hidden?

Yes, you will have to push your envelope of fear a bit to overcome this form of anxiety, but if you read on, you’ll find that it isn’t as bad as you anticipate.

What is more important to you? Growing your business and making a difference in the world?  Or staying small and hidden?

Fear of being disliked or hated

This is another facet of the people-pleasing spectrum. In the context of using video for business, this fear stops you from being yourself on camera. And, it makes you attempt to serve “everyone” when you ought to be serving only your ideal clients. You have to let go of the idea that some people not liking you or wanting to do business with you is somehow your business. Your business is to attract, speak to and serve your tribe. And your tribe will never be everyone!

Did you identify your reason for your fear of being recorded? Then you’re in luck! The rest of this article is rich with resources for overcoming camera shyness and the fear of being on video.

The Three Types of Video To Consider

There are three types of video commonly used in marketing a business that will require you to appear on camera.

  • Talking Head Videos: Used for education and, sometimes, promotion
  • Interview Videos: You being interviewed by someone else or you interviewing someone else.
  • Live Video: Created on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or Twitter

I’ll discuss each one individually.

Pre-Recorded Talking Head Videos

Talking head videos are used for a variety of business purposes, most commonly in online courses and video podcasts. Some people have built entire business empires using talking head videos!

A talking head video is basically you on camera talking about a topic. It can be a lesson in an online course. It can be an educational video used for search engine optimization. Also, it can be an introduction to you and your business on your home page.

Because you are the focus of this type of video, it is important for you to be clear on the purpose of the video and communicate a succinct message.

Talking Head Video

Pre-Recorded Interview Videos

Interviewing others on video is a powerful way to leverage the influence of others. By creating an interview video with someone that is further down the business road than you or who has a larger following than you can greatly increase your visibility and credibility online. Your visibility increases because your guest will promote the interview and your video will show up in searches for your guest. Your credibility is increased because you are now associated with your guest.

Being interviewed by someone else on their podcast or in their online summit has similar benefits due to the association not only with the interviewer but all the experts they’ve interviewed beside you.

Live Video

This seems to be the scariest video of all for people to create. The above two types of video are usually edited, which means mistakes can be removed. But live video shows you as you are in real-time. If you um a lot, it will be there. If you forget what you’re going to say next, it will be there. If you make any type of mistake, it is recorded for posterity. However, this is a good thing! Remember what I said about authenticity above? Live video is about as authentic a video format you can create.

Moreover, the benefits of live video are many.

  • You engage with your ideal clients because people consume your content on your time, not their’s. People who tune into your live videos are more likely to members of your tribe and therefore more likely to convert into clients.
  • Your video has more urgency than videos that are up to be viewed at any time.
  • You stand out because not that many people are using live video right now.
  • You don’t need fancy equipment. Live video can be streamed from your smartphone or laptop with no other equipment needed.
  • It is one of the fastest (and easiest) ways to create content. You don’t need to take time to script it. You don’t need to take time to edit it. You just turn it on and go!

The Psychology of Overcoming the Fear of Being on Video

One way to overcome the fear of being on camera is to work on the psychological roots of this fear and change your mindset so that the fear doesn’t stop you in your tracks. I covered many of the techniques you can use in my ultimate guide to overcoming the fear of public speaking, however, I’ll highlight the more relevant ones for speaking on video here.

Start Where You Are — Don’t Wait for Perfection

Start Where You Are — Don’t Wait for PerfectionIf you wait until you are ready to be on camera, you will never record a video. You need to start where you are right now and move on from there. You will get better as you continue to shoot more videos.

When I first started recording videos of myself, I was not where I am now. I was using a cheap video camera I purchased at Big Lots, so no matter how much lighting there was, the video was dark and grainy. I didn’t have a clear strategy for creating videos, so they were haphazard and sometimes unfocused. I was basically shooting them because I thought I was supposed to and I thought they were fun to create.

Today, my videos are much better. I have a better camera (in fact, I often use my laptop’s webcam because it is easier and records high-quality, high-resolution video). I have better lighting, which I got for a reasonable price on Amazon. I even have better microphones (I alternate between using a headset, a hand-held, lavalier, and a Blue Yeti). Can I do even better? Sure, but I’m starting from where I am and letting “perfection” evolve over time.

My First Talking Head Video – December 20, 2010
My Latest Talking Head Video – July 6, 2019

Breathing to overcome the fear of being on video

How you breathe affects both your emotional state and the quality of your voice. Breathing deeply can focus your mind, destress your body, and lower your voice a few octaves once you’ve already tensed your vocal cords. According to a post on NPR.com, deep breathing is also scientifically proven to affect your heart, brain, digestion, immune system — and possibly even the expression of your genes.

Deep breathing starts from your diaphragm, the muscle just below your lungs, located about where your belly is. In this video, Cindy Ashton shares how to breathe from the belly.

Meditation to overcome the fear of being on video

Meditating is a method for relaxing the body, that is also used in some spiritual practices. There are several types of meditation, too many to go into in this article. The most common methods used to overcome anxiety include breath control, focusing on a single point or repeating a mantra. Here are some resources to help you research this method more deeply.

Avoid caffeine

Most people use caffeine — in the form of their morning cup of Joe — to energize themselves and keep themselves alert. However, these very qualities can also increase your feelings of anxiety. A friend of mine tells a funny story. His first experience with the adverse effects of caffeine was when he was working in a basement office. He was alone and to keep awake he decided to drink some tea — a lot of tea. He doesn’t normally drink caffeinated beverages, so he didn’t know what to expect. Soon he was feeling so anxious that he thought that there was a prowler in the office!

If you find yourself getting anxious before going on video, do yourself a favor and avoid caffeine. It will only increase your nervous symptoms.

How to Prepare to Be on Video

Much of the fear of being on video comes from a lack of preparation — or knowledge of how to be prepared. In this section, I’ll share some tips for being prepared for your time on camera.

A Clean Well-Lighted Place: Lighting Tips for Video

Lighting can make a big difference in the quality of your video. If there is not enough light, your video will be grainy — even if you have a great camera. There is plenty of information online about how to get really good lighting, but you don’t have to get fancy to have your video lit enough.

  1. Go for softer rather than harder light. Hard light, which happens when the light source is too close to you, creates shadows that don’t look good. If you find that there are lots of harsh shadows on your face or the background, move the light source further away.
  2. Make sure you have enough light. You want enough light so that the video is clean, clear and free from lots of dark shadows. If natural light is available, that may be enough. However, a single lamp in a darkened room is rarely enough.
  3. If you’re using natural light from a window, make sure you are facing it so that that the sunlight is coming in from behind the camera.
  4. Put the light source in front of you and behind the camera. Avoid light coming from behind you, as it causes the video to wash out and creates shadows that might not be visible to the naked eye.
  5. If you are recording videos outside, the natural lighting should be fine but remember not to have the sun behind you or directly in front of you, which would cause you to squint.

Before you click record, take a look at the image through the video camera to make sure the lighting is sufficient. This is easy if you’re using a computer or laptop webcam, and may require some maneuvering or assistance if you’re using something else.

Another way to check your lighting is to take a selfie with your device in the current lighting. If you can see yourself clearly, then your lighting is probably good. But if there are harsh shadows, turn on a lamp and take another selfie.

If you decide you want to purchase lighting, here are some suggestions:

For more detailed lighting information, check out this article from BombBomb.com.

you don’t have to get fancy to have your video lit enough

Can You Hear Me Now? Audio Tips for Video

Which audio recording options you use greatly depends on the type of video you are shooting. Are you capturing images from your computer screen? Is this a talking-head video? Is this an in-the-field video? Here are some audio recording options and things you need to consider before deciding on which one to use.

Your computer’s internal mic

The quality of sound you will get from your computer’s mic varies greatly depending on the computer, the mic that is installed, the space you are in and the ambient noise. You’ll need to test this option before deciding to stick with it. However, in a pinch, it will do the job.

laptop mic

Your smartphone’s internal mic

This is the bottom of the food chain when it comes to mics. It can be used but the sound quality won’t be very good. You will need to be close up to your mic and in a quiet location.

You may have a mic attached to the headphones that came with your phone. This may be slightly better mainly due to the mic on the headphones being closer to your mouth and it is easier to get better sound while hands-free.

smartphone mic

A headset mic

If you are talking in front of your computer then you may want to use a wired or Bluetooth headset. I use the Cellet EP35O Premium Mono 3.5mm Hands-Free Headset with Boom Microphone and love the quality of sound I get. You need to be careful where you put the boom, however. Too close to your mouth and you’ll get a lot of popping and ess sounds. I usually place it in front and just above my mouth.

heaset mic

A desktop standing mic

If you’ve watched any videos created by podcasters, you’ve probably seen this type of mic. I use the Blue Yeti USB Microphone and love the quality of its sound. It has several settings, so you can play around with it to get the best sound. I use it if I’m recording video where I don’t want to be wearing a headset or if there are more than one of us speaking (like when I record C-Squared with my husband). I’ve found the sound is sometimes not as crisp as a headset, but is still very good. Another popular option is the Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone.

desktop standing mic

A boom mic

Podcasters also use this type of mic. It needs to be suspended above you, but can reduce the noise your mic picks up from the reverberations on your desk. I haven’t invested in one yet, but I do have my eye on the Neewer Condenser Microphone and Accessory Kit.

boom mic

A hand-held mic

If you’re out and about, having a hand-held mic comes in handy. It gets better sound than your phone’s or camera’s mic and I enjoy looking like a TV reporter. I use the Audio-Technica ATR-1100 Unidirectional Dynamic Handheld Vocal/Instrument Microphone. Not only have I used it while shooting videos in the field (like from the Queen Mary or while at Worldcon last year), I’ve also used it at home when my lavalier mic didn’t work (I forgot to turn it off and the battery died!).

handheld mic

A lavalier mic

Sometimes called a lapel mic, this type of mic gets attached to your top, about where a pendant necklace might fall. You can get ones that are wired (that’s what I have) or wireless. If I had to do it again, I would buy wireless, as I’ve found the wire to be a pain in the butt. I’ve used a couple of brands, but have never been happy with them, so I don’t have any recommendations at this time.

lavalier or lapel mic

This is by no means a comprehensive detailing of your audio recording options. There is lots of information on the web to be found on this topic, as well as books and even a dedicated magazine. For more detailed audio recording information, I found How to Record Great Audio for Video from the Pond5 Blog quite useful.

You Look Marvelous! What to wear on video

What you wear when recording video can also have an effect on how well the video plays. Drab colors make for drab videos. Here are some essential tips for choosing your video wardrobe.

Be bold with Color

Strong colors warm your face. Recommended colors include teal, cobalt, purple and coral. If you’re a woman, your top should be one of these or other bold colors. If you’re a man, you have a choice of wearing a bold colored top or using your tie to add the pop of color.

I also recommend choosing a color that complements your skin tone. If your skin tone is cool, cool colors like blue, green and purple will look good on you. If your skin tone is warm, then bold colors like mustard, coral and olive will look better. Color Me Beautiful: Discover Your Natural Beauty Through the Colors That Make You Look Great and Feel Fabulous is a classic work that will help you discover your best color palette.

strong colors warm your face

Colors to Avoid on Video

Some colors do wonky things to video. For example, red can bleed into the surrounding areas. White bounces light off you and can wash out the video. And black blends you in with the background.

Avoid Busy Patterns on Video

You may love your Hawaiian-print shirt, but don’t wear it on video! Solids are much better and allow your face to be the focus. Patterns are distracting and can also play tricks with the camera, creating fuzziness.

K.I.S.S. Your Accessories Goodbye

When it comes to jewelry, the simpler, classic styles are your best option. Remember the acronym K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Silly!) and you can’t go wrong. Jangling jewelry can ruin the sound, and you want people to be paying attention to you and your message…not your accessories!

For more tips on what to wear on video, check out these articles:

How to be more charismatic on camera

Now that we’ve got the technical things out of the way, let’s delve into what to do while you’re on camera so that people enjoy watching and listening to you and take the action you intend for that video.

Hone Your Message

The first thing you want to do is hone your message. This means that you need to be very clear on:

  • Who your audience is
  • What you want to share with them
  • What action you want them to take once they’ve viewed your video

Remember that most of your videos will be five minutes long or less. This means you need to narrow down to a very specific point in your video. You can’t do that if you aren’t clear on those three things.

Practices and Dress Rehearsals

Once you are comfortable being on camera, practicing and dress rehearsals become less important. However, if you are suffering from a fear of being on video, then practicing and doing dress rehearsals can go a long way toward easing your anxiety.

To Pay Attention or Not to Pay Attention to the Camera

For the vast majority of your talking head videos, you will want to focus on the camera. Locate it on your device and be mindful to look into it as if you were looking into someone’s eyes. It is common to want to look and your image on the screen, or if you are interviewing someone online, to look at their image. However, when you do that your image shows you looking down. If you look directly into the camera, your viewers will more than likely feel like you are talking to them and making eye contact with them.

Of course, there are times when you might want to be looking somewhere other than the camera. This an advanced technique, so I recommend getting comfortable with the camera lens first.

Speak to One Person

When formulating what you’re going to say, focus on the viewer and not yourself. Even better, focus on one ideal viewer for that video. Speak to that one person as if you were speaking to a friend. It is easy to forget that although many people may view your video, each one is usually viewing it alone. It is a much more intimate experience than being part of a large audience. When you speak to one person — avoiding words that sound like you’re talking to the multitude — you develop a better rapport with your viewer.

Some people find it helpful to have a friend operating the camera. In this way, you can speak to your friend, pretending he or she is your ideal video viewer.

Be yourself

Authenticity is just as important in a video as it is on a stage. People watching your videos want to get to know you — not your stuffed shirt business persona!

If the real you smiles and laughs a lot, then smile and laugh on camera. If you have a quirky catchphrase you use all the time, feel free to use it on camera. Video can be a powerful tool for nurturing the know, like and trust factor in your prospective clients. But it can only do that if you are authentic!

Recorded vs. Live video

Your decision to use pre-recorded or live video depends on your end goals. Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding which is the right decision for your video.

Engagement: Live video tends to garner more audience engagement than recorded. Therefore, if you want to nurture audience interaction, use live video. For example, Q&A sessions and interviews are great live.

Education: If the point of your video is to provide educational information, such as with tutorials and explainer videos, recorded videos are often better because you can edit out distractions such as bloopers, technical difficulties and the like.

Courage: If you are still very nervous on video, start with pre-recorded. Knowing that you can edit out mistakes can help reduce your nerves. Get confident on pre-recorded video before striking out to live.

Additional Reading

Are you still looking for information on how to overcome your fear of being on video? Here are some additional articles you might find helpful.

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About Carma Spence

Carma SpenceAward-winning speaker and bestselling author of Public Speaking Super Powers, Carma Spence knows that introverted and shy people can be decent speakers. She is fiercely committed to helping her clients unleash their inner content creation superhero and confidently communicate their message so that they can create a meaningful legacy. She helps them see what is possible and guides them on the journey from where they are to where they want to be, Vanquishing Mind Goblins along the way.

Her strength and courage were hard-won. She has survived an abusive marriage; an attack by her boyfriend; and being hit by a car (three separate times). This mix of experiences makes Carma a good mentor to those struggling with owning their gifts.


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About the author

This post is part of Speaking Palooza. Created by Carma Spence, author of the award-winning, bestselling book Public Speaking Super Powers, it is a month-long event bringing together a wide variety of speaking experts from throughout the English-speaking world to help you overcome the fear of speaking and become a better speaker.

Please see the "About" section above for more information about today's featured expert.