How to overcome your fear of being on camera

An old-timey videocamera standing on a diving board above a pool of computer monitor glass

The internet is dominated by video content. It’s no longer just about video-centric platforms like TikTok and Youtube — now even office workers have to smile for the camera on Zoom meetings. As a result, creators of all stripes are feeling the pressure to spend more time in front of a camera. But what do you do if being on camera gives you feelings of anxiety — and even panic?

I’ve been there. I’ve hosted events on television, created viral videos with millions of views, and even performed for world leaders. And yet, I still feel that jolt of nerves when I get ready to step in front of the camera. That’s how I know that you can learn to manage your anxious feelings. And maybe even enjoy the process. Being comfortable on camera is a skill that can be developed with practice and the right mindset. Whether you're a vlogger, an influencer, or simply someone who wants to be more comfortable with video calls and virtual presentations, here are some strategies to help you feel more at ease in front of the camera.

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Name your fear

Being afraid is understandable: filming a video is essentially a form of public speaking, and public speaking is the number one fear in the U.S. 

For several years, I ran one of the largest TEDx events in the world. Even the world class thinkers on that stage would get sweaty and nervous — after all, not only were they speaking in front of thousands of live audience members, but they were also being streamed live to a potential audience of millions.

I always led them through the same frameworks I’ll share with you. First, to get a handle on fear, name it. Write out what you’re afraid might happen (or speak out loud if you aren’t in a place to write; writing is just more effective). For some people, the fear may be of being judged or rejected by others. For others, it may be a fear of not knowing what to say or not being able to remember their script. Giving your fears definition and shape can help to take their power and give you more clarity.

After you get your fears out in the open, try your best to embrace them. Acknowledge that it's normal to feel nervous. It doesn't mean you're not capable. It's just a feeling, and it’ll pass. You might even try reframing your fears — the racing heart and queasy stomach you feel are also signs of excitement, after all. What if you’re just excited to step into something new?

After you embrace your fears, use positive visualization to flip them on their head. Before hitting record, I’d have our speakers take a few minutes to visualize executing their talks successfully. And you can do the same. Imagine yourself feeling confident, speaking clearly, and making a positive impact on your audience. Visualize times in the past when you’ve presented in front of an audience and you nailed it. These memories can remind you of your capabilities and can help you feel less anxious when it comes time to shoot.

Remember that everyone is afraid sometimes — even the most experienced creators. But if you incorporate these practices into your routine, you’ll be able to overcome that fear more effectively and tap into your true potential as a video creator.

The author speaking on the TEDx stage.

Step into your body

If you’re not feeling good, your performance will suffer. Make sure you’re rested, nourished, and hydrated before filming. This will help you feel more energized and less self-conscious — after all, it’s hard to focus when you’re feeling lightheaded or thinking about how thirsty you are. For the same reason, it's also a good idea to dress in clothing that you feel comfortable and confident in.

Another way to feel energized? Actually move your body. Just a short burst of exercise has been shown to improve mood and memory. Movement is a perfect prelude for your moment under the lights. 

“I recommend that people do a physical activity before stepping in front of the camera,” says Emily Schickli, a spiritual mentor and burnout coach. “Whether it's dancing to your favorite song or going on a jog, something that brings you joy and gets you into your body will allow you to bring the right energy.” 

If you’ve done all that and you’re still feeling anxious when the camera starts rolling, Schickli recommends butterfly tapping to help you feel more grounded and calm. It comes from a form of therapy called EMDR, and it basically involves crossing your hands over your chest, closing your eyes, and gently tapping your hands like a butterfly flapping its wings. You can pair this with deep breathing techniques, which can also help to calm your body and mind. Try taking a few deep breaths before you speak, and use them as needed throughout your shoot to stay calm and focused.

Schickli emphasizes that when you’re in front of the lens, people are reading your body language and energy just as much as they’re hearing your words. So pay attention to your body language! Nonverbal cues like eye contact, smiling, and an upright posture can make a big difference in how you come across on camera. Make sure to stand (or sit) up straight and speak clearly, and bring some variety to the camera: gesture with your hands as you speak and change up your facial expressions to match the ideas you’re getting across. Oftentimes, I practice doing improv exercises and singing vocal warmups to get my face, voice, and body loose and ready to be expressive. 

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Even though some videos might seem like they were made on the fly, most creators put in a ton of preparation, even for short videos. This is certainly the case for me. Sometimes a one-minute video can be 2–3 hours of prep, filming, and editing. Feeling prepared can help you feel calm, and the first step to feeling prepared is knowing your gear. Get to know the technical aspects of your camera. This can be really fun! Some people really nerd out on cool camera gear, myself included. 

Next, find the right place to set up where you’ll get the best lighting, sound, and background. Then, prepare your script or talking points. It’s crucial to have a clear idea of what you want to say before you start filming. This’ll help you stay focused and avoid getting flustered or caught off guard. But once the camera starts rolling, don’t worry too much about sticking to your script word for word. If you’ve put in the time to prepare, you can trust in yourself and know that what comes out of your mouth will probably be right, regardless of what’s on paper. 

Copy your favorite creators

When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to be consumed with exactly how to deliver your lines since you haven’t landed on your unique style. But instead of letting that be a source of stress, think of it as an invitation to experiment. Just as musicians start with covers and artists start by copying the greats, video creators can take inspiration from others who are more experienced. 

“I copied and imitated people that I liked until I found my own style,” says Quentin Michael Allums, a creative who made his name as one of the first video creators on LinkedIn and now helps other creators systemize their content.

Allums encourages creators to not feel stressed if they’re still gaining experience and seeing what sticks. His advice? Early on, you shouldn’t worry too much about finding your own style. “Create a bunch, put your reps in, and eventually you’ll find your own voice.”

Allums emphasizes the importance of practice. The more you’re on camera, the more comfortable you’ll become. If you don’t create that much content yet, film yourself anyway. It’s helpful to set up a camera (or your phone) somewhere in your home and practice speaking or performing in front of it. The more you become familiar with your own appearance and mannerisms on camera, the more you can focus on your message rather than on yourself.

Remember that many creators make dozens of attempts at a video before putting out the finished product — if it takes you a few tries, welcome to the club.

Video creation can feel daunting at times, but it’s a great way to express yourself and share your message or ideas with the world. And with enough practice, the right tools, and a willingness to learn, you can create something that will wow someone — and make them wonder why it’s so easy for you. And no matter what you make, I’ll be rooting for you.

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