Insider Tips for Overcoming On-Camera Jitters

By August 31, 2020September 28th, 2020blog

Broadcast interviews (even those on Zoom) can be nerve-racking. No matter what the setting, the stakes always feel so high.

  • What if you say something that gets taken out of context?
  • What if you freeze up and completely fail to perform?

Your boss is watching, peers are watching, complete strangers are watching—and it’s all being captured by the camera, often for posterity’s sake!

Being nervous on camera is only natural. But why? Think about it: you’ve done your homework, you’ve crafted your messages, and you’re the expert. Why should you be so nervous?

Before the video starts streaming, consider the following tips on how to relieve a serious case of the on-camera yips:

Old Reliable

One proven way to tamp down a serious case of stage fright is what I consider my old reliable: practice. Call on a colleague, a friend, or a family member to take you through your paces.

You can give your pseudo-interviewer a list of potential questions and ask him or her to lob them at you. Make sure to give your “interviewer” free license to add his or her own questions to test your ability to handle the unexpected.

Establish a Friendly Rapport

If the interview is going to be in person and a taped, sit-down affair, expect the setup to take some time. Once a spot is chosen, the crew will immediately go about creating an impromptu set using whatever is close at hand. Furniture will be moved into position to allow for a comfortable distance between you and the interviewer. You will be asked to take a seat while the crew adjusts the lights that they’ve now erected on stands around the room.

While you wait, you could just sit there in uncomfortable silence as the reporter looks over his or her notes or you could use that time to establish a friendly rapport prior to the camera being turned on.

Reporters are people, too, with lives beyond their work. Try taking on the interviewer role. Ask neutral questions such as, “Where are you from originally?” It usually opens the door to casual conversation, which can serve two purposes: it helps to calm your nerves and it establishes a more amiable tone.

Similarly, when logging in to an interview via videoconfencing tools, take time to chitchat before the interview starts in earnest. Doing so makes you realize that the person on the other side of the call is “just a person” too and can help ease any apprehension you may be feeling.

Check Yourself in the Mirror

Before the video starts rolling, check yourself in the mirror or on video conference platform. Make sure your shirt is buttoned correctly and your hair is in place, not winging out wildly on one side.

The reporter or videographer may spot that errant poppy seed in your teeth and politely let you know you need to remove it. But there’s also a chance they may not because they are busy concentrating on other aspects of the interview.

Take out the guesswork and take on the responsibility to give yourself the once-over.

Control What You Can

You may not be the one asking the questions, but you most definitely are the one in control. You dictate the pace and the duration of the interview. After all, without you, there is no interview. Don’t forget this.

Still, you can’t control what they ask you, and there very well may be some questions you simply don’t like. But you can control how you answer them.

Pause to Ponder

If you’re being interviewed, don’t feel as though you have to start answering a question as soon as the reporter utters the last word of it. A moment of silence is well worth your time. The reporter will wait; your audience will wait. Often, when you take just a second or two to gather your thoughts, the result is that you give your best possible answer.

Hit the Reset Button

Should you find yourself stumbling through an answer or simply rambling on, give yourself permission to stop and hit the reset button rather than settling for a response you’re not comfortable with. This is much easier to do when the interview is not being conducted live. However, if you are doing a live interview, it is perfectly okay to explain that you misspoke and that you’d like to clarify.   

You Can Overcome Nerves

When you’re on camera, you can sometimes feel as though you’re on a roller coaster and that you can’t get off until it pulls into the gate, or that you’re on the high wire performing without a net. However, a little prep work goes a long way. Being self-aware that you’re the expert and the one in control—and that it’s OK to pause to gather your thoughts—also does wonders in alleviating on camera jitters and can turn a so-so performance into a resounding success.

Learn More: On-Camera Coach

If you found this information valuable, check out my book, On-Camera Coach: Tools and Techniques for Business Professionals in a Video-Driven World, now available from Wiley Publishing. On-Camera Coach aims to take the mystery out of communicating through the camera and provides specific tips and techniques that can make your message sing—and you, the messenger, feel confident in a job well done.