how to speak well on video

Talking to a Camera: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Speaking (well) on Video

It comes as no surprise that we live in a completely digitally-driven age today. The visual medium has become an integral part of our everyday lives. As of today, YouTube, which is a video-based platform, has 2+ billion users in the world. To give you a clearer idea, this constitutes about one-third of the internet. 

Can speaking on video be learnt?

Speaking well on video might seem like an intimidating task, but with the right tools, tricks & practice, you can be on your way to becoming a natural! Among others, the two main skills you need include good content and a convincing screen presence. 

Needless to say, no matter where or who you are, getting out there on a visual medium has more perks than you think. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get down to the business of guiding you to channelize your inner YouTuber!

Who is this article for? 

You could be a businessman trying to expand the sales promotion market by getting on the internet, a professor recording lectures, or a millennial making YouTube videos, as long as you have the willingness to make videos and something valuable to offer in them, this article is just the place for you!

It doesn’t matter what your experience is. If you’re just getting started or have some background of talking in front of the camera. This article will both introduce you to the skills and help you polish them. 

It’s time to dive into the six steps in detail!

Step 1: Content

The first & foremost thing to keep in mind is to choose wisely WHAT to speak about. No matter how good you look or how exceptional your camera quality is if you put out content that is offensive or insensitive, none of the technicalities or aesthetics matter.

More importantly, it is not mandatory but you could always attempt to make your content more interesting by improvising, exploring, and modifying. 

How do I choose a topic to speak about?

If you are someone who does not really have a topic in mind, start by choosing something that matters to you, something that is important to you and moves you on an individual level. 

Remember, your  content has to do two one of two things, atleast. Educate and/or entertain. It needs to add value to the listener. 

It could be anything from speaking about the marginalized communities from an empath’s point of view to geeking out about your latest favorite movie, to reviewing a new digital device in the market. As long as it’s relevant and makes you want to talk with passion, the world is your oyster!

How to create a structure for your content?

Once you have a topic in mind, the next step in the process is to jot down a structure for it.

It is very important to know the direction in which you want to take the flow of the conversation, otherwise, you might find yourself lost while speaking, getting confused about what to say next or which idea to elaborate on next. This leads to your speech becoming very repetitive and jarring. 

In my personal experience, putting your ideas on paper miraculously makes things clearer, and once you have everything on paper, it becomes easier to eliminate irrelevant material and design a structure to the things you want to say.

Once you have all the ‘importants’, arrange the order by giving them numbers. This order is the order in which you’re gonna jump from one to another in the video.

Organization helps more than you think it would. 

A call to action is another hook that you can use. Basically, giving the audience something to do, it makes the ‘take away’ more apparent. For example, if you talk about flood relief camps, then mention the names of a few funds at the end for the audience to make a donation. 

Step 2: Equipment

Time to get a little technical. Equipment includes everything from the camera, to the mic, to the lighting and set up. Now, if you’re completely new to this and can afford to buy equipment,  you can invest in a good quality camera, ring light, and mic. 

On the flip side that you’re just experimenting or don’t want to spend that much money, worry not, we have alternative tricks up the sleeve for you too! 

You can use a phone to record the video. Some phones that have a decent camera get the job done just fine. In fact, many vloggers on Youtube use their phones for recording and edits.

For light and sound, you can be smart about the time of the day you select. Usually, sitting at a well-lit place (near a window, on a terrace, in a garden) during a particularly less noisy hour of the day can help. You can edit the white noise in the edit.

To revise, here’s a list of items you need with their cheaper alternatives-

EquipmentCheaper Alternative
TripodGorillapod
Ring LightTubelight or choosing a naturally well-lit part of the day
CameraPhone camera
MicSilent time & place

Step 3: Practice

Consistency is key. Practice. Practice as much as you can. Getting ON a camera more often will eventually make you more comfortable and it will automatically show a difference. 

It can be simple things. Record yourself talking about your day, or thinking out loud (like a digital diary), and then go back and see these clips. Reviewing yourself can help a great deal since it tells you where you can improve. 

Word of advice- Think over it, but don’t overthink it. Don’t strive for perfection right from the beginning. Allow yourself to make mistakes, it’s all part of the practice. The more you do it, the better you get at it. 

Practice also helps you develop a screen presence. 

What does screen presence exactly mean?

Having a screen presence basically means having the ability to capture your audiences’ attention for the entirety of the duration you’re on screen.

Once you captivate them with your definitive body language, speaking style, and confidence (read on to get into the specifics), you will hold the power to influence them. 

Step 4: Dressing

Let me begin by saying that comfort can be stylish. And it should be your first priority to wear what you’re comfortable in. But behold! Don’t go on wearing your pajamas as an excuse. Wear something that is stylish, makes a statement about YOU, and is comfy too!

When it comes to patterns, I’d say choose plains over patterns. They’re distracting. You want people to focus on what you say, not the geometric designs on your shirt. 

Colour-wise, go for warm, pastel tones. Depending on the background, contrast your outfit. Let’s say we’re being bold and shooting with a pitch lemon-colored wall, wear something of a contrast, like dark green! 

Avoid plain white and black outfits, they’re..well, a little too plain sometimes. Alternatively, for your plain outfits, you can choose a background that’s loud/has patterns. 

For example-

Step 5: Presenting yourself and setting frame

Personally, I believe this is a really important point to keep in mind. While presenting yourself includes the things you say and the way you say them (details in an upcoming section), it also includes portraying your personality well. A large part of that is your appearance. 

With our ever-shrinking attention spans, it is important that we get our audiences hooked early on, let’s say within the first 7-8 seconds. They’re very crucial, if you don’t captivate their curiosity or intrigue them, they’ll stop the video and move on. 

Needless to say, you wanna make sure that the first thing they see when the video starts is a statement. Yes, the way you dress and choose colors for the frame ALL give out a statement.

If you just sit in your pajamas with a tilted angle and a random background, it will put off your viewers and they’ll withdraw their attention. 

But worry not! There isn’t anything here that cannot be learned. If you’re a beginner with very little knowledge of colors, a piece of advice for you would be to choose a plain white background, you can hardly go wrong with white. Or if you have a funky-colored wall like blue or green or yellow, but you gotta choose your clothes accordingly. 

How to set up the frame?

  • Make sure the distance from the front of the camera to you is reasonable, not too close, not too far unless it’s absolutely required. 
  • People usually go for a waist-length frame unless specified otherwise, with the camera placed at eye-level. (Check out the YouTube examples we’ve given at the end)
  • A tripod would be a smart investment. 
  • Make sure your source of light is in FRONT of you so the light can fall on your face and highlight it, instead of placing it behind you. 
  • About the mic, it usually isn’t a problem if it’s visible, but if you wish to hide it, you could wear a dark-coloured shirt and tuck it in the space between two buttons, on the inside. A gaffer’s tape can help you secure the mic and cable. 

Step 6: Delivery

Let’s address the most important aspect of public speaking. Research shows about 60%-70% of communication takes place through non-verbal gestures. This includes your posture, body language, tone, facial expressions, and the like. 

On video, one has the rare and exceptional advantage of being able to look at oneself while talking. So you can improve/alter your non-verbal gestures AS you speak. 

Ideally, a few things to keep in mind would be-

  • Have relaxed shoulders
  • Apparent but not too loud hand gestures
  • Being able to emote through animated expressions
  • Slipping in a few subtle nods
  • Smiling (not constantly though)
  • Not flailing around too much (it gets distracting)
  • Keeping your hands together instead of awkwardly placing them on the side
  • Making eye contact with the camera (keeps the viewers engaged)
  • and last but not the least, have a calm & steady tone, talking with the purpose of making people LISTEN, not just hear you. 

To learn more about the importance of Body Language, go to: Body Language And Its Contribution To The Process Of Communication

Apart from this, it helps if you have a storytelling quality to the thing you say, as opposed to a strict informative structure.

Think out of the box for this one! Get into the mind of the audience. Would you continue to watch your video if you saw it? What would hook YOU on to go on?

How do I get comfortable on camera?

Begin with working on your body language to start getting comfortable with the camera. The more at ease you are with yourself, the more authentic you appear on the screen. 

Well begun is half done. The rest is all about practice, as mentioned above. 

How to feel less awkward talking to a camera?

Ah! The classic problem.

 “I’m basically talking to a device, how am I supposed to be real about things?”

Well, you can. People have claimed to find talking to a lens easier if they assume that there’s a friend sitting a couple of feet behind it. It makes one more comfortable in their own skin if they’re addressing someone instead of chatting into a void. 

Again, practice is key here.

How to reduce anxiety?

If you feel that churning feeling in your gut before performing (yes, it’s essentially like a performance), let me tell you, you’re not the only one. Performance anxiety is very common and there are a bunch of ways to get around it.

  1. Choose the time wisely– If you have the leisure of recording at your own convenience, choose a time of the day when you feel relatively chatty. It’ll be easier to talk on video if it comes naturally.
  2. Relax– About half an hour before getting on video, do an activity that calms you down. Meditation, reading, listening to music, etc. It centers you and your mind.
  1. Talk to a friend– This one’s pretty obvious. Talking to people that make us happy can lift our spirits and put us in a better mood for the job

If you’re worried your anxiety or nervousness might affect your performance, worry not! Here’s a previously written article on our website that might help you: 10 Tell-Tale Signs of Nervous Body Language (And What You Can Do About It)

Should I memorize a script while speaking on video?

This is a slightly demanding part of the process. No, you don’t exactly have to learn the entire script as actors do with their dialogues to make it natural. But if it’s a method that suits your ability, go right ahead.

But if you’re new to this process, I wouldn’t recommend learning words since it might make you sound robotic (if you blankly blurt your lines). Or you might get too engrossed in what to say next to be able to focus on other important things like body language, etc.

One of the solutions doe this is using a teleprompter. Most TV news reporters and reality show hosts use it. However, it has its pros and cons.

Pros: 

  • Convenience. You won’t have to learn your script.
  • You can control the speed at which it rolls, so you don’t talk too fast or too slow.
  • All the points you want to cover will be covered.
  • You can place it behind the camera and your whole speech would flow seamlessly. 

Cons:

  • It’s an additional equipment expense.
  • Technical faults might hinder your natural flow.
  • If you get too engrossed in reading, it becomes apparent and affects your body language. 
  • Audience/ camera engagement becomes abrupt.

Alternatively, if the idea of using teleprompters does not sit well with you, what you CAN do is once you have jotted down the ideas you want to elaborate on, make bullet points of them. Keep those next to you and steal a glance every now and then. They’re easier to read quickly without making it evident. 

This way, you can still have the hold of the direction in which the conversation is moving. 

Here’s an article that might come in handy when you’re preparing your ‘speech’: 6 Techniques to Stop Saying Filler Words: Eliminate the Ahs & Ums!

Well, that being said, I believe that apart from all of these things, the key element in making a good video is to have fun! Be your true authentic self, because truly, it’s the best way to be!

Examples of YouTubers who speak well on video

Here are a bunch of examples of some YouTubers, you can see the aforementioned tips being at play here. Pay attention to the frames, lighting, color schemes, and manner of speaking to get an idea. 

1. Connor Franta

The thing I love the most about Connor Franta videos is that (just like this one), they’re very vibrant. His ability to contrast loud reds or greens with subtle off-whites or whites makes the video very visually appealing.

Apart from that, his voice modulation is such that his tone throughout the video is very low pitched. It feels very calming and hence is a very pleasant experience. Check out the video above to understand better.

2. Ashley aka Bestdressed

Ashely is one person one could hear talking all day and still not be bored. Personally, I love how REAL she is. Either way, this video would give you an insight as to how to play around with lighting if you’re recording the video indoors.

Use multiple lamps and get as many sources of light as you can. The background she’s chosen is also very aesthetic.

3. Lilly Singh

One of the highest paid YouTubers of all time, Lilly Singh started her video-making journey from her small bedroom by putting up a bunch of posters on her wall to provide a ‘background’, an iPhone and loads of content to put out. Today she’s the first bi, brown woman to have her own late night show on TV!

The thing that attracts her audience is how well she’s able to bring out her humour through her rant videos, making them laugh through that small frame. She usually divides her scripts into sub points and goes through them one-by-one in the video. Check out the above one to get an idea how.

There is no better way to end this article with this inspirational woman and a reminder that one CAN make a video anywhere, you just need to learn how to work with what you’ve got. And with practice, you will. I hope this helped you to get started on your video making journey.

Good Luck!

Hrideep Barot

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.