Let’s be honest—being in a room by yourself talking to a video camera isn’t exactly a natural behaviour. For humans, speaking to a ‘thing’ goes against our nature as social creatures.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that people, who are normally well-spoken in everyday life, can become awkward and lost for words when talking to a camera. As soon as they hit the record button, they tense up; their otherwise natural conversational flow evaporates and they come across as flat and stilted.
With video having become one of the main ways we communicate for business, though, it’s important to get along with the camera. Thankfully, there are easy-to-follow steps to learn how to speak naturally on camera. Put these into action and, soon enough, it will feel like you’ve been talking to the lens all your life.
Now, the first hurdle is working up the courage to actually step in front of the camera. If you’re still avoiding video because of camera anxiety, you definitely want to read our blog How to Overcome a Fear of Being on Camera.
However, if you’ve already started with video and want to level up by learning how to speak naturally on camera, then we’re here for it!
Here’s what we’ll be teaching you in this blog:
- What Does it Mean to Speak Naturally?—the unmistakable characteristics of a natural on-camera speaker.
- Why Doesn’t Speaking Naturally on Camera…Come Naturally?—breaking down why speaking naturally on camera is a challenge for so many.
- Where to Look When Recording Video—one of the top questions asked by newcomers to video, and a key part of looking natural in videos.
- How to Look at the Camera—understanding the language of connection through the camera lens.
- How to Talk to the Camera Like a Person—processing the camera as a person, not an object, to influence your style of speaking.
Learning how to speak naturally on camera is one of the most valuable skills you can develop in today’s video-dominated world.
Just us and the video camera. That’s how we spent the majority of our media careers.
Speaking to the camera all alone in a cold studio or in the middle of fired-up crowds at a breaking news event; for us, the camera was like a trusted and dependable work colleague, almost human.
We haven’t forgotten our early days, though, as young television reporters—that first time we were thrust in front of the camera. Having to speak to hundreds of thousands of people on national television, all through a piece of equipment we had little understanding of…it was enough to make our knees tremble.
Through trial and error, a few cringe-inducing moments and the steady guidance of veteran journalists, we eventually got the hang of speaking on camera.
Learning how to talk naturally on camera is a talent we’re immensely grateful to have in our back pocket. Given how video-driven the world has become, it feels like all our lives in broadcast journalism were in preparation for today. Just like an aged wine, our on-camera abilities have grown in value.
So, hats off to you for wanting to learn a skill that will move the needle on your career or business. We’re eager to share some of our best tips with you!
While some people seem born with a natural talent for the camera, absolutely everyone is born with the ability to LEARN how to be natural on camera.
What Does it Mean to Speak Naturally?
In order to achieve a goal, it’s useful to first understand what that goal means or represents.
Most of us intuitively understand the need to speak naturally in videos, even if we don’t quite get how the effect is achieved. It’s probably far easier to identify when someone comes across as unnatural or ‘wooden’ on camera.
The fact is, you most likely already speak in a natural manner. Think about when you’re telling a story to a family member, friend or colleague. The passion, energy, tone, eye contact, facial expressions and body language which almost spill out of you—those qualities combine to create a natural flow. No one had to teach you how to summon those different components of natural speech.
Our definition for speaking naturally on camera is talking to the camera in a comfortable, conversational, relatable and engaging manner.
Speaking naturally on camera is how we connect with audiences through video. Without connection, there’s no impact. That’s one of the main reasons we’re talking to a camera in the first place—to have an impact on viewers.
Why Doesn’t Speaking Naturally on Camera…Come Naturally?
The main reason being natural on camera doesn’t exactly come naturally is because we’re talking to an object, not another human being.
When speaking to people face-to-face, we can see and respond to their energy and reactions. That critical feedback isn’t there when talking on camera. As such, it’s easy for those natural expressions to drain away from the face and for naturally occurring inflections in the voice to become somewhat monotone.
There are other reasons people find it difficult to talk to the camera in a natural manner. For instance, you might place high expectations on yourself or exaggerate the consequences of not being perfect on camera. Instead of being present in the moment and focused on sharing the message, you’re fixated on being judged on camera. Such insecurities can cause you to tighten up and allow your worries to get the better of you.
Thankfully, it’s possible to learn how to speak naturally on camera, so you can achieve a normal, conversational feel in your videos.
Where to Look When Recording Video?
Where do I look when I’m recording a video?
Not only is this a common question asked by video newbies, it’s a critical question to answer. In fact, this is a key first step in learning how to talk naturally on camera.
To appear natural in videos, you need to speak to the camera like it’s a person. Eye contact will help you achieve that look. But how do you make eye contact if there’s no one in front of you? Well, you have to look directly into the camera lens. This will give the impression in your videos of that important direct eye contact with viewers.
When recording video, many people tend to look at themselves on the screen of their phone, computer or DSLR camera. It’s almost an irresistible impulse! That results in their eye line being slanted or off-centre, not eye to eye. It looks strange and unnatural because when we talk to people face-to-face, we look them directly in the eye.
Eye contact is critical to your audience feeling as though you are speaking directly to them on video. It helps you come across as natural on camera because you’re mimicking the way you’d interact with someone in person.
So, a key element of understanding how to speak naturally on camera is looking directly into the camera lens to establish eye contact with viewers.
How to Look at the Camera
Now that you know where to look when recording video, let’s move on to our second step in mastering how to speak naturally on camera.
The next question we must answer is how to look at the camera in a way that comes across as natural.
Unfortunately, looking directly at the lens won’t guarantee you’re being natural on camera. There are some steps you’ll want to employ, so you don’t seem awkward, leering or dead-eyed in your videos.
Don’t stare the camera down
Look into the camera lens, yes, but it’s not a staring contest. You certainly want to avoid permanently locking eyes with it. That’s the exact opposite of natural!
When we talk to people in real life, we don’t stare them down for the entire conversation. That would definitely make for an uncomfortable chat! We look away from time to time. That’s because occasionally breaking eye contact is a natural instinct. It should be the same when doing videos.
Having periodic moments to briefly look away from the camera, particularly when having a new thought, will help you look more natural on camera.
Now, just to clarify, this isn’t a technique we learnt as television reporters. In the world of news broadcasting, you’ve got to maintain eye contact with the camera. However, when creating videos for business, occasionally averting your eyes from the lens for a brief moment makes you seem more natural.
Look at the camera as a human
To exude a natural vibe or energy on video, you have to talk to the camera like it’s a person. Easier said than done, right? After all, a camera is a lifeless piece of equipment. How do you treat it like a human?
You have to IMAGINE the lens as a person. We know it sounds a bit out there, but this is a tried and thoroughly tested technique.
When looking directly into the camera, pretend you’re talking one-on-one with a person. Creating this ‘illusion’ will help you take on a conversational tone and approach; that’s all key to speaking naturally.
This essential piece of advice on how to look at the camera can mean the difference between seeming robotic versus coming off natural. So, work on imagining the camera as a person and not an object.
How to Talk to the Camera Like a Person
Okay, so we’ve taken you through where to look when recording video and how to look at the camera. Now, it’s time for our third step on how to speak naturally on camera—specific tips on the delivery of your message.
When talking to a camera, sometimes the delivery can look forced or inauthentic. It takes skill to talk to the camera like a person.
Let’s have a look at some methods for speaking to the camera in a way that’s real, relatable and engaging.
Tap into your passion
During face-to-face conversations, chances are you don’t spend too much energy obsessing about your choice of words, or remembering every detail of the points you’re making.
In a two-way exchange, the mind is usually caught up with conveying a message and its meaning.
With the video format, it can be fairly obvious to viewers if you’re just mindlessly regurgitating data, dry facts or information. If you aren’t engaged or passionate about your message, you’ll come across as stiff and robotic. Speaking naturally on camera means you have to tap into passion and feeling for your message.
A key part of learning how to speak naturally on camera is understanding how to convey warmth through an inanimate object—the video camera. This is where something as simple as a smile can have a big impact.
A smile is a universal, almost instinctual human greeting. It’s disarming and declares your intentions.
So, if you want to speak to the camera like it’s a person, if you want audiences to feel that connection, open with a natural smile before you start talking.
Your smile shouldn’t be anything exaggerated or forced. A modest smile will easily set a natural, conversational tone for your videos.
Keep it conversational
Speaking in a conversational tone is the natural frequency in which humans communicate with each other. Most of our communication is two-way. So, how can you be conversational when talking to a camera and there’s no one to interact with you?
Live video makes it possible to have a two-way conversation with viewers in real-time. For most of us, though, recorded video will make up the majority of videos we do. How then can we replicate that conversational vibe in recorded videos?
Well, our earlier recommendations—think of the camera as a person, make eye contact, tap into your passion, smile—will help you appear more conversational in videos. Let’s take it a step further.
You can use rhetorical questions when talking to the camera. Although a rhetorical question isn’t meant to be answered, it helps build and sustain the illusion of a two-way conversation.
You also want to pay close attention to your choice of words. Don’t use overly complicated language or terminologies to convey business, financial or technical information. The simpler your words, the more conversational you will sound.
Sharpening your conversational tone on camera will go a long way towards helping you come across as natural.
Let viewers in
An important aspect of speaking naturally on camera is rooted in authenticity and relatability. This is where connection is built.
When you open a window into your world with personal stories—mistakes you’ve made or challenges you’ve overcome to be successful—that will instantly click with viewers. They will be able to see that you, like them, aren’t immune to making mistakes or having to face setbacks.
So, a key ingredient to learning how to speak naturally on camera lies in being open, vulnerable and willing to share your experiences with audiences.
Master the art of looking, acting and speaking naturally on camera and you will win over today's guarded and sceptical audiences.
Talking to a Camera: A Must-Learn Skill
With ever more people leveraging video to communicate for business, you’ve got to make your best effort to stand out and connect with viewers.
Don’t give in to the belief that speaking naturally on camera is somehow encoded in the DNA of a special few. That’s just not the case.
You can learn how to speak naturally on camera. This isn’t some abstract notion. It’s made up of very specific principles, behaviours and techniques. That’s great because once you learn these fundamentals of talking to a camera, you will eventually achieve that natural look and sound in your videos with practice.
With the growing prominence of video across the business world, speaking naturally on camera is a modern-day skill that’s worth learning.