How to survive watching yourself on video

Do you hate the idea of watching yourself on video? Most people do. But on our courses it’s one of our most powerful tools for helping people to reduce their fear of public speaking. Watching yourself give a presentation can give you a tremendous confidence boost.

That’s because the way that you come across is often better than the way you imagine you come across. That’s because you can feel your nervousness, but the audience can only see it or hear it. Mike Bogle from the TechTicker blog writes:

In listening to the recording I was actually amazed how relaxed I sounded relative to the whirlwind of anxiety that was actually going on inside my head.

So your audience is not nearly as aware of your nervousness as you are.

There’s only one way to prove this to yourself and that’s by watching yourself present on video. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to watch yourself. So here are some tips to not only survive watching your video but to give yourself a boost of confidence:

1. Watch with an honest and compassionate friend

Choose a friend who was at the live presentation when you were videoed. This is because there are some things which stand out in a video which the audience wouldn’t have noticed during the live presentation. Your friend can guide you as to what was noticeable during your live presentation. Otherwise there’s a risk that you may get fixated on something you think you did wrong – but which the live audience didn’t notice.

2. Be aware that it can be a little weird

“Aargh! I look like my mother”

Most people find watching themselves on video to be a little weird. Watching yourself on video is very different to seeing your reflection in the mirror- you see different angles of your face, you see yourself moving. And you may sudddenly realise you look just like your mother, or your brother or whatever!

“I hate my voice!”

Your voice also sounds different. You probably already know this from hearing yourself on your answerphone. The explanation for this is that when you hear yourself normally (ie: not recorded) you’re hearing yourself through your skull bones and your chest cavity. Therefore your voice sounds deeper and more resonant to you. The way you hear yourself on the video is the way that other people normally hear you (sorry ;-)).

3. Get over it!

Give yourself a few moments to notice these weird things – and then realize that these things are only of any interest to you. Your audience doesn’t care whether you look like your mother, and they’re used to hearing your voice. Your friend will corroborate this – ask them.

4. Don’t get concerned that you’re waving your hands about

On video your gestures look bigger than they do in real life. That’s because of the frame provided by the video. That amplifies your body language. It’s most likely that your gestures were great during the live presentation. Gestures add energy and show enthusiasm. Ask your friend how your gestures came across in the live presentation.

5. Don’t get hung up on little things

You may notice things (scratching your nose, saying the odd um and ah) that were not that noticeable in the live presentation. Again, when you notice these things, pause the video, and ask your friend whether it was distracting in the live presentation.

6. Pretend it isn’t you

Now, I want you to have an out-of-body experience. Imagine the person you’re seeing on the video is not you. Imagine it’s a colleague. And answer these questions:

7. How nervous do they look?

If you had no knowledge of this person would you think they were nervous? Now you may know that your voice felt shaky –  but don’t listen for it.  If you were an ordinary member of the audience would you feel at ease with this person as a presenter? If you’re not sure – ask your friend.

8. What are they doing well?

Your instinct is going to be look for all the things you could improve. You’ll notice these things anyway. So discipline yourself to look for what this presenter is doing well (you’re still pretending you’re watching someone else). If you’re having difficulty finding positive things ask your friend and then take the time to really notice them.

If you watch your video with these tips in mind, you’ll see that you don’t look as nervous as you feel. Enjoy the confidence boost.

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6 Comments

  1. Will you kindly stop doing this?!?! Much more sensible and free advice and I’ll be out of a job! :)

    Seriously – another good point and it’s hard to argue with a word of it. One trick that I learned from a famous (in the UK) Impressionist called Rory Bremner, is to play video over on fast-forward (sound off); that way you can spot any bad, repeated habits you have, too.

    I’d say it’s often not worth worrying about them but if you want to spot ‘em, that’s the best way to do it.

  2. Olivia,

    Great advice. With the arrival of small & cheap video cameras there is no longer any excuse for you to not walk away from your next presentation without a video record of it (I like the Flipvideo Mino myself).

    I’ve found that once you have a collection of several videos of yourself you are well positioned to look for things that you do over and over that can distract from your message.

    Of course, watching yourself on video is a uniquely painful thing to do…!

    – Dr. Jim Anderson
    The Accidental Communicator Blog
    “Learn How To intimately connect with your audience in order to make an lasting impact in their lives.”

  3. I always feel a little silly watching myself on video but I have noticed something…I’ve improved significantly since my first ever speaking engagement (this of course is a great thing!). But yeah, I do often feel queazy at first. I get over it about 2-3 minutes into the video.

    When it comes to watching it with a friend, I let them watch the video first. Then I ask for their feedback. They joke with me and all but then tell me that they’ve liked it so far. Only recommendations have been to speak louder.

    What I need to do is gather some of the recorded sessions and place them on my website as a reference ya know? But alas the “press kit” if you wanna call it that has been slow to come together. I’ve been fortunate enough to not have really required it up to this point but I should put it together nevertheless…

  4. This is great advice. But, I’ve not gotten used to seeing my self on video or hearing myself
    on audio. But, I shall heed the sage points made here.

  5. If you present the same material frequently, be surre to video tape it at least every second or third time. Note how you felt about your performance immediately afterwards.

    Now compare it with your best performance ever. Compare them overall and decide which is better. Look for the parts you thought you did especially well and jot those down. Next time try to put all those good parts together. (And if you can edit video, try stringing the good parts together for review)

    Then try to figure out why one is better than another. Is it you? Is it the audience? Is it the time of day? Did you just get off an airplane or a long drive to get to the venue? Why are you better one time and not another? Look for negative influences and get rid of them. Look for positive influences and put them into the equation. You can improve and video is a great tool to help you do it.

  6. Hi! Thanks for the post and your other entries. I enjoyed reading about them and would try to put them in practice.

    In your article you mentioned that one would, in general feel better after watching the video as it’s actually not as bad as what we think. Perhaps, you can consider covering the other side too, what if it’s worse than what I think it is, after watching the videos, as I experienced that.

    I’m actually a newbie in public speaking and have just started my Toastmasters journey. I had my past 4 speeches recorded and finally have the courage to watch it (it took me months to actually summon the courage to watch myself speak). It was a disaster. Post watching, I’m not sure if it was actually a good idea to have it recorded and to watch the videos – I totally didn’t like what I’ve saw and somewhat discouraged with what I saw. Although I’ve received some positive feedback in the past, mostly about speech contents and speech crafting, watching the videos made me think if that’s actually the case as I don’t see what the evaluators ‘see’ in the speeches. Probably one good thing that came out from the video watching is that I finally get to see how monotonous I am after receiving the same feedback for many times.

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