In my experience (spanning 20 years working in front of and behind the camera) “tension” is the number one confidence killer when it comes to appearing on video and delivering a compelling video presentation.
The stored tension in the body can have a spiral effect. It is often linked to feelings of nervousness, which can lead to feeling self-conscious, and if left unaddressed you’ll end up with an on-screen performance that has very little energy or emotion, resulting in a “flat” or “wooden” delivery. Or the complete opposite can occur, an overcooked “inauthentic” delivery to the lens.
“Tension is the number one confidence killer when it comes to delivering a compelling video presentation.”
Professional actors know that the camera magnifies everything they do on-screen, and they often perform tension-release exercises to calm or prime themselves before filming. (Note: From a performance perspective releasing tension can keep one centered and allow for easier access to the emotional scale).
Much like an athlete, their body is their instrument, and they work hard to keep it finely tuned, physically and emotionally. Before they step in front of the camera you will usually find them warming up their eyes, mouth, face, vocals, and body.
So for your own video presentations, I have created a quick list of my favorite go-to “tension busters” that you can use as part of the preparation process, or on a daily basis for general well-being:
Work it off
When you are nervous, your body releases cortisone, the “freeze > flight > fight” stress hormone. If you have the time and space before filming, try to do some vigorous exercise before you arrive on the film set, followed by some stretching or yoga.
Open your eyes and mouth as wide as you can, and stick out your tongue. Relax and repeat 10 times. This yoga exercise called “The Lion” is amazing for releasing tension in the face and jaw. Best to do this exercise in private.
Relax Your Neck and Shoulders
It’s incredible how much stress and muscle tension we hold in the muscles of our neck and upper back. Start with some gentle neck rolls. Lift your chin as high as you can, then tuck your chin down to your chest, look over your right shoulder, look over your left shoulder. Hunch your shoulders up as high as you can then drop them several times. Do shoulder circles in a forward and backward motion and shake out your arms.
Grab Your Ears
Pinch your earlobes between your thumb and index finger, and gently pull down on your earlobes to help relax your neck and jaw.
Pinch Your Eyebrows
Gently pinch your eyebrows between your thumb and index finger. Start at the center, pinch and lift along each brow until you reach the temples. Do this prior to any makeup application.
When we are stressed we tend to breathe more shallowly than normal, and we tend to breathe from our chest. To counter this, take a deep breath through your nose and take in as much air as possible. Try to fill all the way down to your belly (lower ribs) with your breath. Hold the breath for 5 seconds, then release and breathe out slowly through your mouth until all the air is expelled from your body. Repeat 10 times.
Draw a Love Heart on Your Palm
Imagine someone you love (it could be a person or a pet for example), and picture their face on the palm of your hand. Now trace a love heart around their face with your index finger over and over as you think fondly about them.
Don’t take yourself so seriously. Think of a funny situation that always makes you giggle when you remember it. Laughing lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and increases endorphin levels which will boost your mood.
Make sure you have a good script to work off. Learn your content so you know exactly what you need to say, and how you need to say it. The great thing about video presentations is that you are not “in public” until you upload your video. Unless you are being filmed live, you can have practice runs, make mistakes, and film as many takes as you need until you get it right.
If you Aren’t Feeling it, Your Audience Won’t Be Either
Knowing your material is one thing, but you need to have a clear point of view when you deliver your message. Have a clear thought or intention in your mind before you push the record button. Getting clear on your intention will bring the right energy to your face and eyes.
The moment you start thinking about how you are coming across on camera, you tend to disengage from your message and your viewers. By mentally holding a thought and focusing on the intention of your message you won’t have enough mental space to drop into self-conscious thinking. Keep focused on what you want to communicate to the viewer.
Take a Break
If you are flubbing your lines or making lots of mistakes, it’s usually a sign that you are rushing or forcing your delivery, or that your energy level is dropping. Stop filming and take a 5-10 min break. Don’t take longer than this or you’ll start to lose the flow.
Never film if you are tired, in a bad mood, sad, angry or upset; unless of course, those emotions are part of your video presentation. Even then, you must ensure that it is well-scripted and that your expressive features and body are thoroughly warmed up. Pretending that you are okay on camera when you are not, generally won’t translate well on-screen. Your audience will sense that something is up. Only film when you are “on”.
The Sedona Method
Even when you are well prepared, chances are, you are still going to feel nervous. Don’t try to fight it either. As I often tell my clients, “What you resist, persists”. One technique I learned many years ago called “The Sedona Method” can be very helpful (and any faith can practice it). It would take a whole book to explain it fully, but in greatly simplified terms, the technique is as follows:
- Close your eyes. Breathe in deeply and hold it. Focus on how you are feeling inside right now (i.e. fear, anxiety, stress, frustration, anger etc)
- Don’t resist what you are feeling. Instead just allow the feeling to be here. Reassure yourself that it is perfectly OK to be feeling this way and that everything is OK just as it is
- Now, ask yourself, “Can I let this feeling go?”
- Breathe out and imagine the feeling leaving your body through your outward breath
Talk yourself through this process as many times as you need to until the emotion dissipates. Keep repeating the process until you feel calm and centered. A few cycles of this technique will quickly get your energy levels in the right place to deliver a masterful video presentation!
Keep it fun!