What do you do when you get nervous? Most people get quiet. When you’re not comfortable, you second-guess everything you say. If you’ve ever been to a party where you don’t know anyone, landed an interview you desperately wanted or have been on a blind date, you know what this feels like. Your personality all but disappears until you feel more comfortable.
For most of us, being on camera brings up this feeling but on steroids. Even the most experienced performers get at least a little nervous when they appear in front of a camera. It’s only natural. It’s just like a job interview. You want to put your best face forward right away because you don’t have the luxury of time to get comfortable. When you’re at a party or on a first date, you can at least warm up to the situation, and spending time by yourself isn’t going to reflect poorly on you.
In front of a camera, on the other hand, you need to expedite that process. Otherwise, your nervousness will take over and that will be all anyone focuses on. I’ve seen the most social, most extroverted people come across as completely flat when they get in front of a camera because nerves have sucked their personality dry. Just like in a job interview, energy and connection are what the camera craves. People pay my agency thousands of dollars for media training in order to avoid this very problem.
Well, today I feel like giving away free value. Here are a few of the best tips I give my camera-facing clients.
Prepare your key talking points.
When we get nervous, we speak in generalities because we don’t want to mess up the details — or because we can’t even remember them. This happens to the most informed experts on a subject. When adrenaline is rushing through your body, your brain cells sometimes don’t function correctly. The problem with this is that no one remembers general, vague advice. For example, I will never remember a finance expert advising me to “be careful of too much debt” around the holidays. Really? What would you think as a viewer? I can almost hear the channel changing.
I’ve coached my finance clients to give more tangible, unique advice, like: “seek the lowest interest rate card you can,” “set a daily shopping maximum per person before you buy your gifts” or “seek out these recommended credit cards that offer mileage or rewards.” These tweaks make forgettable advice into truly beneficial advice filled with great details.
Your point will land more effectively if you have details to back it up. And you can’t bank on being able to conjure up those details in the moment. Do yourself a favor and get your facts and figures straight before the interview — you’ll thank yourself later.
Research your interviewer.
The entire point of interviews is to form a connection, but you only have a limited amount of time. Use it. We live in the age of the internet. Find something you can connect with your interviewer on and bring it up. You’ll automatically have something to talk about, and this will also help boost your confidence in the moment.
Anytime someone offers water to you, accept it. If you’re able to, bring your own water bottle. We get dehydrated when we get nervous, and then we lose our breath and the words disappear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone lose their articulation to dry mouth. Your job is to focus on the message you want to get across; the last thing you want to be worried about is how thirsty you are.
I can’t oversell the importance of breathing. It’s been proven that breathing right can physically lower your heart rate, making you instantly calmer. There are two techniques I teach our clients for breathing.
One is a very deep cleansing breath. Take three deep, slow breaths, letting all the air out. These will calm you down when you’re feeling high anxiety. The trick here, though, is switching to a performance breath right before you’re about to speak. Take short, shallow breaths. This gets your blood pumping and instills confidence. Combine both of these techniques and you’ll be physically and psychologically ready to perform.
Get your game face on.
Tried all of the above and are still feeling nervous? Fake it ’til you make it. If you portray confidence, you’ll start to believe it yourself. If the interviewer says something that bothers you, don’t let it affect your expression. Avoid arguing with your interviewer and, to the best of your ability, avoid controversial topics. (Hint: You can cut through any tension with a joke.)
Here’s a secret: Nerves are ultimately a good thing. If you’re not nervous, it probably means you don’t care. So embrace your nerves. Acknowledge them next time you have a big interview coming up. But remember, you don’t have to be a victim to your nerves. Learn how to get ahead of them and you will conquer all of your endeavors, both on and off camera.