Brian McCarthy

Record yourself on camera in order to become a better presenter - but turn the sound off!

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Recording yourself on video is one of the best ways to improve your presentations skills. And yet very few people do it. Why? I think it’s because they don’t like to see themselves on camera. They sound and look different from the image they have of themselves. But to be a good presenter you need to know how other people see you, and the camera will help you do this. And you don’t need any special equipment, the camera on your laptop or phone will do fine. Here are 3 ways that a camera can help you with your presentation.

1. To analyse your body language

Some people think that rehearsing in front of a mirror will help you analyse your body language. This is not true. Most people can’t speak and watch themselves at the same time for any great length. And we don’t move naturally while looking at ourselves in the mirror. The best thing is to record yourself. Make sure that you are standing up while you give the talk. Try and set the scene to resemble as closely as possible the stage for the day of your presentation. Put your PowerPoint on the computer and change slides with a slide-changer, just as you will on the day of your talk. Use your presenter notes (see this blog post). Imagine an audience in front of you and don’t deliver your talk to the camera. When you finish and watch the video for the first time, watch it with the sound off. This will help you focus on how you move around and your facial expressions. Do you look natural? Enthusiastic? Do you show a range of expressions on your face? Do you smile? Do you gesture with your hands? Do you keep still from your waist down? (see this blog post). Even better is to watch it with a friend or your partner. Ask them for their opinion. Then watch it again with the sound on but don’t look at the screen. How is your voice? Do you speak slowly? Do you module your tone? Do you pause? Watching it this way, first with no sound and then without looking at the picture, will help you immensely in finding out about your voice and body language. 

2. To help you remember what you want to say

Another great advantage of recording yourself is that you can use the video to help you remember the sections and transitions in your talk. I don’t recommend memorising word-for-word your talk as this will make you sound unnatural. Instead of opening up your powerpoint and silently running through what you are going to say while on the plane or train, just put on some earphones and watch the video. I find this helps me a lot to prepare in the final days before my talk, particularly if I have to travel to get to the venue. Also, because I am a professional speaker and give a number of different talks every year, when I repeat a talk all I have to do is watch the video before the event. 

3. To get feedback from friends or colleagues living in another country. 

The final way that I use  videos of myself is to get feedback from friends and colleagues that live abroad. My brother is a professor of communications in the U.S. and if I  have to deliver a new talk I will make a video and send it to him. This is more effective than trying to use Skype as he can watch it whenever he wants and as many times as he wants. A great way to share videos privately is to upload them to Youtube and either make them an unlisted video (so only with people the link can see it) or a privately shared video (where only the people you choose can see it).  

So, get over your fear and embarrassment of seeing yourself on camera and record your presentations. It is an essential tool to improve your communications skills.