Not everyone is born to love the camera! Not the normal type camera, I mean the smartphone or video camera. I know I wasn’t!
I get anxious about public speaking. When I hear that it was being filmed, my fear goes right through the roof.
Butterflies, jitters, dry mouth, even mild nausea – all symptoms of the fact that I was just plain uncomfortable in front of the camera. I have learned, over time, that this is common. In fact, I am quite normal!
So why is this so for so many people?
The science behind stage fright
Your body reacts when it perceives it’s in danger. Of course you aren’t in any real danger — at least we certainly hope not — but when you’re staring into a camera lens, not knowing who will be watching your video (or what they’ll think of you), the vulnerable exposure you’re feeling is enough to trigger a fight or flight response.
The anxiety felt in front of a camera is one of the most common reasons people don’t want to use video in their business: they’re simply too afraid.
As social creatures, we’re hardwired to worry about our reputation and how others perceive us. The decision our brain makes to determine whether or not a situation is stressful is made by sensory input and processing, and for most people the danger of blowing their lines is enough to trigger a fight or flight.
Let’s hear it for biology! Your hypothalamus triggers your pituitary gland to secrete the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
The ACTH is sent to your adrenal medulla, which then sends adrenaline to your blood. That’s when the party starts. This adrenaline causes a cascade of reactions that can take many forms:
- Your neck and back tense up and you slouch.
- Your muscles prepare for attack and your legs and hands shake.
- Your blood pressure jumps.
- Your digestion shuts off to maximize delivery of nutrients to muscles and vital organs, causing butterflies.
- Your pupils dilate, so it’s difficult to read anything up close.
All of these reactions may seem familiar to you if you’ve ever experienced stage fright, so rest assured that they’re perfectly normal responses to stressful situations.
According to a study published in Science, at moments of peak pressure we find it hard to recall facts and focus on what we’re doing. In this experiment, researchers tested the responses of 80 adults who were shown extremely violent fight scenes and monitored their physical and hormonal stress responses. They found that when viewing the violent scenes, emotional distress was evident and the participants’ levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, spiked. The parts of the brain associated with fight or flight were the most active, while parts of the prefrontal cortex involved in thought and reasoning began to shut down.
What does this mean for performing in front of the camera? When you feel anxiety, regardless of whether or not there’s potential for you to be physically harmed, your cortisol spikes, in turn sharpening your senses and memories of stressful experiences. At the same time, your higher-level cognitive processes shut down, and your capacity for slow deliberation deteriorates.
So, when you’re standing in front of a camera and start to feel anxious or get stage fright, you’re not just forgetting the words — you can’t even think of the words. But this doesn’t mean you’re hardwired to freeze up in front of a camera forever. In fact, just as your brain can be tricked into tensing up during stressful situations, you can also trick your brain into feeling more confident.
So how do your overcome your stage fright?
Follow these 5 simple steps and you will be a pro in no time!
1. Prepare for mistakes
First and foremost, prepare for mistakes. Using mental anchoring might also be helpful.
2. Takes deep breaths
A specific breathing technique called belly breathing can help you focus and de-stress your body. Importantly, it can help your voice come down several octaves, if you’ve already tensed up.
3. Focus your gaze
Keeping a steady gaze will allow you to project confidence on screen, whether you’re feeling it or not.
4. Keep It simple
Write notes or cue cards to jog your memory.
5. Dress for on-camera success
Wear a favourite outfit to help you feel more confident.
Be yourself and remember to smile!
True Focus Media