Thursday, July 9, 2015

.@carolinegoyder guest post: Feel the fear and film your talk, anyway.

(Editor's note: I worked with fellow speaker coach Caroline Goyder on her TEDxBrixton talk last year, something she wrote about here in our Talk About the Talk series--a post that is now in the top 10 most-read posts of all time on this blog! Since that post, the YouTube video of Goyder's TEDx talk has flown past 159,000 views. When we were talking about how that feels, I asked her to write about it for this blog. 

You can learn more about preparing for the video recording in Ask not what your TED video can do for you, which shares the advice I share with the TEDMED and TEDx speakers I coach. Goyder is the author of Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority. Here, she writes about why it’s normal to hate watching yourself on video – and how to overcome it for a polished career boosting performance.)

“This can't happen…YouTube…they're putting this thing on YouTube. And we're going to be talking about 600, 700 people."
"Are you really going to try to break in and steal the video before they put it on YouTube?"

And I said, "I'm just thinking about it a little bit."

She said, "You're like the worst vulnerability role model ever." Then I looked at her and I said "If 500 turns into 1,000 or 2,000, my life is over." I had no contingency plan for four million.
Brene Brown reveals here in her 2012 TED talk, how paralysed by fear and vulnerability she was after her 2010 Houston TEDx on that very topic.

If you’ve ever panicked at the thought of being filmed, or winced at the footage, this extract reassures you that even great speakers (sociologist Brown’s talk has since been watched nearly 20 million times) feel the deeply normal human fear of being recorded on film. And it teases us with the awareness that as Brown’s meteoric rise as a speaker shows - when you face the fear to shine on camera, you really stand out.  

I know how daunting it can feel to put yourself out there on camera. After all it’s there for posterity. When I was invited to speak at TEDx I felt the cold hands of dread wrap themselves around my heart. They stayed there for three months as I worried about what could go wrong. The vulnerability of being on YouTube. The fear of messing up publicly, and being judged. The dread of watching it back.

So, how do you overcome the fear to create something you can be proud of? I had an epiphany. Over many years as a voice coach working with news anchors and reporters for global news organization, I’d learned that professional polish on air is a set of steps rather than magic. I’d seen in rehearsal that small things make a BIG difference. Here are the three lessons I learned from the professionals on air and applied at TEDx;
  1. Don’t Just Write it, Speak It: The best news anchor I ever worked with had a great rule. Always say your content at least two or three times before you go on air. She’d do it in the studio as the news cycle, gave her a short window of time to get ready. The rest of us have more time to play with, but the principle remains the same. Don’t just write your ideas, speak them. You want to be able to show up conversational and script free, with your thoughts organized and ordered so you can be “natural” on air. In other words you need prepared spontaneity. Get the words in your mouth, and out of your brain. Spend time getting the ideas so sharp and clear and you, that when you speak them it sounds like you are chatting over dinner about a subject you are passionate about. When you step into the spotlight you will be glad of this practice. When stress hits your mind goes blank – it’s crucial to have got the words in the muscle, in the body before the camera rolls. Because no matter what goes wrong, your muscle memory will kick in and you will cope. I was never more glad of this crucial lesson than in in the first few scary minutes of on the TEDx stage. When the microphone played up, and I had an unexpected wind tunnel effect, I was able to keep calm, carry on, and get the right kind of laugh. The practice I’d done religiously saved me that day when panic hit. (Check out this smooth moment in the video below or here.)
  2. Polish Professionally: News anchors also taught me a powerful lesson about polish. This is not my natural forte. I am not what you would call polished in life. Given the option of reading a book or doing my hair, I will always opt for the former. But when I know a camera will be recording me for posterity I have learned to go the extra mile. I learned it from the professional discipline of news anchors who always have professional hair, make up and styling because it makes ALL the difference on air. The camera takes no sartorial prisoners. What seems natural and relaxed in real life quickly looks tired and unprofessional on video. If you are being filmed, you will not regret having your hair styled, make up done properly, and given advice on clothes that work on camera. But be careful – don’t go too far. You want to feel relaxed and at ease – not unable to move. Try out the look a few times in a “dress-rehearsal”, so on the day it feels like you – but better. Why? I’d go as far as to say that getting the polish right can make the biggest difference of all. If you know are ready on the day you feel confident and start strong. And the benefits endure – because when you watch it back you wince less and watch more. You are able to see what worked, what didn’t and crucially – what you can improve.
  3. Be Conversational: The big mistake on camera is to imagine the nameless thousands on YouTube watching, judging you. It cripples you, and makes you overly formal and stilted. The professionals know that your audience watches and absorbs independently, sitting at a laptop, on a phone. If you talk to them one to one it feels to them as if they are listening to an old friend. That’s why news anchors will tell you that a great way to sparkle on camera is to imagine that you are talking to an old friend (or if you are being filmed while talking to a large audience – old friends). To find this conversational warmth under pressure it can help (as Denise reminded me when I was nervously preparing for TEDx) to imagine the feeling of having a lovely cognac in hand - that melting sense you get that all’s right with the world. Take that on set or on stage and the camera will love you. Suddenly you relax – your eyes twinkle, your face softens, your voice warms up. As an audience we warm to you and trust you.
If you’re curious as to whether these tips can help you - test them.  Start with a camera phone as you can delete what you hate and keep what you like. Keep at it. As my TEDx hits 159,000 views and rising, I am increasingly in awe of its power to get a message you believe in, and which will help others out there to a far wider audience than you can ever reach alone.  So…feel the fear…and film it anyway…

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