The common camera tip is to record yourself. This isn’t that tip. That tip is found on most blogs, books, seminars, etc. We are also often forced into recording ourselves in classes and workshops. That kind of recording has its place, but to be honest the tip is nearly useless. Why? because most of us simply HATE to watch and hear ourselves and, therefore, never watch the recording. I, personally, find it to be a form of torture. I think I have a better idea, flip it!
The flipped camera
You’ll still break out your favorite recording device, but flipped. You record the audience, not yourself! Sounds much more enjoyable, doesn’t it. Even better. I’m going to suggest you mute it while watching!
If those suggestions fill you with relief, then this method is likely perfect you. The flipped camera is particularly effective for people who have a fear of public speaking.
- Record the audience.
- After your talk, as soon after as possible, write down (literally write it; it is important)
- How many people were in the audience? Do not look around, from memory please.
- Details of a few audience members.
- Your feelings during the talk.
- Watch the video, with the sound off. Since you wrote it down, wait a day or two before reviewing the video. This will help give you objectivity. While you watch:
- Pay attention to how the audience reacts.
- Does what you see in the video match what you experienced during your talk?
- If there were moments in your talk that you thought particular people were thinking of you negatively, pay attention to them.
- Reflect on the audience details you wrote down. Were the details only about their thoughts and feelings? Were details right?
If your review matches what you wrote down and your experience during the presentation, congratulations. You’re ready to watch it with the sound on. If that goes well, you’re ready to graduate to the standard camera tip; turn the camera onto yourself.
Chances are there were differences. Those differences are part of the key for you reducing your stress and feeling more at ease speaking in front of an audience.
Why flip the camera?
What you saw during your talk and what you see on the video are likely quite different. While you were speaking, you probably experience the audience as being unfriendly, unhappy, bored, critical, rude, or some other negative keyword. When you review the video, most likely what you saw was a normal audience. Why?
Basically there are a couple of different things happening. They are an integral part of what Psychologist/Psychiatrists do to help those with a clinical level of anxiety.
- We tend to focus too highly on ourselves, particularly our emotional and physiological state. This creates even more anxiety, to which our bodies respond physiologically (heart rate, sweating, etc). A downward spiral happens.
- The second component is we interpret the world through the lenses of our feelings. Because we are feeling anxious and insecure, we interpret any signals from the audience in the that light, i.e. negatively. For instance, we think that person is laughing at me (they were actually laughing at something on their mobile phone, but you didn’t see that) or that person was so bored they fell asleep (of course you can’t have known that they partied a bit to hard last night and are still jet lagged).
One of the ways Psychologists use to help us counteract this is to concentrate on things external to ourselves. Instead of focusing on something away from the audience (bad public speaking), focus instead on details of people. Not details related to how you think they are accessing you, but other random details. Clothes, hair style. If you can’t manage that, maybe even shoes.
So, why the camera? Three things:
- Although your fear may have been visible during and even impacted your presentation, you’ll see evidence that the audience was completely normal. You may need to spend some time during another standard presentation looking at the audience to confirm this. The rare exceptional speaker can entrance and engage the audience; us mortals usually start out just wanting to speak competently, not work as motivational speakers.
- You’ll see evidence, written in front of you by your own hand, of how your emotional state is filtering the world in a highly negative way. Understanding this, you can start to counteract that tendency.
- You’ll see evidence of how you’ve been focused on things that aren’t helping you and how you can instead focus on other aspects of the audience members, while maintaining perceived eye contact (check this post for more about this).
A video you will actually watch
By flipping the camera, we change the focus from our internal feelings to the very thing that causes our fear, the audience. We don’t have a fear of talking, but of how the audience perceives us. Instead of reinforcing the idea of being overly critical of ourselves and reliving those negative feelings by watching video of ourselves, for the first time we put the focus on seeing the audience without the filters our anxiety creates.
So, bring your camera on stage. Flip it around. For the first time ever, actually watch that recording of your presentation. You’ll see how you your perception is feeding your anxiety, how you can avoid that cycle, and you’ll start making great strides in overcoming your fear!