Being confident and looking natural on camera isn’t something that comes easily for many of us. In fact, more often than not, people avoid taking their teaching online or offering a video series because they lack confidence in their ability to teach with a camera on them. I remember when I first started my online business and I began teaching to a camera, I felt very strange and out of place without people taking the class. I would stop frequently and restart, convinced that everything I said sounded strange and unnatural. It was hard for me to find a rhythm in my teaching and be able to connect in the way I did with a live class. Then after I finally made my way through an entire recording I would have to sit down and relive my trauma by editing the class and being hypercritical of everything that I did. The honest truth was that I just wasn’t comfortable teaching in front of a camera like I was teaching in a room filled with people.
Many of us have found ourselves in this exact same situation, except it isn’t by choice. COVID-19 protocols and regulations have brought thousands of teachers online and students unable to leave their home. Which causes us yoga teachers to do one of two things. Either stop our teaching until in person spaces open again, or adapt and learn how to become comfortable and engaging in front of the camera.
Even for the most camera shy teachers, there is a way to do it and I am going to share with you my top 5 tips for building confidence in front of the camera that even an introvert like me used to be comfortable in front of the camera.
Nothing shatters confidence while filming like losing track of where you were in your class, or taking to make up your content on the spot. Where you may have been able to wing it a bit more during your studio classes (although I don’t recommend doing it there either) the camera is not as forgiving. You no longer have the energy of your students, or their engagement to fill time and find your flow, instead it’s just you and the camera and awkward pauses and pregnant pauses become very obvious very quickly. To avoid this, plan out your sequencing, theme, and even cues that you want to make sure you hit during your class. Write this out on a piece of paper that you can keep just off screen, or write it on a small white board that is propped up just behind the camera so you can read it. This will help to keep you organized and engaged with the class instead of overthinking your content and getting stuck on your words.
If you find at first the idea of recording to an empty room with just a camera is too daunting and unnatural, then ask someone to be in the room taking the class while you record, or even live stream the class while you’re filming so you have someone there with you. This will help you to ease into filming, while also creating the effect of a live class. I know many YouTubers and online teachers that use this trick to keep their classes feeling fresh and organic and minimize pauses and restarts. Doing this will force you to keep going even if you make a mistake or you feel like you didn’t quite get it right. This is a wonderful idea for those that tend to overthink their online teaching and spend hours rerecording the smallest part of their class until it’s perfect. The class will never be perfect, and that’s ok! Just do your best and keep going.
We are our own worst critics. That’s a fact. When I first began filming my classes I would overthink everything and worry about how I sounded, or worry about the way I looked on camera. I would record, watch, delete and try again all until it was just right and I often still wasn’t happy with the class. I was convinced my students would be critical of the audio quality, or be thinking about what I looked like. But you know what? That never happened. Not once. My students were there for the class, and they were there for my teaching, not for a flawless performance of a yoga class or a killer outfit. Overtime I began to let go of the small things, and just do my best. Knowing that I would always be more critical of myself than others would be helped to release the worry and judgement that I was placing on myself with each recording.
This one might feel a little funny at first, but it will help your on screen presence. It is harder for the camera to pick up your voice and actions than if someone was in your class live so when you are teaching online, always annunciate and speak up a bit more than you would in a live class, and make your motions slightly bigger and more animated than normal. I’m not talking about doing a full blown dramatic reading and performance of the class, but turn the volume up just a little bit on your voice and actions will help you come across as more confident and self-assured in front of the camera.
This is probably the biggest piece of advice that I give new teachers. Don’t give up, everytime you teach in front of the camera it will get easier, you will feel more confident, and the content quality will improve. No one expects you to become Mozart the first time you sit down at a piano, so why would they expect your first online yoga class to be a flawless production? Everytime you teach in front of the camera it will get easier, you will feel more natural, and your confidence will come so make sure you’re giving yourself grace as you navigate this new skill and be patient as you evolve overtime. Teaching online can feel scary and vulnerable, but it will get better. Stick with it, and try to look at your classes with an objective eye so you can see where you can improve without getting stuck in the wheel of comparison or being hypocritical of yourself. Each class will be better, and before you know it you will be able to flip on that camera and deliver an incredibly wonderful and engaging class and your confidence will be there everytime.