Conquer feeling camera shy and tongue tied

Worrying about how we look on video is an emotional response, not a logical one says Julian Mather.

In a post-COVID-19 remote workplace, it’s become commonplace to use video as substitute for face-to-face communication. But talking in front of a camera doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. It is very instructive to understand some of the mind games and nuts and bolts physics that occurs when you see yourself back on video. It may stop you smothering your potential because you think there is something wrong with you, when there simply isn’t.


Confirmation Bias

Ever bought a new car and suddenly, as you are driving, you start to see the same model of car. Suddenly they seem to be everywhere. In reality, you are looking for confirmation that you aren’t a chump, that you didn’t make the wrong choice of car and buy the lemon that everyone else knew to avoid. Seeing others in these cars confirms your choice was sound and you won’t be labelled a loser.

If you think that you’re awkward on camera, you’ll be looking for evidence of that when you review the footage: you will want to confirm your belief.


The Mirror Effect

Familiarity Principle is better known as the mirror effect. We prefer things we are familiar with. We are attracted to people who are like our existing friends. We search for a radio station and settle on something when we hear a familiar song. Something we should be familiar with is our face. Every morning it is there staring back at us in the mirror. Except the mirror reverses our face, and, our face isn’t symmetrical. Strangely this means that you aren’t all that familiar with your own face as you have always seen a reversal of it. So, when you see yourself on video, you are seeing a different face, an unfamiliar face, and we aren’t comfortable with the unfamiliar.

You are literally the only person in the world that thinks this! No one else has the same biases about you, and no one else sees the mirrored you. You are the only one for whom looking at you on screen is odd. It should comfort you to know that everyone else suffers this same anxiety, except now you understand.

There’s nothing wrong with you.


I don’t sound like that, do I?

When you speak, you hear your voice two ways.

Convectively: the sound waves travel through the air. Think of a fan-forced convective oven. Just as the heat reaches the food through the air, so too do the sound waves that leave your voice box and reach your eardrums.

Conductively: this is when the vibrations from your voice box travel through the bones of your jaw and into the bones of your inner ear. This is a deeper resonating sound. The mix of the two is how you hear, but ONLY you can hear this. It is impossible for anyone else to hear your voice the way you do. Others only hear your convective voice.

When you hear yourself on video it is often a shock. The conductive deeper part is missing. It sounds??… so??… nasally and awful?? Nope. We all sound different on video to how we ‘hear’ ourselves in everyday life.

There’s nothing wrong with you.


I move so awkwardly

I used to be very critical of the way I moved my arms on video. It looked all gangly and very uncool. Say hello to proprioception. This is like your sixth sense, where you feel your body movements, without actually paying any attention to them. Why would you? Like breathing, it is all carried out automatically. When we see our movements objectively on video, they don’t match the recall of our senses.

Think of when you play pin the tail on the donkey. If you are simply blindfolded, without being spun around, you can pin the tail very accurately. You just ‘know’ where your hand should go.

Now get spun around. You now have to ‘think’ and it all seems very odd and wrong. This is what happens when you watch yourself move on video. You are seeing and thinking about it for the first time. You aren’t awkward. It just doesn’t match what’s stored in your brain.

There’s nothing wrong with you.

If you smile and make your viewer feel like you are happy to be talking to them and you are helping them solve a problem, then they will love the videos you make.


Julian Mather is a world-class videographer with clients like ABC TV, BBC and National Geographic. The only camera he now owns is a smartphone. He introduces businesses struggling to use video to simple 21st Century video business building strategies.