It’s a Mistake to “Be Yourself” in Your Online Videos

I’m going to share one of my pet peeves. Selling yourself (or your business) by filming yourself giving a video presentation has become increasingly popular, and many “online marketing experts” are jumping on the bandwagon – great! Here’s the thing – they follow each other’s recommendations like sheep, and suggest that when fronting your own videos you should, “Be authentic. Just be yourself”. Wrong!

Yes, you need to be authentic, but you must learn how to master your emotions, connect with the camera, create a positive viewer experience, choose your best camera angles and framing to list a few.

I’m sure they mean well, but I shake my head in disbelief when I read filming advice from people who obviously have never set foot on a film set, let alone worked or trained in the industry nor have they been a paid professional spokesperson, presenter, actor or model hired to front big-budget TV advertising campaigns. Yikes folks!

You are a Continuous Transmitter

Your face (and body language) are like a continuous transmitter. You reveal your feelings to your viewers as they change from moment to moment at the rate of several thousand signals per second. Your audience picks up on your feelings, and Harvard research suggests that “how” you deliver your message is actually more important than the message itself.

Mirror neurons (special brain cells that were only discovered in the nineties) make us automatically empathize with the people we observe. For example, when someone smiles at you on the street, you can’t help yourself – your mirror neurons make you automatically smile back. When you see fear on someone’s face, you feel that fear yourself. When you see someone who looks angry, you instantly become more aggressive. You “mirror” what you see.

If You Feel Something – Your Audience Feels it Too!

Humans evolved this special ability over countless generations to help us determine friend from foe, and display the correct emotion to match the social situation. We don’t watch a person’s face and think about their intentions – our subconscious brains automatically tune into their feelings! Isn’t that amazing? People with autism have dysfunctional mirror neurons and lack this ability to understand how other people are feeling (remember Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man?).

Can you see where I am going with this when it comes to your video presentations? Whatever emotion you are feeling – thanks to mirror neurons, your audience will automatically be feeling it too! If you feel nervous and tense about appearing on camera, or your eye-contact with the lens is slightly off your audience will be nervous and tense watching you. If you concentrate so intensely that you stare at the camera with bulging bug eyes (and I see this often), it’ll make you appear emotionally disengaged onscreen. Plus it’s creepy, we don’t do this in real life!

Also, you cannot control how the viewer is going to watch your video. They can rewind, pause, zoom-in, go full-screen, or even study your face closely on a large screen if they want. The emotions that you project on screen will determine the extent to which people will trust you.

Manage 1st Impressions – A Study by Harvard Health & Sciences

Influence and persuasion expert Olivia Cabane, states that: “You only get one chance to create a good first impression. Within a few seconds, with just a glance, people have judged your social and economic level, your level of education, and even your level of success. Within minutes, they’ve also decided your level of intelligence, trustworthiness, competence, friendliness, and confidence.”

And that’s based on meeting you in the flesh. Imagine how that translates to your online videos, where viewers can replay and pause your presentation!

It’s not about “being yourself” – it’s about being your “best self”

Be Your “Best Self”

To give compelling online video presentations, here are a couple of tips:

  • Demonstrate empathy. Get emotionally involved in your subject matter. “Feel” your message so your facial expressions match your content
  • People can detect real vs. fake smiles. Be genuinely happy about what you are presenting. If you are not enthusiastic, your audience certainly won’t be!
  • Choose the right camera angle to influence the way your viewers perceive you
  • Know your best photogenic angle
  • Dress the part make sure your wardrobe and styling is aligned with your personal/business brand
  • Make sure your make-up look is current and personal grooming is tip-top (HD camera will show up e-v-e-r-y-thing)
  • Check your background setting
  • Avoid these body language mistakes in front of the camera
  • Learn how to create a positive viewer experience and avoid the dinosaur effect

If you are doing your own business videos, sales presentations, video blogging, video interviews, or sharing your thought leadership or talent online, remember – the audience comes first. It’s not about “being yourself” – it’s about being your “best self”.

Sweat the Small Stuff!

Do sweat the small stuff if you are fronting your own online videos – its your face out there representing your personal/business brand. Which is why making a great first impression is crucial (when it comes to a google search). Put in the effort – with the aim to take your audience on a fun, emotional ride!

Helping you look good online with Video!


Do you have questions about presenting on video or creating your video presentations? Post them in the comments below. I’d love to help you where I can.

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