In a nutshell

  • Acting skills – such as clear communication and correct body language – will vastly improve the overall quality of any video, regardless of content or genre
  • Clear communication for video is a skill, not a talent. Anyone can improve their on-screen presence with the right acting skills – no classes required
  • Practicing your communication, body language and blocking in front of your own camera will help you build better foundations for great videos

We’ve all seen some impressive videos and some really terrible ones. Sometimes, the problem is obvious – like shaky filming or bad lighting. Other times the issue is more subtle. If you feel like you’ve developed skills for the technical aspects, but your videos aren’t quite hitting, it might be about how you communicate on camera. If your voice doesn’t carry to the mic or your body language isn’t great, it will have a negative impact on the quality of your content. Regardless of the genre or platform your content is made for, it’s important to work on your acting skills just as you do with film techniques. With a few acting tips and some solid practice, you can create a stronger on-screen presence.

Maybe they’re born with it?

It’s a common misconception that some people are simply “good communicators” while others aren’t. Most people believe that some are just born photogenic and the rest of us a doomed to have bad photos forever. The real truth is that the more you practice anything, the better at it you’ll become. Some people were simply encouraged to use communication skills earlier and more frequently than others. For example, if your parents were actively social or held jobs with a lot of public attention, you may have been expected to speak to adults often. If you were raised in a large family or a family that places a lot of value on education, you would likely develop communication skills early. 

However, if these things don’t describe your childhood — or you just struggle with these things anyway — and you want to be an online video creator, you’re not lost. Are there costly classes and coaching sessions to help you hone these skills? Of course. Is that necessary? Nope. Instead, set up your camera and record yourself running through a script or speaking on a particular subject. Make several recordings with familiar and unfamiliar content. Then, watch the recordings to see it from an audience perspective. Take notes. Acknowledge your strengths and areas that need work. Keep these recordings to help map your progress over time. Focus on these points: ADVERTISEMENT

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Speaking clearly

Tip: You don’t have to overdo it on the acting, but make sure you speak clearly for the camera.

It may feel silly to overpronounce your words but spend some time doing this. Run through a few sentences normally and then run through the same sentences with strong enunciation. We don’t usually speak to people in real life this way, but it makes a big difference in video. 

Projecting your voice isn’t about volume or shouting. This is about how far your speaking voice reaches. Visualize the sound waves of your voice and imagine how far it reaches before it fades. Now, speak again and try to reach further. The effort should come from deeper in your lungs, so practicing breathing techniques can be helpful.

Slowing down

There are a few reasons why adding a little air between your words and sentences will be important. First, if the audience can’t understand you because your words run together, they’ll quickly lose interest. Second, automatic captioning is great for accessibility, but if you talk too fast, it may translate incorrectly. Third, magic happens in the editing phase. When you speak slowly and clearly in your recordings, it’s easier to find breaks for cuts and edits. 

Acting naturally

Tip: Always act as natural on camera as possible because people love authenticity.

While it seems like many online personalities just flick on some perfect lights and start recording, that’s rarely true. Pre-production matters — and that includes scripting. The acting secret, though, is to actually know your content. The more you understand the subject, the more casually knowledgable you’ll seem to your viewers. 

Body language

One of the easiest ways to improve your on-screen presence is by making adjustments to your body language. Correct your posture as much as possible without being too stiff. Pull your shoulders back a bit and don’t slouch. Keep your chin up. Make eye contact with the camera or your co-stars as needed. Plan your hand motions to prevent awkward fidgeting. If you’ll be walking during the filming, be aware of your gait so that you aren’t moving too slowly or too quickly. Also, don’t spend too much time turned away from the camera. 

Knowing your mark

Beyond how you stand, it’s important to know where you stand. Literally. Where should your body be so that the right amount of you is in the frame? Fundamentals like the Rule of Thirds are helpful here. Once you know where the camera will be, practice getting yourself into the correct area of the field, especially if you’ll have some moments of moving around. Stick a piece of discreet tape on the floor for your perfect spot in the frame. Be sure that you understand where your mark is so that you don’t fumble while looking for it.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that verbal and non-verbal communication are skills, not talents we’re born with. Whether you’re making polished evergreen content or you’re ready to go live, anyone can improve their on-screen presence by employing common acting tips. Speak clearly, act naturally and keep your body in the frame. Practicing these tips and analyzing your results can dramatically improve the quality of your videos and make them more watchable. When your videos are watchable, viewers are more likely to stay tuned longer.