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Practice Public Speaking With A Webcam

What is it about?

Public speaking can be a very stressful exercise. For most of us, delivering a good presentation or speech isn’t natural at all, and requires a lot of preparation. Just like an actor rehearses a scene, the best way to optimize a presentation, and to ensure its success, is to practice it. Rehearsing a speech will help you memorize it, and work on your voice, gesture and body language.

But how do you recreate an environment where you don’t just speak to yourself? And how do you capture your performance from the audience’s point of view, so you can work on it? A simple and efficient technique is to record yourself with a webcam.

The setup

Today cameras are everywhere: your laptop and your phone most likely have a built-in camera. Both are a good choice to record your public speaking exercises, as you can easily place them in the best spot. If you’re using your smartphone, a tripod can be useful. Concerning quality, make sure that the recording is fluid, as a jerky video will make observing your movements more difficult. A 720p/30fps recording (most modern phones and laptops offer this) should be enough to get a clean and smooth video.

To optimize recording:

  • Place your camera in front of you, far enough so that most of your body is filmed.
  • If you plan to move during your speech, make sure the angle of the camera is wide enough, so you don’t disappear from view.
  • Make sure the room has enough natural and artificial light.
  • On your laptop, don’t let the recording window on the foreground, as you’re not supposed to see your face while speaking. On your phone, use the back camera to avoid seeing yourself and to get a better quality.

You’re all set! Start recording, and deliver your speech.

If you’re training to speak in front of a crowd, don’t constantly stare at the camera, imagine your audience is comfortably seated in front of you, around the webcam. If you can, put objects or images in the background that will simulate people staring at you.

If you’re training for a video conference, look into the camera, just like you’d look at a person in the eye. Staring at the screen would make viewers see you looking downward (because the camera is above the screen) giving them the impression you aren’t comfortable.

The review

It’s time to review your performance. Sit at your desk with a sheet of paper and a pen, and start watching the video from the beginning. Look at your posture, your gesture, your movements, your eye contact with the camera… Pay attention to your voice, the volume, the pitch variation, the speaking rate and the use of pauses. Every time you see or hear something to correct or improve, pause the video and write it down.

Check out the TED Talk YouTube channel for great public speaking performance examples.

Repeat this exercise until you’re satisfied with your performance and until it becomes effortless and natural.

Pro-tip: do a belly breathing session before your speech to fight stress.

Take action

  • Place your camera in front of you, far enough so that most of your body is filmed. Make sure there is enough light in the room.
  • Start recording and deliver your speech or presentation, just like you’d do in front of your audience.
  • Review your video and take notes on everything that needs to be corrected/improved
  • Repeat the exercise until you reach your best performance.

Benefits

  • Exercise public speaking on your own
  • Fine-tune your speeches and presentations
  • Improve your confidence
  • Make public speaking more natural

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