How To Engage An Audience When You Are On Camera

Working the camera is a skill that is uncomfortable for many.  It is bad enough having to deliver a presentation in front of an audience, without having a camera placed in your face. 

With the power of social media, many feel it is more and more important to be able to post video online to keep up with market leaders and big corporations who are utilising these platforms with great success. 

So how can you engage with your audience when you are on camera?

Let’s Split this into 2 settings

  • 1 – Just you and the camera.
  • 2 – An audience and a camera

Just you and the Camera

Here is your tips for your typical video vlog post, explainer video done at home with your webcam or other possibly more sophisticated equipment.

This is an uncomfortable situation and working a camera feels completely different to working an audience, so be prepared to feel a little odd to begin with. 

The only audience you have will be the other side of the camera watching it back.  Ensure all your eye contact is into the camera, this is especially true when speaking into a web cam on a PC/Ipad or other device with a screen below.  But the problem with that is, you are naturally inclined to look at what is happening on the screen so spend most of your time looking at that.  It may even be to check what you look like if your screen is showing a live feed of you.  However, for the audience this breaks your connection….. it’s as though you are constantly staring at their chin….. or lower! Rude!! So, eyes up, look them in the eye. 

There’s your biggest piece of advice.  Here are five more tips

·        Imagine your audience

An important point, because speaking in an empty room with just a lens as company is an unusual experience.  There is no feedback or response to feed from, so you will need to imagine your audience.  If you can imagine certain responses, it may help you to behave or speak as if you are responding to that stimulus. 

Watch it back and see when you look natural and where you feel you looked uncomfortable and give it another go.  Use a few takes, doing things slightly differently each time so that you can see what works best and what looks more natural.  This will get you used to the idea, and more comfortable with the process.

·        Gesture appropriate to your camera view.

Headshot – If just your head is in view try not to move your head too much as this will be a distraction to your viewer. 

Importantly though, you will need to make good use of your facial expressions.  Your audience will not have your hand gestures or body language to go by, so your face will need to show how you feel.  Emotion is a very important part of communication, and if your viewer can detect how you feel it will have more of an impact.  When you have a camera in your face a common tendency is to freeze or become more rigid and conscious.  Your aim is to be as natural as possible.

Head and shoulders – With a slightly wider angle where you can see a little more of you, but not quite enough to see your arms at full stretch you need to be conscious of what will be visible to your viewer.  Your gestures will now come into play to help you to engage with the audience.  However, because your camera view is narrow, try to ensure your gestures are small, purposeful and mostly visible.

Long range – This might be with you behind a desk or standing up where all of you is visible. Logically the progression continues.  From this camera angle you have the full scope of using your body language and your gestures in a normal and natural way.  This reasoning continues also to when you have a larger auditorium with a big stage, your gestures need to be deliberate and slightly exaggerated to suit the scale.

·        Utilise your voice

Your voice is a very powerful and motivational tool, when used well.  If you do not use it well people will very quickly stop watching a video they find boring. 

Think of any music you like, it will have changes in pitch, pace and volume throughout the piece of music.  Your voice will need to do likewise in order to engage with your audience. 

You will vary your pitch or tone depending on whether you want to express passion or excitement.  Change again for important and complex ideas or for the linking ideas.  Alter your tone to express happiness, sadness, sympathy, reassurance, aggression or frustration.  Using your voice as a tool for conveying feeling will really help you to connect with your audience the other side of the camera.

·        Converse with your Audience

Just because you have no feedback directly from your viewer does not mean you go into monologue.  Any listener needs to feel included to be engaged. 

Make good use of questions during your video presentation.  Using all sorts of different types of questions are a good way to keep your viewer engaged.  Asking hypothetical questions especially are great for stimulating thought and generating some interest during a presentation. 

Preface a line of reasoning with a question on the topic you are about to talk about, this will raise anticipation for what you’re about to say. 

 Ask questions, lots of questions.  Mentally they’ll feel included and will respond, and generally speaking will find your presentation more enjoyable than if were just a monologue.

·        Involve their imagination and get them to think.

Think of interactive things you can get them to do or think about. 

Some things could be asking them to observe what is in the room around them, imagine scenes, asking them to make note of a specific point or maybe even put your hands up if you’ve done this ……..  Granted they may not actually do it, but their mind will be engaged.

Build into your presentation analogies of things they will be familiar with.  Speak about things they will likely be able to see around them.  If you use something emotive your audience will have more of an immersive experience than just listening to a cold monologue.

An Audience and a Camera

There are many situations where this may be the case.  An interview, speech or conference scenario.  This can be a little more complex to gauge to ensure you engage your audience when you are on camera. 

The most important thing to have in mind is your objective. Start by asking yourself some questions like:

  • ·        Who is the most important audience, those in the room or the wider audience?
  • ·        What purpose does the camera serve?
  • ·        What will look more natural to the viewer?

Use the answers to these questions to help you prepare for your presentation.

Let’s take a few examples from politics that most people will be familiar with.

First, we’ve all seen on the news debates in the house of commons.  Politicians will have lively debates that is captured on camera, but the audience in the room is their focus.  So, the MP’s will engage those in the room and pay little to no attention to the cameras. 

A Different scenario.  If the prime minister is being interviewed on T.V, two chairs, interviewer interviewee situation.  The natural thing when asked questions is to speak directly back to the person asking the questions.  This would look natural to a viewer.  Seeing a natural conversation between two people will be more appealing than if the interviewee kept looking down camera instead of at the other person in the room.

If the prime minister has a speech to deliver at a party conference which will be aired on the news.  The camera will likely be directly in front of Her and the camera will act as an audience member that she would want to keep returning to along with the people present in the room.  

Eye Contact

If you only look at the camera, you will lose connection with those in the room, whereas if you ignore the camera, you will affect the impact on the video audience.

An important aspect of this setting would be your eye contact at critical points.  When making the main points, a speaker will make sure they keep good eye contact to ensure they connect with the audience for that point.  For a powerful impression the speaker could even repeat the main point and look directly to camera ensuring both audiences have full impact. 

For example: ‘state point – audience.  Repeat point – camera

An added benefit of this is that repetition also creates emphasis.

When speech writing mark in your notes specific points you want to highlight and which audience you want to feel the impact.


Having to speak in front of an audience is difficult for some, but it feels like a relatively normal scenario.  Having to speak with a camera directed at you on the other hand is an unusual and sometimes uncomfortable experience.   Being able to engage your audience while on camera starts with your preparation. 

Before we do anything for the first time, it is usually best to ask around.  Ask people who have experience of how to engage an audience when you are on camera or get some training to prepare yourself for having a go.

Our one to one coaching sessions are a great way to get some practice in dealing with this kind of situation, and helping you to give your best when faced with having to speak into a camera.

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