Supercharge Your Delivery: 6 Tips To Improve Your On-Camera Presence

Joe Phillips & Alexa Fischer

At Udemy LIVE this year, instructors Alexa Fischer and Joseph Phillips led a fun, interactive session on how to improve your on-camera delivery. Their advice was so well-received by attendees, we wanted to share it with everyone else who couldn’t make it to San Francisco for the conference. If you’re thinking of creating an online course, these tips can help ensure you come across as engaging and genuine on screen.

  1. Think like a learner. Do you know your audience and what they want from your course? Why are they taking your class—to improve their job prospects? To learn a new hobby? To gain a skill? You need to ask yourself these questions before you can develop great courses that meet your students’ expectations and satisfy their learning needs, Joe explains. When you put your students first, they can feel it.
  2. Know what you’re going to say. Joe starts his course creation with a detailed outline that helps him focus on what he needs to cover and keeps him from rambling. Alexa agrees that advance preparation is critical so you can have fun in the moment, though she says you don’t need to script every word. Rather than either over-scripting or winging it, find the middle ground.  Clear, well-thought-out bullet points (Alexa calls them “thought bubbles”) will help students follow your key messages. And don’t forget to practice out loud beforehand!
  3. Look and sound professional. Appearance does matter when you’re teaching, according to Joe. Dress for your topic and for your audience. If you’re teaching engine repair, your audience is going to expect you to look a certain way as an expert mechanic. If you’re teaching a business course, there’s an expectation that goes with that topic as well. Your hair, teeth, and what you’re wearing all convey a message to your learners, and you want that message to be “I’m a pro, I’m prepared, and you can trust me to know what I’m talking about.” Practice will also help you eliminate what Joe calls “styrofoam” words: the “umm’s” and “uhhh’s” that creep into your delivery when you’re not fully prepared, when you’re nervous, or when it’s become an unconscious habit. To the learner, styrofoam words can be distracting and don’t help your professional image.
  4. Speak to a person, not the lens. It’s intimidating to stare into an empty lens while your mind races through what you want to say. Instead, Alexa suggests you imagine you’re speaking to a specific person who is excited and enthusiastic to learn, such as a client, a friend, or even a previous student who loves your work, and address them as if they were sitting on the other side of the camera. You can practice this technique by recording a video message wishing someone you know and love a happy birthday or telling them a joke. Then notice how much more authentic, energized, and engaging you are.
  5. Smile, smile, smile. Your students are choosing to spend time with you, so show you’re happy to have them! Communicate your warmth and positive energy to build likeability and trust. You may think you need to be a serious “professor” on camera, but students really want to see you enjoying your material and teaching with joy and enthusiasm. To remind yourself to smile, go ahead and put a smiley face on a post-it right by the camera lens.
  6. Forget being perfect. We can be so hard on ourselves, especially when we watch ourselves on camera, but, says Alexa, people love to see you being YOU, with all your unique gestures, mannerisms, and quirks. Give yourself permission to embrace those moments of “imperfection”; that’s when your personality shines through. A laugh, an aside, even a sneeze can be a “perfect” opportunity for your students to see the real you, thereby building more trust and connection.

Alexa Fisher is a speaker, coach, and instructor who draws from her acting experience (on TV shows such as “NCIS” and “CSI: NY”) to help people find their 1000-watt presence. Alexa has worked with organizations including Trader Joe’s, SONY, and Dress For Success and has shown thousands of employees how to tap into their personal power, get clear, get communicating, and get shining. She joined Udemy in 2011 and has published eight courses and taught more than 16,000 students.

Joe Phillips has more than 15 years’ experience as a project management consultant, educator, technology consultant, business owner, and technical writer. Joe’s passion for helping students pass the PMP certification exam makes his courses stand out in a sea of fairly dry content. He has published 25 courses and has taught almost 50,000 students on Udemy.