The vast majority of us spent a large amount of time this past year interacting with people through screens. And while most of those quick conference calls are relatively low stakes, what do you do when you need to nail a live stream for your business or for a large audience?

In this post, we’ll take you through six steps that you should keep in mind when needing to improve your live, on-camera performance.

Pre-recorded videos are nice since you have the option to re-record, start over, or edit out mistakes; however, when it comes to live video, you lose some of these luxuries. For this reason, being ready and comfortable on camera is one of the best ways to improve your delivery. These six steps will help you prepare as much as possible before you go live. 

1. Outline Your Presentation

Prepping for a video of any sort usually begins with researching and writing. You don’t want to completely wing it when you go live, and one of the best ways to prep is by scripting out exactly what you want to say, which we cover in this post

However, you don’t want to make it obvious that you’re reading off a script, so we recommend converting that script into a detailed outline. By scripting first, then reducing to an outline, you’ll be way more prepared to fill in any gaps in the broader topics of your live stream. If possible, have your outline on a screen close by; this will allow you to occasionally glance over at it in a way that won’t be too distracting for your audience. Once your outline is set, it’s time to practice.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice

As mentioned above, producing a live stream is going to closely resemble a live performance, like theater. Practicing the delivery of your outline will help you feel more comfortable saying the material out loud, and give you the chance to workshop parts that don’t flow as well. 

Depending on the length and subject matter of your live stream, you’ll want to start practicing one to two weeks before the big day. The closer you are to the actual event, the more realistic you’ll want to make your run-throughs. Include slides, graphics, and the videos you’ll be using for the actual presentation, so you can get a feeling for the pace and timing. We recommend setting up private test streams so you get the full look and feel for how the live stream will run when it’s time to go live.

3. Perfecting the Intro

While your intro should be included in your outline and rehearsed during practice sessions, it’s worth noting that nailing the first 30 to 60 seconds of your live stream is crucial. A weak opening could be the difference between retaining every attendee and seeing some immediate drop-offs. It will also get you through the nerves that are bound to show up when you’re suddenly live in front of your audience. 

This is where you’ll be able to show off some personality, address the audience as they metaphorically take their seats, and introduce the topic you’ll be covering. If you have this intro down, you’ll have a great jumping-off point as you continue throughout your presentation. 

4. Reduce Ahs and Ums

Um. Ah. Like. You Know. Right? These words are commonly used as filler words when we’re nervous, distracted, or just don’t know what to say next. They’re fillers so many of us use and don’t even realize; in casual conversation, they may not seem so bad, but when giving a presentation, they can become a big distraction for your audience if used too often.

The best thing to do here is to replace these words with a pause. While silence may seem like a wild idea, it’s proven to be a more effective way to improve the flow of your presentation. In addition, it gives you a moment to collect your thoughts, calm your nerves, and even build suspense at the right moment. It’s helpful to remember that a silence that seems like ages to a performer may be barely noticeable to their audience.

The first step to changing this habit is to be aware of when it’s happening. During your rehearsals, record yourself so you can review your content and see how many times you’re using filler words. Create a system when you’re practicing to draw attention to their use so you can mentally prepare to pause instead. All this preparation will be helpful when it’s finally showtime; surely some filler words will remain, but there should be far less than when you started.  

5. Getting Comfortable On Camera 

Feeling nervous is one of the biggest reasons people clam up while speaking to an audience, but there are a few steps you can take to make you feel as comfortable as possible when it’s time to go live.

Your Favorite Outfit

While the level of “professional” dress will vary depending on your industry, it’s equally important to choose an outfit that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Your content is the real star of the show, so you can take this opportunity to choose an outfit you really like. When you’re wearing something that you feel good in, it’s bound to translate to confidence on camera.  

Talk Directly to Your Audience

For some virtual presentations, you might be in a video conference where you can see your audience, though that may not always be the case. It can feel a little awkward talking to a screen while presenting a live stream, but we encourage you to imagine you’re speaking with a friend or someone you feel comfortable with. Smile. Show enthusiasm. Let your natural body language shine through. These tricks should help you feel like it’s more of a natural conversation versus a rehearsed presentation. 

For more ideas, explore our full list of 27 tips for being more comfortable on camera.

6. Let Go of Perfection

At the end of the day, no matter how much you practice and rehearse, there is still a chance that something may go awry. If you embrace the idea of letting go of absolute perfection, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress and allow yourself to roll with the punches and be natural.  Maybe an unwanted noise will make it into your stream, or some unexpected technical difficulties will arise. These can become opportunities to embrace imperfection.

Considering how many of us worked from home over the past year, most people can understand that not everything will go as planned. If you’re properly prepared and keep this in mind, you’ll be able to rebound from any mistakes and keep the presentation running smoothly. You may even come off as more relatable and thus create a better connection with your audience. 

You don’t need to be a primetime news anchor to nail a live on-camera delivery. With the proper preparation, practice, and mindset, anyone can deliver a stellar performance. Which techniques do you use to prepare for a live video presentation? Let us know in the comments below.