Last week, I was in Florida for a mindset retreat with one of my business mentors. One of the exercises we had to do got me really emotional – it struck a nerve and it hit me.
As I sat in my seat on the third row, overwhelmed with the sudden flood of emotions I suddenly felt, my mentor spotted me and told me to share my breakthrough – in front of everyone.
My first reactions: panic and fear.
My first thoughts: “I am in tears and I look like a mess! If I go up there, I will embarrass myself.”
I then pushed fear out of the way and stood up to the mic anyway.
I was trembling and tears were still falling from my eyes.
I took a deep breathe. Then waited for a moment or two before I spoke.
And once I did…
I felt completely present and in the moment.
I still don’t remember exactly what I said when I was on that mic.
But I do remember the feelings and the state I was in at that moment.
I felt so connected with everyone in the room. My mind was clear (I couldn’t even remember the thoughts running in my head).
I knew there was a camera pointing at me and hundreds of people in the room – but this thought went away immediately. Thoughts about how I looked or how bad I was presenting myself disappeared.
I was BEING me.
I said what needed to be said.
I shared my big WHY.
What does it mean to be “present” and “in the moment” when it comes to being on-camera?
This is what I was struggling with in the first two years of my training as an actor. It’s pretty hard stuff – well, it was for me.
To be present and in the moment means that:
… you’ve completely surrendered yourself to be YOU in your most raw and authentic form
… you’ve cleared your mind & body, not over-thinking or getting caught up with the details
… you’re not thinking about anything else except for what’s happening in that exact moment
… you’re simply just BEING
… your mind, body, and soul are so aligned that you are completely connected and focused one one thing
When performing a scene from a movie or a tv show, actors can get caught up with what they look like or what they sound like and that takes them OUT of reality of the scene they’re performing.How can you truly be this character if your thoughts are of you and not the character?
When you become present and in the moment, you and that “character” suddenly become one and when that happens, the audience connects with you immediately.
Why it’s so hard to be “present”
When the camera is pointing at you, you can’t help but think about your flaws, your fears, and your worries. Your body and mind go in defense mode and your ego is going to make sure that you stay small and hide from the spotlight. After all, it’s quite scary to put yourself out there, right?
But like all other obstacles we face, courage is needed.
Being in front of the camera involves vulnerability and you can’t have that without courage.
For me, it was extremely difficult to be in the moment. I struggled a lot with this, especially when I was trying to do it on my own. I found myself always thinking and those thoughts running in my head made me look unnatural in front of the camera. I also got caught up on my appearance and how I looked on-camera, which didn’t make things any better (in fact, it can make things worse – your ego can make you doubt yourself and stop you from being seen).
But I kept trying.
I made the commitment to work on this every week by attending my acting class.
I practiced almost everyday, working out my “courage muscles”, strengthening them bit by bit.
I surrounded myself with other people who were trying to do the same and supported and encouraged each other towards our common goal.
I encountered a lot of resistance – some were in the forms of negative self-talk, self-sabotage, and giving up.
My intellectual mind was telling me that I couldn’t do it, that I should just try something else, that I look like a complete fool.
There were criticizing voices running in my head, begging me to stop embarrassing myself already.
But I kept pushing through.
It can and does happen
After I left the mic at the retreat, people started coming up to me, telling me how touched they were from hearing what I had said in the retreat. New conversations and connections were formed.
When I had to record a video testimonial for the event, a few people came up to me and told me that I “looked so natural in front of the camera”.
I smiled and thanked them, and told them that I couldn’t have done it without persistence and effort to pushing through all of the resistance I encountered.
Being present on-camera means you get to connect directly and authentically to your audience.
You won’t get it right away, but with persistence you will.
And when you do, it won’t be as difficult to be present any more.
It will get easier to just BE.