Putting yourself on camera is either daunting or thrilling. For most, it is daunting. In order to GSD, follow my learning video checklist: How to Perform on Camera. I’m on a mission to help people make and use video for learning purposes.  Whether you are making eLearning video for yourself or for a client, checklists are a great way to master a new skill. Performing on camera is no different than learning how to write scripts and storyboards. There is a process. There is a method. Follow this checklist and practice. Don’t listen to the haters, keep making mistakes, learn from them and help your audience improve their knowledge, skills, and behaviors. After all, you are making learning video and that is different than making a commercial or a show on Netflix. You can do it! GSD [Get Sh!t Done].

Done is better than perfect – it’s how we GSD at the LC!

~Chris Karel

Learning Video Checklist - How to Perform on Camera

How To Perform On Camera – A Learning Video Checklist

The purpose or promise of video for learning is to improve knowledge, skills, and behaviors. I colorfully call this the KSB. As you step in front of the camera, remember that you are opening a portal to teach someone. There is no better way to learn how to do something than to teach it to others. So make the video now! If you need further convincing, consider this: you are an alchemist on camera–you are offering a sequence of words, expressions, gestures and knowledge nuggets that the viewing learner will turn into golden knowledge. You got this!

1.     Rehearse before recording

After you set up and compose your scene (See How to Set Up and Record Learning Videos in 6 Steps) you need to practice. Whether you are using bullet points or a fully developed script, you need to practice. I like to press record and let the teleprompter app get used to following my cadence. I use PromptSmart Pro and BigVu to help me with the script. Each time I record, I watch it back and look for a performance that is worthy of “Done is Better than Perfect” status. I critique my performance based on what makes a good performance. This is an internalized criterion that consists of eye contact with the camera, enunciation, gestures, comfort, emphasis on keywords, cadence, and whether the performance is pleasing to watch!

2.     Dress in comfortable professional clothes

The wardrobe should match the content. There is no such thing as a “Perform on Camera” section at the store. This is where the term “dress the part” comes into your brain and lives. If your audience is professional, your clothing should match their expectations or it should break their expectations for impact. Rubber-soled shoes will be quiet and help you handle multiple takes by reducing musculoskeletal discomfort (body pain). Natural materials are best for on-camera work unless you have good ventilation. The lights can be hot, so you want your body to stay cool.

3.     Stand (best) – Sit up tall (good)

Learn how to stand contrapposto. This is a dynamic and relaxed pose that is burned into our human memories by the greatest sculptors of the human anatomy. If you have to sit, then sit up tall with a straight spine.

“An Italian term that means “counterpoise”. It is used in the visual arts to describe a human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot, so that its shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs in the axial plane”  Wikipedia

By placing your weight on one foot you will ground yourself in front of the camera. The slight turn of your trunk should be toward the camera so that you are stable. Recording yourself swaying makes a video that is hard to watch. If you fidget or rock, it will be distracting to the audience. Be steadfast on that pose!

4.     Gesture naturally

As you perform on camera, let your hands and head mirror the tone and texture of your words. Support what you are saying by letting your open hands move smoothly through the knowledge soup you are sharing with the camera. When you aren’t sure what to do with your hands (like Ricky Bobby), bring them together and touch your fingertips together or slowly return your hands to your sides. Avoid making a fist or wringing your hands, unless the content requires force or worry! Watch what reporters and spokespersons do with their hands and then make a few gestures of your own!

5.     Make eye contact with the lens

Pretend the lens of the camera is a person. Know where the lens is at all times. Imagine the lens is someone you love. As you talk to the lens like you would a person, you will look away. This is natural. You may look to the right/left and sometimes up/down. However, when you are trying to communicate a very important message, look the learner right in the eye (aka – look them in the lens).

6.     Smile with your eyes and mouth

Your eyes can smile. How? Try looking into a mirror and smiling at yourself. Then, start talking about how to make a piece of toast but focus on your eyes. Try to maintain the smile in your eyes. Do this by keeping the shape of the smile in the corners of your eyes and the shelf of your cheekbones. With a little mirror practice, you will master eye-smiles! I’m doing it right now thinking of how awesome you are!

7.     Pause on commas, longer pause on periods

A comma = a pause. A period = a longer pause. As you read the copy, the comma is there to help you pause before you move onto the next phrase or clause. Your voice should either be on the rise if there are several commas, or a single cliff-hanging pause before you complete the sentence thought. The period should always make you give a moment to the statement. Typically, the inflection should start to lose steam at a period. It is awkward sounding if you sound like you are ramping up at a period. Your voice should be leading the viewer to cue that your sentence is ending as you reach a period.

8.     Wet lips offer pro-tips

Fun to say and tried and true in practice. Keep water by your contrapposto mark on the floor. By wetting your whistle words will sound better as you perform on camera. A dry mouth will prevent language from sounding natural. A dry mouth can cause clicks and pops. Hydrate early and often, and sadly for me, coffee is not hydration. Have water on standby and drink it between takes if necessary.

9.     Rehearse so you sound natural

Time to rehearse again. Dressed comfortably, you are standing contrapposto, smiling with your eyes, gesturing naturally as you look into the lens, and you are delivering a tonal cadence that is natural and easy to listen to! Rehearse your lines. Do it at least three times. Watch it back, and then do it again.

10.  Breathe naturally

This is hard if you are new to this! Nerves will be hard to manage. It’s OK! Everyone is nervous when they perform on camera – even everyday professionals. I like to shake out the sillies from my arms and legs, take a deep breath in through the nose, hold it for 5 seconds, and let it out through my mouth. I repeat this 3 times. It helps ground me at the moment. You can also try acting coach Cathryn Hartt’s 3 Tips:

  1. Start by relaxing and getting into your body by just “slobbing” out.
  2. Free yourself as though you are alone and no one is watching you.
  3. Give yourself something to do.


Helpful Links

How to Evaluate Learning Videos with a Rubric

How to Edit Learning Video: The Ultimate Checklist

How to Soundproof Your Room for Learning Videos

How to Use a Teleprompter for Learning Videos

How to Set Up and Record Learning Videos in 6 Steps

How to Record Professional Learning Videos: The Ultimate Checklist


Performing on camera is like writing or doing math. There is a process and it requires practice! If you follow this checklist each time you record you will be better on camera! Rehearsing before you record, and practicing while you are setting up will transform your final product from home video calls to your family to a learning video that inspires and educates. Wearing comfy clothes as you stand in a contrapposto stance, gesturing naturally, and smiling with your eyes and your mouth will make you look like a professional. Look into the lens (eyes of the learner) and speak with a conversational tone that is silky smooth (because your lips are wet)! Pause on punctuation and breathe naturally as you offer tasty tips or explain concepts. This checklist is your roadmap to success.

Join my learning pals

How do you map your new skills? Do you use checklists to help you master them?

Join my learning pals. Please subscribe to my newsletter to receive free learning resources delivered to your inbox every two weeks.



Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Every two weeks we send out things we are doing and things we think are worth sharing.

You have Successfully Subscribed!