Whether you’re a seasoned public speaker or just starting your journey, there’s a notable difference between speaking on stage and speaking on camera.
In fact, even if you’re a skilled communicator in person, it can be easy to get flustered or appear inexperienced when you’re being recorded.
To help you avoid this, we’re joined in this episode by speaker and entrepreneur Wendy Russell.
Perhaps best known as the Gemini-nominated host & producer of HGTV Canada’s “She’s Crafty,” Wendy has more than 30 years of experience in the film and television industry.
Having coached countless thought leaders in that time, Wendy shares everything you need to know about building your on-camera confidence including what NOT to do.
That way, in your next live appearance, virtual speaking gig, or online course, you can ensure you look as polished as possible.
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Show Notes 📓
✅ Learn more about Wendy: https://www.wendyrussell.com/
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Read the Transcription 🤓
Intro: You know those moments when you’re doing what you love in your business, maybe it’s standing on stage or creating content, whatever it is, you’re totally immersed, and time just seems to slip-by? This is called The Flow State. At Speaker Flow, we’re obsessed with how to get you there more often. Each week we’re joined by a new expert where we share stories, strategies, and systems to help craft a business you love. Welcome to Technically Speaking.
Austin: All right, boom. And we are live. Wendy Russell, thank you so much for being here today. It’s so good to have you
Wendy: Guys, this is awesome. I’m thrilled to be here.
Austin: Our lovely listeners didn’t get the chance to hear it, but we just got to go on a whole ramble about cats. And there’s something intuitive in me that feels like if the episode starts out with conversation about cats, it’s going to be a good one.
Austin: Yeah. Wendy, you’re an interesting person to me. You’ve actually been my first in two areas. One is you’ve been the first person that has ever had a conversation with me, interrupted by a police officer. So if you want to hear that story, you’re going to have to ask people. But you’ve also been the first person that I’ve worked with that’s done a fair amount of time on television, and specifically your project show on HGTV is the thing that comes to mind; though, I know you’ve done this your whole life, but I’m curious about the experience with HGTV. Can you give us a sense of what that was like?
Wendy: Yeah, my goodness. So, Cliffs Notes version for my American friends. Coles Notes in Canada.
Austin: Wait, what? Coles Notes? I’m sorry. That’s a real thing. I’ve never heard that expression before.
Wendy: Yeah. We have Coles Notes. You guys have Cliffs Notes.
Austin: Wow. I had no idea.
Taylorr: Holy Cliff, wow. Who ripped off who?
Wendy: I think you guys ripped us off because Mr. Cole was a author, and then he started a bookstore. I could be wrong.
Taylorr: Well, that’s the American way, of course. So, it would make sense.
Wendy: I don’t know, one of us borrowed it from the other, but I don’t know why, but I have this feeling that we started it, I don’t know. Anyway, I’m going to Google that later and double check, make sure my facts aren’t wrong as I’m pointing fingers. Anyway, so I started as an actor and then one day thought, all I’m doing is sitting around waiting for other people to make a decision on whether or not I’m worthy. So, I shall take control into my own hands and I’m going to be a producer.
So, I pitched the show to HGTV, I started writing, really worked hard on massaging this show idea. I pitched them, I went to the Banff Television Festival and I pitched them there, and you’re supposed to go there; many mentors said to me, go there without the intention of actually getting a show, because the odds of you getting it are infinitesimal. You’re going to create relationships, don’t go to this stuff to win a show. Anyway, by the end, I had a five-minute pitch, I had a 10 minute meeting with her, five minutes. At the end of the pitch we sort of debriefed and she said, well, I like you and I need a craft show, so let’s talk. And I was like, oh my god.
So, anyway, it was craft-based because that was what they required as part of the CRTC regulations up in Canada, so it was HGTV Canada that I had pitched. And one of the things in addition to renovation shows and home decor shows was a craft show. So, pitched the show. So, everything was home decor-based. And so, I got very crafty. I’ve been crafty my whole life, so that worked out. I got to host the show for 23 episodes. It aired in the States on Ion Life for many, many moons. In fact, I still get messages from people sometimes on YouTube and Facebook saying, when’s She’s Crafty coming back. So, I’m like, wow. Plenty of people message me and ask. So, yeah. So, I’ve had this kind of crazy actor, TV host, speaker, producer, writer, career thing that’s happening and now speaker, coach and on-camera confidence coach, which has just been this segue that sort of happened.
Austin: What a journey.
Taylorr: So, your plate is not full at all, is basically what I’m hearing.
Taylorr: It’s pretty light. Yeah, bored. Yeah.
Austin: Left out real estate investing as another component there.
Taylorr: Yeah, right. Yeah. The whole list.
Austin: You’re one of the busiest people I know.
Taylorr: How did you go from the TV space to where you are now? Why make the leap from that to this? Tell us about that journey and how you got to where you are today.
Wendy: Well, interestingly, I grew up with a father or stepfather who was a contractor. And so, we were always growing up in houses that were under renovations. And so, I’m 14 years old and he’s telling me to cut my window trim and my baseboards with the chop saw and I had to paint my own room. And I’m very displeased because I’m a disgruntled 14 year old teenage girl. This is not, I should be at the mall shopping with my friends and here I’m helping. And so, it was so not cool. But no, he gave me the greatest gift because not only did he teach me about the value of real estate investing and hanging onto real estate long-term and what that does for your future, but he also taught me my DIY skills. He taught me how to put sweat equity into a home and how to build things yourself. And so, that was also sort of how that helped with the show on HGTV, right? I had that connection. Does that answer the question?
Taylorr: Yeah, for sure. Well, I’m really curious too, not only the real estate side of things, but how did the speaking, coaching, camera confidence thing segue from, yeah. Because it feels like the journey, life is very interesting, but it kind of feels like all of the stuff in your past has molded to what’s happening today. So, tell me more about that.
Wendy: As I was in the film and television industry, we were also real estate investing and renovating. So, we’re now on our 11th renovation. My husband and I have been real estate investors for 25-ish years. We started young in Vancouver and sort of worked our way across the country. We just were always handy and always renovating and just sort of continue to, either we would do the buy and hold thing, end up selling and have enough equity in there to upgrade to the next property.
So, real estate investors. And then we joined a group of real estate investors that was run by one of my HGTV buddies, Scott McGilvery, and he has this real estate education company. And I had also always wanted to, as a HGTV host, I started speaking at home shows. And that was where my speaking career began, I should start the story with that. Started speaking at home shows across North America, but I still had an itch to speak to high school students to inspire them about using their creativity and how that would take them into adulthood and make them really happy adults. Because when we get to adulting, we sometimes forget to have fun because we’re working all of the time.
So, I did a bit of that, spoke at high schools, worked for another company, two buddies of mine own a company called My Life Online, where speaking to four to eight graders about being safe, smart, and kind online. So, I got hired by them to speak for them. And then my buddy Scott hired me to be one of his speakers for his real estate education company. So, I’ve had sort of this, also diverse speaking career as well. And I ended up joining, in the Pandemic, I ended up joining a business group, it was a group of female entrepreneurs. And my business coach said one of the tasks we had to do was we had to do these videos all of the time, just to sort of introduce us to the group and all of these things. And I would do some pretty wackadoodle things and just be silly and fun with it.
My business coach said, you should think about teaching entrepreneurs to get on camera for their businesses. And I was like, what? Come on now. I’m like, doesn’t everyone already do that? Isn’t that what people are doing on social media? And she’s like, No. maybe not well and maybe not enough, or maybe they’re afraid. And we have all of these things around being visible, right? There’s a lot of resistance around being visible and showing up. And I think what people forget is that when you are an entrepreneur, people want to know who you are. They don’t want to necessarily, they’re not buying what you’re selling, they’re buying you. Right? I think Dan Sullivan said something amazing; when we decide to work with people, it’s actually their energy that we’re buying, their confidence that we’re buying.
So, I love that. People are buying you not what you’re selling. And that really struck me and I realized that people want to know the story behind why you started your business, not the widget you’re selling. They want to connect with you. And I think that’s, post pandemic, even more prevalent. And so, I truly believe it’s the number one business skill that we need to have to grow our businesses and take it to the level that we dream it to be.
Austin: Yeah, man, that’s so true. I think that’s something that’s happened over the last few years too, is that the mediums in which you can do that have grown dramatically. It used to be that if you wanted mass visibility, there were really only a few channels that you could take part in, major print or TV or whatever. But now there are all of these different microcosms out there that you can become visible in. And if you can bring that energy and that confidence, what a cool opportunity that we didn’t have 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, right?
Wendy: I think that’s it. Back in the day, video used to differentiate you from the rest, right? The people with the deep pockets, the Coca-Colas and the Apples, and all of the things that could do commercials. And now, we basically can do a commercial for ourselves for free and connect with people for free on all of these social media channels, including our websites. And really, the beautiful thing with video is that when you get on video for your business, people are going to know right away if you’re their person or not. They can feel you and pick up your energy and they’re just like, that’s my person or not. And which is totally cool, because you don’t want to work with the people that aren’t your people. You’re attracting like-minded people that are jamming with you and your energy. Yeah.
Austin: You’re right. Authenticity, it’s way easier to convey authenticity behind a camera where they can see you and you can gesture and there’s body language, it’s not just the written form an. I’d love for you to maybe outline some of the common ways you see your clients getting on video, because I think that for a lot of people when we’re thinking about this, we think television and maybe YouTube, especially if we’re talking about the younger demographic, right? But I’m sure you’ve encountered those and other ways that people can use this skillset. So, can you give some examples of these mediums?
Wendy: Sure. Yeah. And that’s a good point. Here’s the thing. I think anybody sort of under 25, I hate to generalize, but literally maybe 20, I don’t know, has been born with a phone in their hands. So, they have this advantage beyond all of the rest of us that didn’t grow up with this video camera in our hand. And so, it’s a new skill, it’s something that we have to learn. Getting comfortable on camera and confident on camera is just like any other thing that you need to learn. Because people are like, I’m terrible on camera, I’m too shy, blah, blah, blah. This is just practice.
This is like picking up a guitar. You’re not good the first time you try it. Any single skill. You’re not, you’re not a marathon runner the first time you run down the block. There’s time and effort and energy and love that needs to be put into this in order to get better. And I love telling my clients, let yourself suck when you first do this. Give yourself permission to be sucky at this. It’s okay. It’s totally cool. Any other coach is going to tell you the same thing. You’re not going to be awesome at this the first time you try it, unless it’s your magical superpower that yes, I just happen to be doing it for so long that people are like, oh, how do you make it look so easy? Well, I’ve been doing it for a while, that’s all. It’s like watching Van Halen play the guitar. You’re like, why is he so great? He’s been doing it for his entire dang life. God rest him.
So, examples, I would say there are, yes, besides putting yourself on a TikTok video or Instagram, there are some beautiful ways that you can connect with people. I have an app that’s downloaded right to my Gmail and I will send video messages to clients or potential clients. I love connecting with people that way because people are so blown away if you go out of your way to send them a video email instead of a black and white text email. You send them a or you could text them a little video on your phone, that kind of thing.
There’s another cool app called Video Ask that you can actually set up on your website, which I love, I’m sure you guys are fully aware of that. It’s a popup that comes up and instead of just getting them to automatically sign into your newsletter or whatever, this popup comes up and it says, Hey, welcome. How can I support you today? What are you looking for? And then they get to respond in a little text box. You can also give them the option of sending you back a video message if you challenge them to step out of their comfort zone and send their question as a video. So, that’s a really cool way to connect with people is adding that right to your website.
So, video messages on your phone, on all sorts of apps, do it in an email. I loved doing that when I was reaching out to schools because, rather than just doing this cold email about, hi, I’m Wendy, I would love to come speak to your high school students about creativity, blah, blah blah. But if they can see me and they’re like, oh, actually, she can speak and she’s kind of cool and she sounds fun and lovely and whatever, I’m just pumping up my own tires here for a second, but you know what I mean, I’m either going to be their person or I’m not.
Wendy: Yeah. So,, those are a couple of examples. And, of course, I think the other thing is that we avoid social media. Most of us avoid social media because for some reason we feel like we need to do all of them. And I think if you can just choose one and choose the one where you know that your people are going to be, so if that is LinkedIn, go with that. And they are really excited about moving themselves into being more of a video platform anyway. So, again, that’s a great one for businesses and for speakers. But also Instagram, whatever your jam is, wherever you feel most comfortable, use that and be great at that, and then potentially move-on to other platforms. But, yeah, don’t overwhelm yourself with thinking that you have to do all of the things, because I think that’s what stops most people in their tracks to start with.
Taylorr: Yeah. Well, I think this is a great question and answer there between Austin and you, Wendy. Because I think in the context of video and showing up with confidence, I think a lot of people, their knee-jerk reaction is to think about social exclusively. But there are so many other ways to tap into video to get people to get to know you and build trust, like sales emails or the Video Ask example that I don’t think a lot of people are considering. I think we just immediately think social media, but there are other ways that have higher leverage for us to show up on camera and actually see some outcomes out of it.
Taylorr: One thing I’m thinking about, though, is obviously you’ve had a tremendous amount of experience on camera, seeing yourself on camera, going through the phases of that wasn’t that great all the way to I’m extremely confident on camera. How do you know, and I think this would be good for our listeners, if they kind of want to self-assess their videos. What are some things, if I were to send you a video that you’d be looking for that would display a lack of confidence? What’s the intuition there and how do you identify, yeah, confidence isn’t really there for that person on camera?
Wendy: Sure. The first thing is, and I just did it, is the ums. Ums and ahs are a huge giveaway for confidence. So, whenever you can avoid doing that, that’s the best. So, I would try and practice without that. You can record yourself and don’t go live, record yourself once and watch your 30 second or your 60 second video or whatever it is. And objectively make note of how many ums and ahs you said in 60 seconds. If it’s none, you’re amazing, do it again. And the trick for the ums and the ahs is to pause instead of um, because it’s really just a thought, right? But if you pause, it’s super powerful and it allows you to take a breath.
It allows you to think about the next thought. But it also comes across as much more confident. And it is a skill to be able to speak for however long you need to speak, this is what speakers go through, right? We need to get out of that habit of the umming and the ahing and just have this sort of seamless presentation. And when you can do that in a video too, I would say that would be the first thing that you want to pay attention to. I would also say don’t, this is a habit. And this is a habit that we all do because we are human. And we from, since we were babies, we are all very excited to look at ourselves. We get in the habit of actually looking at ourselves on the screen rather than looking into the camera. So, you can see, I’m looking at you guys right now, but you can see if I lift my gaze a little, my camera’s just above where you’re sitting on my screen.
And so that is much more connected. So, you really have to force yourself to look at that tiny dot at the top of your screen to connect to the person that you’re having the conversation with. And I’ve done everything with clients because it’s a habit that I tell them to literally take a post-it note and stick it over the screen., over your phone or over your computer screen. Literally cover yourself up so that you’re not seeing yourself. I teach a half day workshop and I give the ladies, when they’re in my class, I give them a little package of post-it flags.
And so, they put the post-it flag right by the camera dot on their screen so that they keep looking at that flag because, of course, sometimes it’s really dark on your phone too, so you don’t actually know where the camera is. But that’s another little trick is to keep your eye-line looking right down the barrel of that camera. And that’s a great way to look. You look confident and you’re speaking right to your audience.
Taylorr: Can feel uneasy.
Taylorr: When you’re not getting the eye contact.
Austin: It’s true.
Wendy: It’s huge.
Austin: Yeah. That’s an ancient wiring in our brain, I feel like, the eye contact and it can be jarring when it’s missing. And something that you, I think touched on there that I think is so interesting is this, just like any skillset, it’s both kind of like an art and a science. You talked about the craft of paying attention to the camera and that habit that you need to be in of kind of re-centering your gaze there. And then the ums and ahs, I can see how that’s a little bit of both because you have to be able to keep yourself in check as you go. But I’m kind of jumping to a bit of an assumption here and I’m hoping you can validate it or discredit it.
It seems like you have to really be confident with what you’re trying to say before you even start the process of recording it. When I think about the whole ums and ahs thing, the reason that, at least for me, as I’ve experienced this type of thing myself, is a lot of the time I don’t want to lose my train of thought. And so, filling that in, it prevents somebody from jumping in and throwing me off or whatever. But as I’ve gotten more confident with my own skillset over time, I’ve learned now that I can be stopped at any point and tangent and go on these threads of thought and still come back to center because I know the material so well. So, do you feel like that’s a part of this?
Wendy: Absolutely, it’s a huge part of what I coach people on is the preparation that goes into it. So, I guess there are a lot of people that think you just have to go on camera and wing it. And I am not a winging it person. It’s probably my background as an actor too. So, I’m used to, I’ve been using scripts my entire life, so if I actually don’t have anything written down, I will be a rambling, fumbling person. I need to have it written so that I can be clear about what I am trying to get across. So, I find it very helpful to write it out first and then I actually, I will run it. I coach people to literally say it out loud 10 times, 10 times sitting down, then 10 times walk around the house, then 10 times saying it to your cat. And the more that you say it, obviously, the easier it is, the more freely it comes out, the more it’s in your body too.
There’s something to be said for getting up and walking around with it. Because what it does is you’re no longer on the page when you’re walking, it’s in your body. And so, that really helps with the sinking-in, the memorization of it. And I don’t want to say memorization, but it is about sticking to those points. So, maybe you have the video that you’re giving is three reasons why you should get on camera now. Then I would just bullet point those out and then at least if I know those three points, then I can be clear with those, but I will say them out loud multiple times before I even hit record on the camera.
Taylorr: Yeah, that makes sense.
Taylorr: So, what’s kind of your pre-flight checklist, if you will. So, we have gotten a taste of it, right? I’m going to run through the script a couple of times and then you’re just going to get ready to record. What are the things you’re doing? And some of this just might be intuition at this point, but break it down for me, before we press that record button and we show up, what are some of those checklist items that you have in mind to make a really polished first take?
Wendy: Yes. I’m a huge fan of having a background that’s not distracting, in terms of your bed is messy in the background or you have children running by or if you’re outside, there’s traffic, noisy traffic. So, try and keep that contained, in terms of your background, because we want to focus on you, even though we can still see what’s going on back here, we want that to be as sort of non-interesting or non-distracting as possible. It can be a beautiful setup. Both of you guys have amazing setups behind you and that’s very purposeful, you’ve done that because you are literally on camera all day every day. But the time and effort that it took to put into your backgrounds knowing that’s your setup and it’s great and it’s there.
And so, that’s another thing that I teach in my, I have an eight-week workshop and one of them literally is setting up your background so it makes it easy for you to sit down and just record. And so, if you’re wanting to put a group of videos together, I’m a fan of block shooting, so you set aside 2, 3, 4 hours on a Friday and just plunk yourself down in that spot. You could change your top a couple of times, you know what I mean? So, it’s not the same outfit every time, if that’s what you want to do. As humans, we appreciate variety too, right? So, there is something to be said for changing it up. That’s a big thing is just checking your background, make sure there are no distractions.
And then with sound, we’re a little more forgiving when it comes to video, in terms of the quality of the video, but if the audio is terrible, we will turn it off in a heartbeat. So, you want to make sure that the washing machine is turned off, or again, you’re not right by a busy street with crazy traffic or screaming children, barking dogs, air conditioners that are making too much noise, all of the things, and keep that off. And then, get yourself a great microphone setup, whether that’s like you guys have with your, your desktop mic or you can easily get an inexpensive lapel mic if you’re recording on your phone that plugs right into your phone.
So, yeah, there are lots of little hacks there. But I would say those things. And then of course, this is the one trick that I think everybody should think about before they hit record is, literally, I’m going to grab my phone and shoot. If you do this, it’s a winner every time, there is something about smiling on camera that all of a sudden we are attracted to, you become more magnetic, you become more confident. If you have your resting B-face happening, or you look.
Wendy: You’re a little scared; we’re going to see it, right? But if you have a smile on your face. So, smile before you press the record button and it’s the most awkward, it feels so weird, but smile and then hit record and then it’s already in you, and then you can say, hey, because so often, right? We’re looking at the camera, we’re like, where’s the record button record? Oh, hey. So, there’s that weird thing where you don’t have to edit the beginning of your video now because you’re already in it energetically because you already have that smile on your face and you’re welcoming and magnetic to all of those that are watching.