A few weeks ago only a handful of us were live-streaming services.
And, very few of us were only preaching to a camera.
Even if you had a camera in your auditorium, you were focused on preaching to the people physically in front of you, not to the people behind the camera.
All this has changed with the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’ve been thrust into an environment where we no longer have the feedback of a live audience to gauge if our jokes are funny, our point is resonating, or if people are engaged.
As a multi-site church, I’ve gotten used to preaching in an environment where more than half the audience is behind a camera watching from a live-stream.
Over the years, I’ve learned some lessons and tips that I hope will help you improve and become more comfortable preaching to a camera.
How to Improve Your Camera Presence
It’s fair to assume most of us are not trained actors or have a background in broadcasting.
We’re worried about looking normal as we communicate to an empty room. Trust me, I get it.
For years I’ve watched myself on video and it can be a painful process.
Actually, that’s my first piece of advice:
Watch Yourself on Video
Going back and watching your service recordings will help you correct 90% of the quirks and distractions you have on camera.
Just be warned...it’s not fun.
But, it will help you make adjustments to improve and feel more confident on camera.
There are several quirks I’ve eliminated simply by watching myself and saying, “Do I really do that?!”
For some reason, being on a screen seems to flatten our personality.
I spent years acting in comedy videos for our student ministry, and I learned you have to bring extra energy and expression if you want your personality to come through.
Now, be careful here.
You’ll want to experiment and watch yourself so you don’t appear fake.
But, I’m telling you, there’s something to this.
If you think you’re projecting warmth and friendliness, the screen somehow steals 50%.
You have to be more expressive than you normally would.
Mix it Up
In-person you may be able to keep an audience captivated for 40 minutes, but you’ll struggle to do the same on video.
You’ll need to bring in some variety.
If you have the ability, adding more than one camera to your live feed can give a sense of movement and help keep your audience engaged.
One camera angle for 30-40 minutes can feel monotonous.
If possible, use two or more cameras so you can switch between angles.
If you don’t have the technology or personnel to pull this off, don’t worry, there are other ways to add variety.
Consider using props.
One to three excellent props can help break up the monotony and keep people connected to your sermon.
Another option is to have a TV next to you in your filming space with visuals of verses, pictures, and takeaways.
This is a great tool for adding variety and keeping your message visually interesting.
How to Emotionally Connect
A critical component of preaching is emotionally connecting to your audience.
You may be asking, “How in the world do I emotionally connect to people through a camera?”
First, you have to realize you are now preaching to individuals.
Your congregation is watching your service alone or in small groups and they are likely watching from a device that they usually use solo—a phone or tablet.
Because of this, you need to speak to them as individuals.
This simple shift in your approach will help you connect with your audience.
As you prepare to communicate, think of someone you know and imagine yourself talking directly to them.
This will help you communicate on a more personal and engaging level with your audience.
With this in mind, you may want to adjust where you are speaking from.
During this season, where most people are stuck at home and not meeting together, you may want to consider preaching from a bistro table as if your audience is across the table from you at a Starbucks.
Secondly, the key to emotionally connecting with other people is empathy.
This is true whether you are in a one-on-one conversation or preaching to an arena, but it’s absolutely critical when you’re on screen.
Here are two forms of empathy that will help you when preaching to a camera:
- As you teach the Scriptures, it is important to empathetically connect with the biblical characters. Ask this question as you study: “What’s it like to be them?” When you are emotionally connected with Moses’ frustration with the people in the wilderness, with Paul as he worries over whether or not the Thessalonian church will make it, or with Jesus as he is betrayed by a man he poured three years of his life into, you will be able to tell the story with more feeling. When you are emotionally connected to the characters of the Bible you will be able to better help your audience do the same and amazing things can happen.
- You need to be empathetically connected with your audience—which again is individuals. When you do this, you will speak to the hearts of your people.
Here’s how I attempt to do this: When I give illustrations about people in my sermons, I try to imagine people I know and their real experiences.
For example, when I give an illustration about infertility.
I don’t just say, “Maybe you are dealing with a season of infertility…”
Instead, I say these words imagining myself talking to two of my close friends who are walking through infertility right now—friends who are attempting to get pregnant but are also terrified that it might be three miscarriages in a row.
When I challenge people to stay away from the dangers of pornography, I imagine myself talking directly to a close friend who is facing this battle.
For each illustration, I picture a real person behind the story.
Yes, change the names and details, but this practice will help you share illustrations in a way that feels much more real and empathetic, which is huge for emotional connection with your audience.
We are all in uncharted waters during this pandemic.
I hope these tips on preaching to a camera have been helpful for you.
If you have further questions or thoughts you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.
Now more than ever, we need to support each other.
If you need technical help, I might not have the answers but I know people who do!
Leave a comment or send an email and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.