Recording Yourself Giving a Talk

One option for presenters at the Biennial Meeting is to record a talk or paper presentation of no more than ten minutes in length. If you plan to record yourself giving a talk but haven’t done so before, this post offers step-by-step instructions, recommendations for tools to enhance your presentation, and general suggestions for a successful contribution to the Society for Cultural Anthropology’s first virtual conference.

Recording Instructions

Many anthropologists use audio or video recording devices for interviews, event documentation, and other forms of data collection. However, you do not need separate devices or applications to record yourself giving a talk. Today, computers and smartphones have the hardware and software needed to capture high-quality video presentations with just a few clicks.

In this post, I will cover two ways to record yourself giving a talk: first, I explain how to use your computer’s built-in camera and microphone to record video and audio using QuickTime on a Mac or Windows Movie Maker on a PC. Then, I explain how to use a smartphone (or iPad) to record video and audio using the Camera app.

Using a Computer or Laptop

Recording yourself giving a talk is simple, but you can use framing such as sitting near research-related items to create visual interest.

What You’ll Need

  • Computer or laptop
  • Your talk or notes (printed, memorized, or on your screen)
  • QuickTime for Windows or Mac (usually factory-installed) or Windows Movie Maker on a PC
  • External microphone or camera  (optional; most computers come with built-in versions)

Recording Yourself on a Mac

  • First, move the cursor to the magnifying glass at the top right of your screen.
  • Click on the icon to initiate Spotlight Search. A search bar will appear on your screen.
  • Type in QuickTime Player and hit Enter or select with your cursor.
  • At the top of your screen, where the Apple icon appears next to the words “QuickTime Player,” click on File and then select New Movie Recording. If you would like to record your screen as well (to show slides on your screen while talking), click New Screen Recording instead.
  • To record using New Movie Recording, move your cursor to the box that pops up showing the image that your built-in-camera is recording (this should be you!).
  • Turn down the volume by sliding the button all the way to the left to avoid feedback from the microphone and speakers.
  • Make sure that your microphone is on, by clicking on the downward facing arrow to the right of the gray-and-red record button. Examine the drop-down menu that appears, and make sure that both FaceTime HD Camera and Internal Microphone have a check mark next to them. If they do not, click on them to enable.
  • In the same drop-down menu, select High Quality. You can select Maximum, but it is not necessary and will make your video file much larger.
  • To begin recording, click the red record button. On most computers, a green light next to the camera will turn on.
  • To stop recording, click the record button again. The green light will turn off to indicate that recording has ended.

Recording Yourself on a PC

  • Click the Start button to go to the Start screen. If you have Windows 10, you can use the Cortana search feature instead.
  • Type “Windows Media Maker” in the search box or go to Start > All Programs > Windows Media Maker.
  • Select Windows Media Maker from the search results that appear on the right.
  • Look for the Capture Video option on the left of the screen.
  • Select Capture from Video Device.
  • Follow the directions in the Settings Wizard.
  • Hit the record button to begin and end recording. If you have problems with your microphone or camera, make sure that they are turned on in Settings.

Using a Phone (or iPad)

I used an iPhone 7 Plus to record this talk in my home office with a stack of books as my phone stand.

What You’ll Need

  • A smartphone or iPad with video and audio recording capability
  • A phone stand or sturdy place to lean your phone at face level (a stack of books works great).

I use an iPhone 7 Plus, but an Android or iPhone 4 or newer will work. A newer phone with software updated to the latest version is recommended for better image clarity and sound quality.


  • Select the Camera app.
  • Slide the selection bar at the bottom to the right to Video; you can also tap your finger on Video to select.
  • Position your phone so that the image is framed as you want it (from your elbows up is a good rule of thumb).
  • Tap the Flip Camera icon at the bottom right (a camera with arrows in a circle) so that the front camera is enabled and you can see the image while recording.
  • To begin and end recording, tap the large Record button in the bottom center of your screen.
  • Your video will automatically save to the Photos app.
  • To send the video via Dropbox, Facebook, iMessage, or Mail, go into the Photos application and click the Upload button (the square with the arrow pointing upward in the bottom left corner). Tap the app to which you would like to upload your video and follow the instructions provided.


  • Download the free app Voice Recorder from the Play Store and then open it.
  • Tap the Record button (red dot) to begin and end recording.
  • The video will save to your device (or to cloud storage, depending upon your settings).
  • If the video saves to your device, it may be too large to send via email. You may want to download an app such as WeTransfer to move large video files.

Technical Tools

If you have time or want to experiment with digital storytelling as part of your recorded talk, you may want to try a paid app like Filmic Pro or Adobe’s Spark Video.

Below are some other recommended tools for media explorers from the beginner to the advanced. Many audio and video tools have free video tutorials, and subscription-based services like (sometimes available through public libraries) can get you started.


Intermediate to Advanced

In a companion post, I offer basic tips on how to insert video clips and still images using mobile and desktop apps such as PowerPoint or Spark Post.

General Suggestions

Recording outside can visually enhance your presentation, but be aware of noise or chatter that may impact sound clarity.


You can say a lot with the setting of a video presentation. In professional video shoots or on-camera ethnographic interviews, videographers often select a recording location that provides exposition or additional information that is not discussed explicitly in the video. You want to select a background that says something about you or your work, but that does not distract too much from your presentation. I recommend something that speaks to your topic or is an essential part of the presentation itself, like a map, still image, artwork, or natural background. You should also think about choosing a location where you will not be interrupted. Although the finished product you are recording will last just ten minutes, you should expect the entire setup and recording to take about thirty minutes.


Be sure to sit near a light source like a window or lamp with the light shining on your face. Try to use either natural light (from a window) or an artificial light source; if possible, do not mix natural and artificial light sources, as doing so can make your images grainy. Also, it is good to have at least one light source on your face at a forty-fivedegree angle. You may want to try three-point lighting, which is common in film and video productions, but a single source of light should be sufficient. I recommend filming at the “magic hour” just before dusk for the best natural light.


You should try to reduce ambient noise as much as possible. Turn off fans, air conditioners, and space heaters that buzz, hum, or click. If you choose to record outside, be aware that planes, trains, cars and people will also be recorded, making your talk difficult to hear. If you want to film outside, I recommend recording on a less windy day and in a place away from noise and crowds (unless that is part of the presentation). Be sure to turn off your alert sounds and the ringers on your computer and phone. Finally, if you have are using an external microphone, aim it at your throat (not mouth) at a forty-five-degree angle to reduce pops and to pick up the most resonant sound. If you are using the built-in microphone, be sure to keep it at least nine inches from your mouth.

What to Wear

You can, of course, wear whatever you want! But a good rule of thumb in making a video is to avoid shirts that are all white (which reflects light), all black (which absorbs light), bright red, stripes, paisley, or other loud patterns that cause wavy lines in the video.


To record yourself giving a talk, you do not need to invest in expensive equipment, hardware, or applications. Many of the tools for making a recorded presentation are available on your existing computer or smartphone. In this post, we provided step-by-step instructions, technical tools, and general suggestions to improve setting, lighting, and sound quality. More information will be available in early 2018 about how to submit completed presentations, which will be due in late February.