The heart of a great video presentation? Preparation.
Who among us could have predicted that in 2020 a pandemic would move most of us out of our workplaces and into our homes? And, more surprisingly, who would have guessed that for many of us working from home would become permanent?
Amid reeling from the plethora of pandemic-produced changes we must now reinvent how we communicate. We must identify ‘what we don’t know that we don’t know’ about meeting, presenting and conversing virtually. We must assess what we need to learn — and take swift action to become skillful online communicators.
As a media trainer I recognized adapting broadcasting practices to the context of online-based business communications would lead to engaging meetings and presentations. On-camera communications make us akin to amateur broadcasters. Our set-ups (lighting, background, camera, sound) are our studios. Additionally, we must become adept at communicating visually, verbally and vocally inside the box – which is our electronic device’s screen.
Setting up your home or office studio for success requires these critically important components:
Lighting: Lighting is ‘ground zero’ for setting the stage. The quality of light can determine which location you choose as your background. Light changes throughout the day. So, you may have to change your background at different times or adjust your lighting to make sure your ‘studio’ looks professional:
- Frontal natural light is best, provided it’s not too bright;
- A ring light will eliminate shadows and optimize your lighting. It’s money well spent;
- Avoid back lighting – unless it’s soft, mood lighting that enhances your frontal lighting;
- White shades and windows may be distracting and need covering;
- Glare-free eyeglasses will ensure people can see your eyes;
- Be careful using overhead lighting — as it can make you look like a hostage!
Background: Your background makes a statement about who you are. It should be simple, professional and organized:
- Remove any clutter, books, pictures, etc. you don’t want others to see;
- If you use a virtual background you must purchase a green screen. Otherwise, when you move your head, arms or hands they may appear decapitated!
- A virtual background should look professional. Avoid the ones numerous people use (Golden Gate Bridge, obligatory bookcases and swaying palm trees).
Camera choice and placement: I recommend buying a dedicated camera with a built-in microphone. They are inexpensive and will provide better quality visuals and sound than the integrated camera and microphone on your device. Plus, it will give you flexibility to move around to create optimal framing:
- Place your camera at eye level or slightly above;
- Frame your image so there is a small space between the top of your head and the top of the screen;
- Arrange your seating and camera angles so that gestures (and you do want to gesture) are in the frame;
- Position yourself in the center of your screen;
- Look directly into the camera. It will make your audience think you are looking directly at them. This is counterintuitive but can be learned. Looking into the lens will make your communication far more engaging.
Sound: Depending upon your acoustics the microphone in your camera may be sufficient. If there are distracting background sounds a dedicated microphone, headset or earplugs should be used. External microphones should plug into to your USB port as wireless microphones are subject to potential interruptions.
Grooming: Dress appropriately to avoid distractions:
- Women: avoid clunky necklaces and dangling earrings;
- Make sure your hair doesn’t droop over your eye;.
- Men: if you have a shiny, bald head powder it or it could become distracting;
- Flattering make up for women and men is recommended. YouTube videos can teach you how to look your best;
- Avoid patterned clothing.
- Avoid wearing shorts or pajama bottoms. If you need to get up suddenly that could be very embarrassing!
Minimize External Distractions: While everyone understands you’re working at home, as much as possible make sure you won’t be interrupted by children, significant others or pets. If interruptions cannot be avoided inform your audience at the beginning of your meeting.
The key to success in online communication is preparation — from setting the stage to rehearsing your message visually, vocally and verbally. Creating an appealing, professional ‘studio’ for your ‘broadcasts’ will help you stand out as a professional, engaging communicator.
Joan Lowery, owner of Lowery Communications in Sarasota, offers Virtually Speaking training and coaching to help professionals excel in their online communications.