Camera-ready or not, most of us have been thrust into spending the better part of our days on video conferencing with co-workers, customers, supervisors, and Friends.
Whether it’s a casual video conference with your team, an important pitch meeting with a prospective new client or a virtual happy hour with friends, the way you present yourself via video conference is just as important as if you were meeting in person.
Virtual meetings are far more complex than meeting live, so we reached out to a seasoned group of media professionals to share their insider tips on how you can amp up your video conferencing game.
Kathryn Janicek Productions
Kathryn Janicek is a three-time Emmy Award-winning media and public speaking trainer. She transforms executives so they connect with their audiences more effectively on air, on stage, online and in videos. She has been training clients all over the world using video conferencing for 5 years.
Good lighting is your best friend
Working from home means you may not have to put a lot of focus on what you’re wearing on your lower half, but you need to make sure that from waist up, you’re all business. Take the time before an on-camera meeting to do your hair, makeup and wear something that is not too distracting. For on-camera media interviews through video conferencing, my clients normally have their makeup and hair professionally done.
During a pandemic, you can’t hire someone to come to your house to get that done. There are many consultants who can talk you through this virtually right now. Our team of makeup and hair stylists is doing this for our clients. If you don’t have a professional to help you, make sure you look well-rested, alert, your skin looks healthy and your best features are emphasized. Since you want your audience to lock-in with your eyes and trust you – make sure your eyes are not blocked by extra hair and eyeglass frames that don’t fit your face properly. A lot of professionals are balancing children at home and working — so both men and women can benefit from a little concealer under their eyes. Make sure your hair isn’t distracting and falling into your face during your calls and try not to adjust your hair or touch your face while you’re on camera. When it comes to wardrobe, it’s better to wear a solid color or something that’s not as distracting. If you have a bold or quirky personality and you love bright colors and patterns, it’s okay to be yourself, just make sure you don’t distract from the conversation.
Make eye contact with the camera
Just like in person, you want to make great eye contact with your audience. When you’re video conferencing, this can be tough. The software will show you speaking on your monitor, along with the person interviewing you – or all the people you’re talking to on the call. This can create a lot of distractions for you. The key here is to make sure when you are talking, you look into the camera on your computer or phone. When you look directly into the camera, you will be appearing as if you’re looking right into the eyes of your audience. This takes practice to get it down and not let your eyes wander off and look at all the other people on the call. Why is this so important? When you let your eyes move from person to person or somewhere else in your room, you may appear to be insincere, detached, uninterested, insecure and even shifty. Make time to practice good eye contact. You do not want to portray the message that you don’t care about the meeting or interview.
Lisa Lubin is a seasoned media professional and three-time Emmy® award-winning video producer and consultant. She owns LLmedia, a media & video consulting business. Lisa works with clients to coach them on the video strategy and production — from shooting and editing to writing and being on camera.
Too often, people don’t frame their head correctly in the shot. Your eyes should always be in the top third of the screen. You might need to tilt down the angle of your webcam or laptop screen which may seem a bit awkward, but your goal is a good shot of you, not the ergonomics of your laptop.
Lighting is crucial
While you don’t necessarily need a fancy lighting kit, the best thing to do is face a window or a light on a table. Far too often, people think light so they sit with a window behind them. This is the exact opposite of what you want! Light needs to be shining on your face, not behind you. Pro tip: ceiling lights cause light to go straight down your face causing unflattering shadows. The best light is more at eye level. A soft lampshade can offer some nice diffusion. Another great tip: the brightness on your screen can also fill in light on your face so turn it up!
The most important online meeting tip regarding sound is to mute your microphone when not talking. Otherwise, be very mindful of other noises around you. Make sure to turn the radio or TV off. Keep pets and children in another room. Mute notifications and ringers. If you can, use headphones to avoid feedback of the sound from your speakers looping back into the mic. Try not to touch the actual mic itself either on your headphone cord or on the laptop. And lastly, if you aren’t muted try not to be typing during the meeting as the keyboard sound can seem quite loud on the other end!
For more info and a video demo of these tips check out Lisa’s video tips on using your webcam.
Wear a solid colored top
You want to present well and you want your audience focused on you and what you’re saying. Patterns, logos and designs can be extremely distracting. You should also try to avoid white and black. White can make you appear washed out and it is extremely hard to get the lightning correct for black unless you’re a professional. You can’t go wrong with a solid colored, well fitting top in a jewel tone.
Practice If you’re going to be presenting, practice your setup beforehand with a friend or co-worker. I taped a few segments via Skype for the first-time last week. During my “dress rehearsal” I was able to line-up perfectly b/c the producer didn’t give me time to line up once he called me.During the dress rehearsal I was able to line up my iPad (iPad on a tripod) which worked better than the computer. Make sure to practice where you’ll look and how to place your device, so you are centered on a screen.
Optimize your background
You don’t want people to be distracted by what’s behind you. Again, you want them focused on what you’re saying, not trying to read the titles of the books on your bookshelf or distracted by a busy background.
You want your audience to be drawn to your message and feel engaged over the video conference call. Your audience should be captivated by what you’re saying and the energy you exude and not distracted by what you’re wearing, your background or shadows on your face.
Digital Content Strategy
Carolyn Barth is CEO of Digital Content Strategy LLC, an award-winning PR & Marketing Communications consulting firm that specializes in building brand awareness and amplifying one message to millions. Ms. Barth’s Blue Ocean strategy approach to get experts out in front of stories has helped clients win multi-million dollar contracts.
Embrace the Silence
Remember, you don’t have to fill every silence. A pause lets everyone think. Books are so powerful as the reader can see the story as they imagine it to be. When you give space in a conversation, the listener has more room to picture how your advice applies to them.
Less is more
Focus on communicating the essence of what you want to say — your one key takeaway.
You only need one story, three bullet points, and one call to action.
Grab their attention
Make it interactive in the first few minutes. For example, I tell people to close their eyes and help attendees visualize what they could achieve with your help. Throughout the webinar ask questions or do an activity periodically to keep the engagement up.
Noleen McGrath, Founder, McGrath Comm has been providing executive presentation skills coaching, executive media training and on-camera coaching for 15 years. Noeleen is an award-winning television news journalist for 12 years at the network and local news levels.
Preview the shot
Always preview what you and the background look like before joining an online meeting. There’s nothing worse than noticing a mess in the background after you join. There are apps like Photo Booth that let you do this pretty easily if you’re not sure how to access your camera.
No Double Chins!
Make sure the camera isn’t lower than your face. If it is, you’ll be creating double and triple chins. (Repeat after me: “A low angle shot flatters no one!) For most people the most flattering placement will be at eye level or even a little higher if you know how to angle your camera correctly.
Treat online meetings as presentations
One of our mantras has always been, “Treat every meeting as a presentation.” Outline and practice what you want to say prior to the meeting. This is even more important now that people are focused on your every facial expression because you’re on-camera. (Note: If the meeting is recorded and archived, you’re going to want to be more prepared than ever for meetings.)
For more tips, you can check out their podcast, Eat The Lens, on iTunes or follow them on Twitter
Founder Copper + Rise
Joanna Lovering is an accomplished style coach, organizational psychologist, and speaker. Her credo is: “You can move forward with your life goals just by changing what you wear.” Joanna founded Copper + Rise, a New York City-based style coaching service dedicated to personal and professional empowerment. A passionate stylist and trained executive coach, Joanna pairs her seasonal sensibilities with leadership development techniques to help clients rise to the next level.
Leverage nonverbal cues
When presenting or speaking to someone specific during your video call, do your best to look straight into the camera. Your meeting attendees subconsciously think you’re giving them eye contact.
When listening, slightly exaggerate typical non-verbal gestures such as head nods and smiles so that the speakers can see them in the small window. If you’re a loud listener (i.e. saying “uh huh” aloud), make sure you’ve muted yourself!
Unless you’re taking notes, place your hands within the camera’s view. That way your meeting attendees know you aren’t multi-tasking
Feel confident on video and influence others positively
Test your makeup first! You’d be surprised how cameras will distort color. I learned this the hard way: my favorite red lip gloss shows up as what I call “1984 magenta” on video calls.
When it comes to backgrounds, less is more: sit in front of a clean background instead of a space filled with items to distract your attendees. Try a virtual background for a chuckle–my colleague started his meeting from Jurassic Park last week and we all loved it!