I don’t know your exact reasons for checking out this blog but I thank you for being an ‘early adopter’ – and what I do know is that the vast majority of us find public speaking and clarity of communication a real challenge.
The truth is that we can’t help NOT communicating. Quite often, what isn’t said or demonstrated says more about us than what is said or shown. Covid-19 has shone the biggest spotlight on that fact in the workplace; as we’ve all jumped online with Zoom, Teams and Skype calls, we’re all on show more than we ever were before. Or to put it another way, there’s no way of keeping your head down by hiding behind the water cooler and hoping nobody says your name any more – you’re on screen, my friend, and this is your 15 minutes of screen time, whether you like it or not.
For many of us, heading back to the office still isn’t an option – and might never be again. So here are my “not everybody tells you these” tips for video conferencing (I’d almost bet no-one has ever told you the last one):
Pick your camera position based on the lighting, not on your bookshelf!
I’m sure you want to convince your boss or prospect that you’ve read all the worthy books behind you (and hidden the Dan Brown and Jilly Cooper paperbacks on the bottom shelf!) but consider the lighting in your room. Too dark a corner and you’ll look like you’re trying to do a budget remake of the Blair Witch Project. Equally, placing yourself with your back to a bright window will be the visual equivalent of stepping into the blinding light at the gates of heaven (and who am I to tell you whether you are angelic enough to enter?).
Practice camera positions. Record some sample video ahead of your call. Does it look serviceable? Can you see your facial expressions? If not, try another spot. Rinse and repeat until you’re happy.
Careful with the ‘Madonna’ microphone
OK so this will lose some of my younger readers but there was a time when everyone seemed to want those ear mounted microphones that Madonna used in the ‘Vogue’ era. These days, you’re more likely to see your boss donning the headphone-and-mic-twinset than an international sex-symbol but this isn’t always the best solution if you want to be heard and understood on the call.
If you’re using a microphone close to your mouth, be very careful that it doesn’t ‘pop’ or ‘distort’. Equally, if you’re using the headphones and mic that came with your mobile phone, make sure the cable isn’t damaged – or the microphone part rubbing against your clothing – to avoid crackles, poor quality audio and unnecessary rustles.
In fact, if you’re using a quality device, use the default microphone in the body of the unit. You’re likely conferencing-in from home so unless you have a) particularly noisy pets or b) particularly noisy children (I suffer from one of these afflictions every now and then), then you should be golden. And audible.
Steady – You’re Not Presenting The Weather
The likes of Zoom have a very clever ‘virtual background’ option. But you’re not in a fully equipped TV studio so it can go massively wrong. I mean, it even goes wrong for the pro’s!
If there is nothing but a blank, straight wall behind you, you’re going to have problems with the virtual background. And if the lighting isn’t just perfect, half of your head will disappear when you move it.
If you really MUST use a background, it’s well worth investing in a couple of photography lights (only 30 quid or so on Amazon) to give yourself the best chance of an impressive screen shot.
And you can always try these fun BBC sets as backgrounds…
Talk to the camera. I can’t emphasise this enough.
In natural conversation, by looking at the person you’re talking to, you look directly at them. When you’re looking at their face, some way down the screen, you’re talking to the screen, not to the camera at the top (or to the side).
Find out where the camera is on your device, and when you’re talking, address the camera rather than the people appearing elsewhere on your screen. This really is my top bit of advice to ‘connect’ with people online – they’ll be much more likely to think you’re talking directly to them.
For a free one hour webinar to help you with Zoom this Tuesday 8th September at 10am, just email and we'll add you to the guest list (sorry, teething problems with the website mean we're currently able to take bookings that way!).