More and more people are working from home and staying in contact with their companies via video. Additionally, more and more businesses are turning to video or to webinars to share information with colleagues and customers.
How hard can it be? Open up your laptop or prop up your smartphone and hit “Start.” Right? Not so fast. There are whole industries devoted to lighting and video. These tips are for those who are just starting out and want a way to look better when your face is on camera during a video presentation to your boss or to a client.
For a face-to-face meeting, you might walk into the conference room with a notebook and a pen.
For a webinar, though, there are some things to consider before you sign in.
After almost twenty years in front of the camera as a TV news anchor and reporter, I have made oodles of mistakes and then some. I remember the time I wore a beautiful striped scarf and giant hoop earrings on the air. Not a bad look for a night out (or so I thought then), but definitely not ideal for anchoring a newscast. My news director told me it was too distracting.
Just as you would prepare for an interview on television, prepare for your moment in the online spotlight from the comfort of home.
1) Dress for the part
Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you wear what my kids would call “home clothes.” Pajamas, tank tops and workout clothes are just fine for different parts of your day. If you’ll be interviewing for a job via video, maybe you wear a suit jacket. Choose a solid color that flatters you and stay away from patterns.
Good news when you are conducting your chat from home. You just need to dress for the part from the waist up. No one will know if you’re wearing shorts!
2) Set the scene
The photojournalists I have worked with have always told me to stay away from white walls. When interviewing people for stories, we would always look for a nice background that included pictures, fireplaces, or centerpieces. They always told me anything was better than a plain white background. So set your shot up in front of a wall that is not white, but is not too busy, either. Look for a backdrop that has some depth as well. Consider sitting in front of a plant, a bookshelf, a picture–something to separate you from the wall behind you.
3) Light it up
Here is where you can spend many days of research and plenty of dollars in lighting investment. I have seen first hand the effects of fantastic lighting. Great lighting can help you to look amazing. Period. But maybe you’re not quite ready to invest in a light kit worth thousands. Start off with some diffused light from a window on one side, and add another table light 45 degrees on the other. Make sure the light is in front of you, not behind you.
4) Focus on sound
Attendees of your broadcasts will be more forgiving of poor video quality than poor audio quality. If you’ll be doing webinars regularly, consider getting a microphone to ensure quality sound. Find a quiet place for your webinars and use headphones to keep outside noises from coming in. I record my podcasts in my bedroom closet. Those clothes provide the best barrier from echoes.
5) Be you…but dial up the energy
Let’s say you are giving a presentation to a team of co-workers about a current project. Or maybe you’re giving an update to a supervisor and asking for more money. Whatever it is, make sure you speak directly to one person. I used to joke I had spent my entire career speaking into a box, which actually was the camera. The way to get past that feeling is to imagine focusing on speaking to just one person. While doing so, you have to be able to transfer the emotions you are feeling to the person on the other side. You do that through your eye contact and your delivery. You may feel as if you are speaking with too much emotion or too much feeling, and it may seem unnatural to you. Trust me, it’s not. What comes across on camera will be just right.
Look at the camera, not your image in a box in the corner of your screen. Focus on the camera, otherwise you will look shifty.
Speak clearly and slowly, but not too slowly. You don’t have to yell, the microphone will pick your voice up just fine. But you do have to project.
It may seem unnatural at first, but keep working at it. The popularity of video is exploding so it is worth it to master this skill. After all, practice makes perfect.