Whether you’re in the presenting seat or you’re going to be contributing to a virtual meeting, you want to make sure that way you appear on screen reflects the importance of what you’re saying and boosts both your professionalism and personal brand.
Working from home with your laptop and mobile devices for company poses many challenges to how you’ll appear on-screen, but there are loads of things you can do to achieve a smoother and more polished effect.
The broadcast industry has been holding onto some of the tips below for years, but now that we’re all our own personal TV producers in the virtual work environment we can all be put in the picture.
Let’s get started.
Before you start your meeting
A bit of time spent perfecting your set-up will pay off massively when it comes to virtual meetings. Here are ten quick and easy tips for avoiding common pitfalls:
- Wear a solid colour and make sure it stands out from the background. Otherwise, you could appear on video as a ‘talking head’ – just a talking head! And be wary of stripes, they can create strange optical effects on screen.
- Try lifting your camera, computer, phone or iPad, so that the lens is level with your eyes. That way you won’t be looking ‘down’ on your viewers. A pile of books works!
- Think about what’s in shot behind you. Memorabilia, photos, clutter, etc. – is it sending the signals you want to send?
- Find a quiet place to present from. Check there is no background noise or distractions that could interfere with your video broadcast.
- Test your computer microphone or headset and internet speed. It is essential that your audience can see and hear you clearly. Check your internet speed, and if working from home try to dissuade others from downloading the latest video game, while you’re trying to present.
- Never position your camera, computer, or tablet into a light or window. You’ll become a silhouette – and no one will be able to see who you are, which rather defeats the point of using video.
- Try bouncing the light from a lamp off the wall in front of you or get some natural light on your face.
- Place some white paper sheets on the desk in front of you. Flipchart paper works well. You get a free uplighter, like the ones they use on the TV.
- Frame yourself, so that people can see your facial expressions. Head and shoulders plus three buttons down on a shirt or blouse should be visible in shot.
- Make sure you are set up in landscape, not portrait. This echoes the shape of the computer screen most people will be viewing you on, so makes the best use of the screen’s real estate.
Using your camera during the meeting
Don’t be in a rush to start the meeting. Help people relax with some small talk while everyone dials in, then start strongly:
- As you begin, look up from your desk, face the camera, smile, count to three in your head… and then confidently deliver your first line. This helps ‘command’ the virtual room.
- Speak slowly and clearly… so the audience can follow what you are saying and keep up, especially if they are working in a second or even third language.
- Turn your body to face the camera. The camera you are using may not be near the monitor you are looking at. Participants could be forgiven for thinking you are staring out of the window, not talking to them.
- Make eye contact with the camera lens. Pretend the lens is between the eyes of the people you are talking too. Then you’ll look like you are talking to them, not looking elsewhere.
- Resist the temptation to ‘look into the eyes’ of your own image… or indeed other people on screen. Those images are rarely positioned where the camera lens is – and it is the lens you should be looking at, not yourself!
- It’s OK to look away from the camera every now and then – it shows you’re thinking. Although the truth is you might be glancing at your notes.
- Any body language you use, including hand movements, need to be in shot, or no one will know you are using them. And remember to match your facial expressions to the point you’re making – excited or disappointed.
- Vary your tone of voice to reinforce your message. It’s good to sound happy or sound concerned. It reinforces what you’re saying and what your body language is signaling.
- Continue to look at the camera while other people are talking. If you don’t and you look away, participants will think you are not listening, or not interested in what they are saying.
- At the end of your meeting, remember to smile again and continue to make eye contact with the camera lens as people log off the call. Eye contact is key – when people look away at the end they can look ‘shifty’ or relieved it is over.
It might seem like a lot to remember, but many of these points are very simple and will soon become second nature.