We all are in the same boat — using virtual platforms to communicate with our colleagues, peers, friends and family. Whether you’re ‘Zoom-ing’ or ‘Microsoft Teams-ing,’ the experience has shifted for everyone to what is considered the new normal. In that regard, until we are back in-office, in-studio, in-classroom, etc, it’s important to present our best selves, virtually because you never know who’s on the other end watching.
As a media host, I have facilitated a 3-day conference, book launch, taught webinars and have spoken on panels — all from the comfort of home. But, I’m reminded not to get too comfortable and to strive for excellence and professionalism at all times.
There are (free!) resources and tools at our disposal. Here are some tips I’ve learned from trial and error. Remember, you are your brand, so your virtual presence should reflect and represent it.
Make a strong first impression when you show-up, er, log-in to your team meeting or event. I’d recommend using a computer or laptop, a stable device that can be placed on a flat surface, for balance and steadiness. Also, keep in mind most platforms prefer you use a PC or laptop anyway, when possible, for an optimal, user-friendly experience.
Most devices have a built-in camera, but if you want to enhance the visual experience, invest in a webcam. It will offer a wider angle, crisper image in HD and brighter lighting.
Some platforms offer options to change your background. If appropriate, and depending on the occasion, select a fun virtual background to add flair to your video. You can also purchase a green screen or fabric to erect as a backdrop to add variety to your at-home studio look.
Do you see that red or green light flashing on your computer? Hel-lo! That’s your cue that the camera is on. Look directly into that light, not at the people on your screen! Also, position the camera so that it’s eye level, not below your chin. Your audience doesn’t want to see up your nose.
Type your notes in advance. For large-scale events with a longer program, follow a script or run of show. You’ll appear prepared and professional. I also recommend scripting because it helps you stay on track in the event of a tech snaffu or disconnection; it’s easier to pick-up where you left off and you won’t get distracted. Use Power Point or Google slides if it helps to get your point across, visually.
If you want to take it to the next level, use a teleprompter app. It will be tremendously helpful especially if you have a lot of content to present. You can download it to a phone or tablet, and prop those devices behind the computer monitor screen. You’ll look like a pro.
The sun is our friend, so are ring lights.
Don’t sit with your back against the window. You’ll appear back-lit with a not-so-flattering shadow. Set-up your computer so that you’re facing the window. Natural light is your best friend, but add a ring light to the mix and your life will change forever! No matter the time of day, you’re always well-lit when you use a ring light. What I love about the one I purchased is that it has two stands — one for desktop use and one that extends up to 5.5 feet high for standing activities (i.e. stand-ups, special tapings, etc). The light has several settings that offer a variety of options and looks. It includes a cell phone holder, too, which is ideal for Facebook or Instagram Lives.
Practice makes perfect.
I do test Zoom calls with myself to check my camera angle, audio and appearance. (I log-in on my Mac and join the meeting from my iPhone — sounds weird, but it works!). This allows you to test all angles. You can also run a test call with a friend or colleague, too, before you go ‘live.’ In some cases, clients have requested tech rehearsals in advance of a major event to insure everything runs smoothly. This allows us to work out kinks and test out devices prior.
Mic check, 1, 2.
If you’re using the built-in microphone on your device, okay, that’s fine, but don’t sit a football field’s length away from it. Sit within a foot and a half’s distance so that it captures your voice. I’ve found that using a lapel microphone adds professionalism and crispness to the audio. You can also use AirPods or headphones (with a microphone) to capture your best audio.
When you speak, allow a few seconds for your words to register. There’s a slight delay and lapse when dealing with technology, so keep that in mind when presenting. And, wait a few seconds for your colleague to complete their thought before responding. It’s all in timing.
Now that you’re equipped with a few tips, you can elevate your virtual game and presence, and wow your team on the next Zoom call. Remember, virtual impressions and experiences are just as important, so let’s treat them that way.