Videoconferencing, whether in Zoom, WebEx, Skype or other apps, is getting more common.
A good setup for video is about more than just looking good. It will help you connect with others, seem credible and trustworthy, and demonstrate that you’re mindful of the conversational space. When I see someone as a dark shadow, I think, “don’t they give a damn?”
- Wear earbuds. Great sound is hugely important. Echoes destroy concentration; earphones of any kind are echo-killers. They also put a mic right by your mouth, which greatly improves your audio quality. Nice ones cost $15.
- Put light on your face, not behind you! The most frequent mistake is to sit in front of a window or other bright light source, which makes you look like a dark outline, facial expressions invisible. Doing a quick spin with your camera will often reveal better lighting right at hand. Turn until the light on your face is best. Facing a window usually works wonderfully (which is the opposite of our usual seating choice, which puts windows behind us).
- Leave an inch of space visible above your head. Only an inch. Too many video participants are slouched at the bottom of their screens. Fill the frame with you. It’s a portrait, a moving selfie.
- Raise your camera (on whatever device you’re using) above your eye level, just a bit. You look better, they feel better.
- Try to look at the lens when you speak. It’s the closest you’ll get to making eye contact, and looking away loses connection. If you find yourself staring at yourself, turn off your own image. (Zoom: from the … menu on anyone’s image). Also, see everyone at the same time with the “Hollywood Squares” view (Zoom: top right menu)
The Pro Tips:
- Invest in better videoconferencing gear.
- Get a serious USB microphone; they’re inexpensive.
- Clear up whatever’s behind you. It’s distracting and sometimes comical.
- Get some soft lights on you. Dimmable lights are great, because you can optimize them as you see yourself.
- If the connection is flaky, turn off your video. It uses much more bandwidth than your audio, and good audio quality is key.
- Use your hands, especially while others are talking (without being distracting). I teach the Occupy hand signals often; they work.
- Add some sound-deadening materials to your video space. Blankets eat sound nicely.