As Seth Godin recently commented on his October 7 Akimbo podcast about Zoom meetings, “Covid-19 probably accelerated the adoption of video meetings by five years.”
He’s probably right.
As video communications become more ubiquitous, it places a new burden on us to best utilize this medium and present our best. Just as there are conventions in writing a letter, an email or even having a phone conversation, so too when it comes to video conferencing.
Here are a few quick tips to enhance your mastery of the medium and present yourself and your ideas in the best light possible.
Sound: How to Be Heard
Most computers these days are equipped with a video camera and microphone. The weakest link is usually the microphone. Positioned on the computer somewhere, it tends to broadly pick up the sound from the room you’re in. Or on a laptop, your keystrokes as you take notes. And while you may have perfect silence, it picks up the reverberations of your voice bouncing off the walls, ceiling and other flat surfaces.
Action step: purchase a microphone that you can plug into the USB port of your computer.
Zoom and other video conferencing software electronically neutralize the feedback created by your microphone picking up your voice coming out of the speakers. Sometimes it doesn’t work as well as it should, and a distracting echo effect is heard.
Action step: If you choose not to get a dedicated microphone, at least listen on a set of headphones rather than using the (more convenient) built-in computer speaker.
Background noise, when multiplied by dozens of attendees can become quite distracting. Especially since most video conferencing software puts the speaker full screen. In this case it’s you—because your dog is barking at the UPS driver or your phone is ringing.
Action step: Learn how to use the mute button. Just remember that you’ll need to unmute yourself if you wish to share!
Lighting: How to Be Seen
In a low light situation, the picture produced by the built-in computer camera becomes quite grainy.
Action step: You may need to add or turn on an additional light or two when you’re on camera.
But avoid a back-light situation. That’s when a bright window or light source is largely behind you. The camera tends to expose for the brightest part of the picture, often putting your face in the shadow.
Action step: Turn your computer so a bright window or light source is to the side and slightly in front of you.
If you were glasses, even with anti-reflecting lenses, you’ll want to be aware how reflections from windows or lights can prevent participants from seeing your eyes.
Action step: Make sure most of your lighting comes from above you or from the side. You may even need to turn down the brightness of your screen.
Composition: Look at the Camera Not Your Screen
There are three common mistakes made by those who don’t use video regularly when it comes to setting up their shot.
The first is positioning their head in the center of the frame. Not good. Notice how the television newsreader’s head is positioned in the top half of the frame. You’ll want to copy that format.
The second mistake is positioning the computer on your lap, so the camera is shooting up into your nose. This makes your image shaky as you breathe or move and becomes quite distracting. Instead, position your laptop on a table so the camera is level, or better, slightly higher than your face. It’s better for you to look up at the camera than down at it.
The third is perfectly natural, but it’s the biggest giveaway to video newbies. That’s when you attempt to make eye contact with the person on your screen as you speak. It’s tempting to talk to the image on the screen, but that makes you appear distracted or evasive, unwilling to make eye contact. It’s a difficult habit to break, but crucial if you want to connect more deeply with others on the call.
Courtesy Tips For Extra Credit
Finally, a few reminders that bear repeating.
- Be on time. Especially if you’re the host. We all have accurate clocks built into our computers and scheduling software that can alert us ahead of time. It’s not like you’re stuck in traffic driving across town. There’s no excuse. Your act of defiance is, well, childish.
- Practice. Learn how to share your screen and use all the controls. There aren’t that many to master.
- Avoid talking over others. Unlike being there in person, it’s much more difficult to understand when more than one person is speaking at a time.
Arrange a Content Consultation
If your health care website needs some freshening up, let’s discuss your content needs. Arrange a Zoom meeting or just an old-fashioned telephone call and let’s talk.