As a lot of work has become more globally distributed we’ve all got used to video conferences. A whole team crowding into a conference room at HQ has become a distant memory … and a recent nightmare. Current events have forced us all to move to 100% virtual meetings on Zoom. Some are reluctant to click that ‘enable video’ button but it is important that teams and colleagues remain connected and seeing each other through Zoom is a great tool to help us do that.
As someone who has been involved in creating hundreds of testimonial videos I want to help you feel good on camera. Here are a few tips to look and sound your best:
In video production, good sound is more important than great visuals. When you’re preparing for a Zoom meeting, decent sound should be your number one priority. The microphone technology found in modern smartphones, tablets, webcams and laptops is amazing but they have limits. The further you are from the microphone the quicker you’ll find those limits as quality exponentially decreases. You really don’t want to be more than arm’s length away from your device even in a quiet room.
Listen to the room you’re in: how quiet is it really? Any background noise from computer fans, your home’s HVAC or your kids playing in another room will affect your audio quality. Rooms with lots or hard surfaces like kitchens or a bare home office can add unwanted reverb to your voice and sound empty.
You can easily test your audio quality in Zoom. If it sounds distant or unclear try using a headset or earbuds. This will physically move the mic closer to your mouth and should increase sound quality.
You should use the Zoom mute button in meetings if more than three people are present or any time you’re participating in a noisy environment. If you don’t mute yourself when you’re not talking we’re going to hear every email alert, message notification and dog bark. We can also hear you typing and taking screenshots. Zoom identifies the current speaker by who is making the most noise. Every time you cough while unmuted all attention will turn to you and not for the same reasons it does in the grocery store line currently.
Jimmy gets it wrong: poor & low lighting, low camera angle and distracting background.
The key to looking good on camera is all in the lighting. You need enough light otherwise you will look blocky and slightly distorted but it needs to be the right kind of light. Overhead lighting, such as found in most office spaces, is the most unflattering light as it throws unnatural shadows on your face and can have a color tint that makes you look unhealthy. The most flattering light photographers call ‘window light’. This is the light you get from a window that is not direct and harsh. Window light is soft and wraps around your face so it minimizes shadows (and wrinkles) and it’s a neutral color so you will look your best
The direction of the light source is also important. You don’t want the window behind you (back lighting) or your face will be dark and in shadow as if you’re in a witness protection scheme. Put your device between you and the window for the best effect.
Trevor gets it right: flattering window light, camera at eye-level, looking into the camera, interesting but uncluttered background.
The most flattering angle for filming is with the camera at eye level. If you’re using the camera on your laptop and it is at typical desk height you will have to tilt the screen/camera up so that you are in frame. This is a very unflattering angle: it looks up your nose and emphasizes your neck and can add a chin or two. When on a video call raise your laptop on a stand, empty box, or pile of books so that the camera on the bezel is somewhere near eye level. Dropping your desk chair can also help with getting the camera at the right level.
Check your background. Usually I’d recommend avoiding an overly busy background but in our current situation it might help to see each other’s working environments for added solidarity. Just make sure there’s nothing embarrassing or controversial in the shot. For larger meetings, or when you’re talking to people outside of your company and partners, I’d still recommend a simple, uncluttered background: you don’t want to be accused of having too much ‘personality’.
Before you get on a video call do check how you look. You don’t need to be made up, or in formal business attire, but PJs or your oldest sweats might not be appropriate. Who knows who will drop in on your call?
If there are others in your house and it’s possible, then close the door. Going as far as posting an “On Air” note on your door might not be overkill to avoid interruptions.
Look into the camera as much as possible. It’s like making eye contact in a real life interaction. Try not to spend all your time looking down at your notes. Sit up straight. Even when you’re not the presenter people can still see what you’re doing so it’s best to be seen to be paying attention and being engaged.
Video conferencing uses amazing compression technology but it still benefits from a fast, stable internet connection. A bad connection results in freezing or glitchy video and stuttering or garbled audio. If possible use a wired network connection rather than WiFi. Close programs you don’t need that may be taking up network or processing resources on your device. If you share a network with other members in your household and you experience issues ask them not to do network intensive actions while you’re on an important call. Your kids downloading a new video game could adversely affect your bandwidth. If all else fails you can always try turning your router off and on again. It’s old school but it still often helps.
As a last resort, and your network is really poor, you can turn your camera off in Zoom to save bandwidth but, as we all try to get through this together, it is important that we see each other and connect rather than isolate further.
Finally plug the power adapter in to your laptop or your other device unless you’re sure you have enough charge to make it through a meeting double the length of the one you’re about to attend. This is especially true if you’re the host. Batteries don’t discharge in a very linear fashion: one minute you have 2 bars, the next you’re getting a low battery warning.
- 6 Ways To Look Great On A Video Call
- How to Look Better on Video Calls
- A cinematographer’s guide to looking good in web-based video conferencing
- How to Look Good on Camera, According to Tom Ford