Before many of us started taking shelter at home, we used video conferencing at least occasionally for meetings with colleagues or clients. During the pandemic, video conferencing will become a way of life, because you will want it for the human connection. And you want to look and sound the best.
How do you do that? It’s not really difficult – all it takes to design a professional look is a little training and some common sense. Whether you’re having an individual discussion or an individual conference, here are some tips and tricks to help you feel comfortable in front of the camera.
One of the most important things to be correct is lighting. The location of the light source is essential, says Terence Taylor, a freelance writer and video producer. For starters, «you don’t want light behind you,» he says, «because then you’re just a figure. It’s a common mistake. «
You also don’t want a single bright light on one side. “Everything on the other side of your face is getting darker,” Taylor explains, “so you look like a bastard al the black film «.
The best place to place the lighting is in front of you so that your face can be clearly seen. Ellen Fanning, IDG’s director of digital and visual media, agrees. «It could be a window, it could be artificial light, as long as you face it,» he says.
If you are not happy with your appearance, Taylor suggests that you use a second light source on the side, preferably with a soft light bulb, to fill in the shadows. A desk lamp would work very well, he says.
What if you are in an office with a top light? If it’s crowded, even with lighting, you’re good to go. But if the ceiling lighting casts harsh shadows, turn it off if you can and use other lighting instead. (Can’t turn it off? Try the second light source to match the shadows.)
2. Check your sound.
In a video conference, you don’t just want to be seen; you want to be heard clearly. If you are in a quiet room, you can probably use your laptop’s microphone. Otherwise, it is a good idea to use a microphone that is closer to your face. A decent pair of headphones or earphones that are equipped with a microphone should work well, especially if they allow you to speak at a normal conversational level.
3. Not too close or too far.
Remember, you are the center of the conversation – people on the other end want to see you clearly so that they can feel that they are talking to you directly. Position yourself so that you are seen from shoulder to head or from waist to head. Anything closer to home can be overwhelming; anything else can make your face too difficult to see.
4. Keep the camera at eye level.
«I think I like to look people in the eye,» says Taylor. «Just in terms of communication, especially in business, you want this kind of connection.» So it’s important that your webcam is at eye level, he says.
Fanning agrees. «You can have a separate room or you can lift the laptop up, maybe put it on a stand,» he says. If you use a separate camera, it should be as close to the screen as possible.
A trick used by people who are often in front of the camera is to look at the camera when talking. Although this may seem counterintuitive, our instinct is to look at the computer screen, when we look at the camera, it will seem that you meet the eyes of the person you are talking to. But if this feels bad or makes you aware, then position the screen and the camera at eye level.
A good way to test your setup is to start the video app and take a screenshot, Taylor suggests. «You will have an idea of what the person receives from the other end.»
5. Keep your environment simple.
«Try to keep it as neat as possible,» says Fanning. «You don’t want it to be completely sterile, but you don’t want a ton of stuff on the desk either.»
Taylor agrees that a simple background is best. «If someone looks over their shoulders at family photos and wonders where they took their vacation last year, that can distract from the discussion,» he says.
6. Don’t worry about makeup.
Yes, professional announcers put on make-up to look good in bright lights, but that doesn’t apply to everyday video conferencing. If you normally wear makeup, that’s fine. Otherwise, don’t worry.
If you feel a little hot or nervous, wipe your face with a soft cloth to reduce shine.
7. Most clothes are fine.
However, there are a few things you should stay away from. Avoid the stripes and plaids that can create moire models that distract the attention Careful of the room. Also, try not to wear bright white or deep black clothing, as many webcams have automatic exposure settings and will adapt to these colors. As a result, wearing a bright white shirt can » Stop “Focusing on everything around her, making the image look darker and less open, while a black shirt can make the surroundings too bright. The best option, according to Taylor, is to use more neutral colors.
8. Sit in a comfortable chair.
«Not very comfortable, because you don’t want to fall asleep,» Taylor jokes. «But comfortable enough that you can sit down and communicate, and people don’t wonder what’s going on because you’re upset.»
9. Be prepared.
If you are new to video conferencing, practice first. Set up the lighting and sound, and once you’re happy with them, call a friend and find out what things look like on the other end. It is much better for a friend to complain about poor sound quality than for an important customer.
Looking forward to a lot of video conferencing? Put together a «video kit» that can be ready in a minute or two. Now, if you receive a sudden call from a colleague for an emergency meeting on Skype, you don’t have to think about whether your setup works, simply turn on the camera, put on your headphones, turn on the desk lamp, and close a «Do Not Disturb» sign. ”At the office door.
Finally, if the Wi-Fi connection in your office is slow or sometimes unstable, Fanning recommends using a fixed internet connection when possible.
10. Ready, Ready, Ready!
Finally, Taylor explains, the main thing is to use common sense. «You know what’s wrong and you can find ways to fix it,» he says. «If it’s too dark, find a light to light. If you can’t be heard, take a microphone. If it’s far away, bring the camera closer.»
But the most important thing when you’re on a video call, he says, is, «Be yourself; this way you will present the best possible image of yourself ”.
This story was originally published in January 2018 and was updated in March 2020.