After stepping away from a life in TV news, my first job was to teach on-camera presentation and public speaking skills to corporate executives. I loved working with individuals and groups to get more comfortable in front of a camera or a crowd. All of a sudden, my weird set of skills are coming in handy again!
Between Zoom meetings and Google Meet happy hours, and full-on virtual school, it feels like we are all presenting and collaborating with a tiny computer camera. Here are a few tips to help you be your best from behind the screen.
- Lighting matters: Lighting is super important when it comes to virtual meetings. The simplest way to light yourself is by putting your computer in front of a window so the natural light comes from behind the computer and onto your beautiful face. If a steady natural light source isn’t available, grab a small clip-on ring light to make sure your face is evenly lit. When all else fails, I’ve been known to go into Zoom settings, and check “Touch up my appearance” if I haven’t showered.
- Don’t talk to yourself: If you’re presenting in person, it’s important to create eye contact with your audience. In a virtual setting, so many people stare at their own faces on the screen. DON’T! When you’re speaking, look into your webcam at the top of your screen. It creates a connection even if you aren’t in the same room.
- Read the room: Yes, you’ll be looking into the camera while you’re speaking – but keep an eye out for participants looking down (they are checking their phones) or leaning forward to type (they are probably checking Facebook). If you notice attention lagging, it’s time to ask a question or crack a joke.
- Rock the “business mullet”: Business up top, party down below! It can feel easy to use this time to relax on your style choices. Personally, I haven’t worn pants with a zipper in a few months, BUT if we’re on an important call I will rock the accessory game. Necklaces can really elevate a simple tee and make you look more together than you really are. (I love these ones from Flourish Market.) When it comes to outfit color, keep it simple with solid colors and avoid loud prints and stripes.
- Virtual backgrounds: Unless you have some gorgeous floor-to-ceiling bookshelf or are regularly featured in Architectural Digest, your video background is probably…not that great. A virtual background lets you pretend you are somewhere else for a minute – and it also hides the pile of laundry in the back of your room. If you haven’t discovered the beauty of Zoom backgrounds yet…please go read this quick how-to. If you want to really up your game, grab an inexpensive green screen on Amazon. What is great is that so many websites have already made some pretty cool backgrounds, like West Elm, Hallmark Channel, and Disney Parks. You could even make your own on Canva!
- Tech hacks: There are some simple setting changes you can make that will make a world of difference. Under Video, click “Always display participant name” so you know exactly who you are talking to. Under Audio, check “Press and hold Space key to unmute yourself.” That means no one can hear all the loud sounds filling your house hallways when you aren’t speaking. If you are ready for the big leagues, check out the app mmhmm. It’s currently in beta, but looks to be a game-changer when it comes to immersive and interactive video conferencing.
Zoom can be quite overwhelming, but remember it can still be fun. Once you are ready to break out into more Zoom antics, be sure to grab some Jackbox Games for fun with friends.