“Taken from Jonathan’s regular media tutorial newsletter, Media Momentz. This article was taken from the August Issue. To sign up for Jonathan’s monthly free tutorial, CLICK HERE.”
Appearing on camera is now a regular part of a trainer’s work. Our faces pop up on webinars and in web video conferences like Skype.
However, many trainers are embarrassed by how they look on a webcam. That’s because webcams are cheap and distort our appearance.
Our appearance communicates a lot about who we are so it’s important not to leave our visual reputation to chance.
In this month’s issue of Media Momentz, I’m sharing tips on how to improve your visual reputation on web video conferences like Skype and in webinars.
Here are six things you can do to look better on camera and appear more professional to your students and clients.
1. Monitor Yourself
2. Plan your backdrop
3. Control the lighting
4. Set a good camera position
5. Wear clothing that fits
6. Focus on posture
Continually monitor your posture and position on camera so you come across as confident and professional.
When you conduct a video conference or webinar, a video of yourself will appear in a window on the screen. Usually it appears as an insert on top of the window that displays the person you’re talking to.
It appears in different areas of the screen depending on the provider. In the screen shot of the Skype interface, you can see the window is at the bottom right of the screen.
It is important to constantly monitor how you look in this window because this is what everyone else sees of you. Watch your posture, position and lighting so you can keep adjusting it until you look good.
In TV studios, presenters have a video monitor in front of them so they can see how they look on the broadcast.
The presenters will watch it constantly to see if they are slouching and need to adjust their posture, facial expression or position in the frame.
The next five tips will assume you are keeping an eye on how you look in the monitor window. If you’re not watching yourself you willnot have control over how you look on camera.
Set up your background and foreground to reinforce your message or tell your audience a little about yourself.
Your background can tell a story about who you are, why you’re on the call and provide other context.
This is why news journalists often file their reports with a busy newsroom in the background. The background conveys the message that their news organization is busy gathering news around the clock.
You should find somewhere to conduct your web video conference or webinar that has a backdrop that conveys your message or sets up the appropriate context.
If you’re an academic, set yourself up so you’re sitting in front of a book case. If you’re a laboratory scientist, make sure there’s a lab in the background. If you’re in a virtual sales meeting, paste your company logo behind you.
While the background can powerfully reinforce your message, your foreground can help too.
If at a desk, keep distracting objects off the countertop – the banana skin from a piece of fruit you ate just before the meeting won’t look good. Neither will a pile of messy papers.
I know that what I am saying makes sense. I hear from people all the time that they wouldn’t dream of leaving a half-eaten lunch or discarded apple core on the table in front of the camera. Then I see it in their webinars.
It’s really easy to forget this straightforward advice because often there are many other things to worry about. So make sure you remember to clear both your foreground and background of any visual distractions.
Instead, use these areas to position something in view that reinforces your message or who you are.
Make sure your face is well lit so the viewer can see your eyes. This will make you both more personable and professional.
If you have overhead lights like in an office, position yourself so they are slightly to your front. Don’t sit directly under them because they create shadows under your nose, chin and eye-sockets.
If you’re in an office with a window, don’t sit in front of the window because you’ll become a silhouette. Make sure any outside light is focused on your face.
If you don’t have enough light, head to Home Depot and buy a clip-on work light. A 150 watt light is less than $10.
Place your webcam where it will make you look more authoritative and professional.
Most web cams are either attached to or embedded in the top of the computer screen. As a result, they will give you either an extreme low angle shot or an extreme high angle shot.
Neither is good because you end up looking bug-eyed staring up at the camera if it’s a high angle. Or you look distant, defeated and bug-eyed staring down at the camera.
To avoid this, stack some books on top of each other and put your laptop on top of the pile so that the webcam at the top of your screen is at an angle closer to your eyes.
Of course, you don’t have to use a pile of books. Just find something that will elevate your webcam so it is closer to your eye level.
Elevating your webcam will help you avoid those nasty bug-eyed shots where you end up looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
You can learn more about how camera angles affect your visual reputation in my book,
Rapid Video for Trainers. (ASTD Press 2012)
Use your clothes to communicate confidence and competence.
I was coaching a print journalist who regularly appeared on television. While his comments were excellent, his editors thought he looked sloppy and disorganized.
When I first met him, he insisted on wearing his favorite sports coat on camera. But it looked horrible. It was tight across his shoulders and the sleeves were too short. He looked tired and rumpled on screen.
There was actually nothing wrong with his coat. But it was wrong for him personally because it was designed for a smaller man. This reporter was short, stocky and fast developing a double chin.
When you dress for the camera, choose clothes that make you look good and are designed for your body shape. Just because a shirt or tie looks good on someone else, it not mean it looks good on you.
When you select colors, find shades that create contrast with your skin tone.
The journalist I was coaching had chosen light colors. But like me he had a white, Celtic complexion. So his face looked washed out when wearing a light shirt and sports coat.
Once he started wearing winter colors, it created a stronger contrast between his shirt and face and he looked stronger and much more authoritative.
Next month’s issue of Media Momentz features more on how to dress for the camera. In the meantime, you can read more about this in my book Rapid Video for Trainers (ASTD Press 2012) in Chapter 13.
Everyone knows that slouching is bad body language – it shows disinterest, disrespect and boredom. This is why body language experts tell you to sit up straight in professional meetings.
However, sitting up straight is not enough to look good on camera. You need to lean forward slightly. This will make you look slimmer and more energetic.
These are just a few things you can do to look better on Web Video Conferences and webinars.
People who don’t know you and are watching for the first time will make judgments based on how you look and come across. So don’t leave your visual reputation to chance.
Jonathan Halls is a recognized teacher and consultant in the areas of media production and the dynamics or modern organizations. He has forged his knowledge through both research and real life experience. His leadership and change programs are based both on the latest thinking and his real experience leading large teams and facilitating organizational change. His media training is based on the latest thinking and his experience working with leading media companies throughout the world as well as his experience as a former journalist and talk show host.