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Zack Gallinger-Long

Look Your Best Virtually, Every Time

Turn on your computer, join the virtual meeting, and you're good to go, right? Well, maybe. However, there are some additional steps you can take to ensure you're looking your best.

To help you prepare for your most professional 'on-screen' self, I've leaned on my experience in video production to provide you with a few helpful tips. Whether you're just attending a meeting or delivering a presentation, let's make sure you are set to impress virtually, every time.

Lights, Camera, Action!

The purpose of a virtual meeting is to offer a level of interaction beyond simply audio so let’s take a moment to check a few things before you pop up on camera.

  • 💡 Lighting - A natural light source (like sitting near a window) is a simple solution to ensure people can see you clearly. 🌤️ Overcast days provide naturally filtered light but direct sunlight is too harsh. On a sunny day, try pulling down the blinds or putting up a sheet over the window to diffuse the light. Also, be sure to avoid back-lighting unless you enjoy looking like you're in the witness protection program.👤 Lastly, you can place a light in front you (known as a "key light") to help illuminate your face and help you stand out from your background. 🔦😎 For softer key lighting, try bouncing the light off a white surface (such as a wall, poster-board or sheet) instead of aiming it directly at your face.

  • 🎦 Camera Angle - Your camera should be in front of you and at, or slightly above, eye-level. Too high and the camera looks down on you which makes you appear tiny. Too low (like in your lap) and you’ll be looking down at the camera and inviting multiple chins to join you on camera. Want to check your image? Type "Camera" into your windows search bar to see what your camera is seeing.

  • 🖼️ Framing - A basic rule to remember is to position your eyes about 2/3 of the way up the frame. You should also place yourself about an arm’s length away from the screen and leave some space between the top of your head and the top of the frame (known as “headroom"). Lastly, be sure to reference your background so your head is between background-objects instead of objects appearing as if they are coming out of your head.

  • 🧺 Background - Take a moment to assess your background. Can it be more organized? Can you move things out of the shot? Pro tip: Consider placing items in the background that tell the audience a little something about you personally or your role within your organization.

  • ⚠️ Proactive Precautions - Is there anything you can do now to help avoid interruptions during your presentation? Examples: turn off your phone, set your Teams status to Do Not Disturb, or inform others in your house that you're going to be on a call.

  • 👕 Clothing - Just like in-person interactions, your outfit can add or detract from the image you're trying to project. Everyone's tastes are different and I'm not a fashion expert so I'll keep this point brief. Just be sure to consider your outfit when you're running through your pre-meeting checklist. As a reminder, your company dress codes may continue to apply despite alternate work arrangements so keep that in mind as well.

Now that you're looking your best, let's make sure you sound your best!

Sound Check...1, 2...1, 2

  • 🎤 Microphone Check - Built-in laptop microphones can suffice; however, if you're interested in higher quality audio, you might consider purchasing a USB condenser microphone for premium sound. For those who prefer to stick with the built-in laptop mic: please refrain from typing when you're unmuted; the audience hears every keystroke loud and clear! If you prefer to use earbuds with an in-line mic: make sure the mic is a few inches away from your mouth when speaking and not rubbing against your cheek or clothing. Lastly, with whatever microphone you use, beware of noisy jewelry or ambient background noise (like a dishwasher) that your microphone might pick up inadvertently.

  • 🛏️ Location Matters - Rooms with carpet and soft furniture will sound better than rooms with hard floors and open space. This is because hard surfaces act like mirrors for sound. Bedrooms and closets are great for dampening sound and so are most living rooms.

  • 📻 Radio Voice - Remember that the tone and inflection in your voice play an important role in engaging your audience. If you're presenting, it’s a good idea to change your pace and energy levels throughout your presentation so the audience can tell when you’re excited about a particular section. Also, remember to emphasize key words throughout the presentation and pause for effect, when appropriate.

A Couple Reminders

  • 🧍 Body Language - I think American actress, Pat Carroll, said it best as the character Ursula..."You'll have your looks, your pretty face, and don't underestimate the importance of body language." Body language plays a key role in communicating your interest in a virtual conversation. Unchecked movement, such as shifting or fidgeting, can be distracting. This is something we should all be mindful of, whether we are a speaker or an attendee.

  • 🎴 A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words - Slides can be a powerful addition to a presentation, but only if used in concert with your content. Slides are not cue cards and should not look like a list of talking points. If you are going to use slides, build images that further illustrate specific points and assist the audience in comprehending your message.

Final Word of Advice

  • 🦉 Know Your Stuff - When you’re well-informed and passionate about your work, your virtual attendees will hear it in your voice and your energy will transfer across the screen. The inverse is also true so, when you're speaking, make sure it's on a topic where you are knowledgeable and confident. Lastly, practicing any formal presentations in advance will help you remain calm, candid and personable when you're "on stage."

These are my top tips but I'd also like to hear from you. What steps do you take to prepare for your virtual meetings or presentations? Please share your best practices on LinkedIn.

Photo Credit: Cookie the Pom

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