Stand Out on Zoom By Thinking Hollywood: Lights, Camera, Action
With video conferencing here to stay, one of my frequently asked questions is:
How do I look better on Zoom?
I’ve also encountered people who say they can’t be bothered, but that’s never a good idea. The issue is not simply appearance, which is definitely more informal with today’s work-from-home culture. What’s more important is that you eliminate distractions that will draw attention away from the ideas you’re presenting. If you want your ideas heard, be sure your audience isn’t distracted by an unfortunate setup.
When I coach clients about virtual presentations and meetings, I encourage them to embrace their inner Hollywood director and think lights, camera, action. Start with a selfie in your current setting to take a critical look at what the camera sees. That picture will help you notice things the human eye will filter out.
Be sure your light source is behind the camera, not behind you. If you have a window behind you, your face will be in shadow and you’ll look like you’re in the witness protection program.
The easiest way to balance this is a lamp on your desk, maybe two if your presentation is in the evening. If you use a ring light and see glare on your glasses or irises, try turning it around to face a white wall, or tape a piece of paper on it to diffuse the light.
If you see a shadow under your nose, you need to rethink your lighting. Filmmakers often use reflectors to direct light where they need it. Try a putting white paper on your desk to reflect light up onto your face.
Place the camera at eye level or slightly above, about arms-length away. Looking down at your laptop is not a flattering angle. In this case, your best friend might be a stack of books, probably two more books than you think you’ll need.
Find a simple background that won’t be distracting. You don’t want your audience analyzing your book collection, and your working kitchen filled with countertop appliances will also look too busy. But a plain white wall can look too sterile. Work to strike that simple balance.
Zoom background pictures can be fun for team meetings, but they can sometimes pixilate and make you look “wavy.” Avoid them for more formal presentations.
And finally, action.
In this age of distraction, you are competing with dogs, kids, and everyone’s phone. Be engaging from the beginning by showing enthusiasm. Expand your voice inflection and gestures. Look at the camera, not your audience, and definitely not yourself.
This is the biggest challenge because it’s natural to want to scan the frames of your audience members to gauge their reactions. But it’s distracting to see the speaker’s eyes jump around. Put a sticker near your camera to draw your attention there. Because you’re not scanning to get nonverbal feedback, build in other ways. Ask questions at key points. Use the polling function. Build in pauses to address points that are shared in the chat.
Put it all together.
As I mentioned, the human eye filters out a lot of information. To make sure you look your best, take another selfie and look at the before and after. To evaluate your new setup, get feedback from a friend or trusted colleague. If your background looks cluttered, do a Marie Kondo edit.
Run a test recording to observe whether you are energetic enough without being exaggerated. For a final test, do a live run-through, even if it’s only to prepare a pitch to your boss. Live feedback is the best way to determine if you need to modify your approach.
As you can see, the lights, camera, action approach to video calls is all you need to be better positioned to get your ideas heard on Zoom.
Janine MacLachlan helps professionals transform their organizations by getting their ideas heard. She is a communications strategist with a passion for a more innovative and creative approach to work and life. She coaches at 1871, Chicago’s hub for digital startups, and is co-president of the Chicago chapter of Ellevate Network. Her “Say It Shorter” workshop has proven popular in today’s age of digital distraction. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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Brand Strategist | Innovation Coach
MacLachlan Innovation Strategies
A brand strategist with passion for innovation and creativity, I seek to drive engagement, build brands and lead change in the arena of health and wellness, including oral health, heart health, nutrition. I bring a human-centered approach to the best solution to the right challenge: - Strategic visioning: brand building, strategy road map development - Storytelling, message and content strategy and curation for social and digital platforms - Audience insights, trends analysis, consumer journey, experience design - Change... Continue Reading
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