3 Critically important things to get right every time you give a virtual presentation

Adding to my recent post about how to boost your emotional impact, resonance, and connection when making virtual presentations at online meetings and events, here are three more easy and ‘non-content’ based tips that’ll make your video talks even more engaging

#1 Get the right look to connect

How do you react if you’re speaking with someone who doesn’t look you the eye as you chat? Not well, right?

And that’s not surprising since you are hard-wired to rely on eye contact to tell you when you can trust others and if they are ‘interested in’ or ‘friendly towards’ you. And not only will you be irked by folks who don’t make good eye contact with you, you’ll also place less confidence in them and anything they say.

Just as eye contact is important for all in-person communication – whether you’re speaking to one person or many people – it’s also super important when you’re addressing an audience through video. And that’s because online audiences are drawn to look at your face and especially your eyes when deciding if they like you and should bother to listen to you.

But there’s a wrinkle. Unlike when you’re speaking to a live audience and you can see whether people are looking at you as you speak to them, you can’t see people and how they’re reacting when you’re speaking to a camera – which is 100% inanimate!

So it’s up to you to take charge and make sure that you: a) Set up your camera lens so it is at an eye-level height for you, and b) That you speak through the camera lens to your online audiences, so it feels like a more natural conversation experience for every single person who watches you.

And steer away from looking down at a lens or webcam on the top of a laptop sitting on your desk. As you can see, it looks far less professional and inviting. Rather, just raise whatever camera you’re using up – via sitting it on top of a box and/or many books – until the lens is at your eye-level.

No one will see nor care about any DIY methods you use to create this far superior look. But they’ll notice the difference when they see you.

#2 Let there be light (of the right kinds)

Speaking of what people see. Here’s the next setup area that’s deserving of your attention: Lighting.

You simply won’t look professional if people can’t see you clearly. And here’s some good news for you…

…You don’t have to be a techie or invest a large fortune on tv studio levels of lighting equipment to get away from darkness and look good. A small amount of effort can deliver big results. And here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • If you have it, try to make use of daylight coming into the room where you’ll make your videos. It’ll light up your face and make the colours in your video frames look better.
  • Try to face this natural light and have your camera between you and your light source to illuminate your face to best effect. But, in the event that this light is super bright, you can try facing your natural light side on and still get nice clean light on you, the video subject
  • Try to stand or sit at least 2 feet away from backgrounds or walls so you don’t find yourself competing with unflattering/irritating shadows or looking like you’re immersed into a background. It’s best to avoid these distractions.
  • If you need artificial lighting, go for lighting with daylight bulbs (which you’ll need to defuse through a photography lighting umbrella or softbox) or video LED lighting. But if you don’t want to invest too much in video lighting at the beginning – in advance of learning about lighting up videos in general – I’d recommend that you at least start with one good light to properly illuminate you from a side-on angle (this is called a key light). That alone will make a huge difference.
  • And if you have extra budget, 2 extra video lights will give you pretty much pro levels of lighting for any virtual talk – one of which you can use to illuminate the other side of your face at a lower intensity (called a fill light) and the other can be used as a back/hair light and creates a little extra definition between you and your background.
  • Plus, and in general, try to limit your use of non-daylight balanced household (or practical) lighting when creating a video. It’s not this this is wrong or that it can’t be used to create some nice effects…But it can take more effort and know-how than it’s worth for you to engage in editing workarounds, colour temperature corrections, plus hard light/shadow fixes to make your videos look great. Life is too short!
  • And here’s an example of how the above steps make a big difference:

#3 Focus on great sound

And finally, here’s the single most important thing you need to get right – after preparing really interesting and compelling content – when giving virtual talks. Your sound.

Audiences will put up with poor quality video, but they won’t put up with or ignore audio problems. These can put an audience right off and lead to much of what you say being unheard, discounted, or even ignored.

And here’s something else you should know about any video content you plan to edit: While many video editing software suites can be used to fix and even work miracles on video quality problems…you can’t fix bad sound. So don’t cause it!

If you invest in nothing else that’s technical, I highly recommend you spend a little time and money on enhancing how your audiences experience your virtual talks/videos from an audio perspective

Instead of relying on the inbuilt audio from your computer, the first step to better audio is to at least plug-in smartphone earphones or a basic USB computer headset. This will greatly reduce annoying echos, tinny sounds, and other ambient background noises that can be heard from the room you use to shoot your video. And this will make you sound much, much better.

But if you’re open to spending a little more money, you can make a huge leap in the quality of how you sound by plugging in a decent ‘entry’ to ‘mid-level’ USB microphone into your computer. And you’re spoilt for choice with plug and play microphone made by folks like Blue, Samsung, Shure, Audio Technica, Rode, Zoom, and more. And you won’t break the bank for a serious upgrade to how you sound if using popular microphones from these brands – where typically costs for a weapon of your choice will likely run you somewhere between $70 and $200 (€60 and €180).

Further down the line and if you wish to become even more sophisticated and achieve even higher quality standards, you might want to check out next-level kit from these brands or stretch to Heil, Sennheiser, or even Neumann microphones and/or sound mixers. But, for most folks, that’s a conversation for another day.

And one more thing when using microphones. I recommend that you get close to them for best effect. And while you should engage in some trial and error, you’ll likely find that having your microphone 6 to 9 inches away from your mouth will produce great results.

Invest in great sound

Want to take your speaking impact to the next level?

To learn how I can help you or your colleagues to speak with greater confidence, clarity, and persuasiveness, contact me at eobrien@thersc.ie


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