10 months into the epidemic of video-conference calls, and evidently we haven’t all figured out how to do them well. There are doubtless lots of other tips on the web, but here are mine:
In short, think about what the viewer sees.
- Stand up. Esp. if you’re presenting or it’s an interview for TV or a job. People sound much better when they’re standing. (Hence why pro singers always stand.)
- No back-lighting: do not be in front of a window or have a light behind you: they make you really dark.
- Have the camera at eye-level. Do not under any circumstances put a laptop on a desk and look down at it: for one thing, you will scrunch yourself up over it and not look elegant at all: look at the pictures of Prince William below. For another, it looks like you are bearing down on the viewer, really aggressively. No ceiling should be visible. Put a laptop on a stack of books, or use a music stand or something.
- Look into the camera – even though that’s a bit weird as you’re not then looking at the person
- speaking – but it makes them think that you’re looking at them.
- Don’t be too close to the camera. You don’t want the entire picture to be your head (see
- Prince William, right). Make sure that you’re visible until at least down to your shoulders.
Try to use a phone rather than a laptop because the picture from phones is portrait, (same shape as you!) whereas on a computer, it’s (inexplicably) landscape, so we see less of what we’re interested in & more of what we’re not. But make the phone stationary: e.g., attach it to a music stand. Note that the phone will need to tip forwards (the top forward of the bottom) to avoid it pointing at the ceiling – so you’ll need some string to tie it the music stand to prevent it from falling over.
- Get your eyes no more than a third of the way down the screen.
- Have as little as possible in the background. Stand in front of a plain wall if possible. That can be inside -or even outside
- Using headphones & the microphone may be better.
Some looks to avoid: If you speak to a laptop on a table, you’ll end up inelegantly hunched up over it:
See other golden rules of public speaking.