At the beginning of our shared shut-in status, everything was forgivable. It was a given that none of us were prepared for the sudden shift. But now that things have settled just slightly, one aspect of the new normal is starting to become apparent. Your presentation in a virtual space is your crucial first impression.
I used to say that no big business happens without being face-to-face. Those rules recently flew out the window along with so many other things. Welcome to the new business reality. You can now think of your virtual space as your new website. Here are some basic improvements that you can make on the cheap that will enhance the virtual meeting experience for your clients and for your co-workers.
How you position yourself within the visual field, or frame, of the camera is your crucial step number one. I think it goes without saying that we have to see your eyes in order to see you. Do whatever it takes to position your camera at eye level. If the camera is inside your laptop or PC, elevate your device. The “shot up the nose” is never a flattering look for anyone. Monitor how the camera sees you by making sure the top of the frame is almost trimming the hair at the top of your head. Move in close enough that you fill up a good portion of the frame. We need to see, and feel, that you are close and connected.
What’s Up Ahead
What is in front of you is also behind the camera and out of view, but it has quite an impact on how you look. Your primary front light source is responsible for making sure you don’t look ghostly. The money you would normally spend on tolls, gas, shoes, socks, or even pants can go toward investing in an inexpensive selfie light, also known as a ring light. Most ring lights have two or three settings that you can adjust to compliment your coloring.
Watch for those windows. You may actually have a lovely and inspiring view through a home office, or extra bedroom window. Some presentation consultants even recommend using a window as the primary light source in front of you. However, this will put you at the mercy of the weather and the hour of the day. Overcast and rainy days, and late afternoon / evenings will probably make you look as dull as you feel. Setting up with a window directly behind you to take advantage of the view is also very unpredictable. Any change in the level of light coming through that window will throw you into the shadows, and make you look like you’ve suddenly entered the witness protection program. No one can afford this loss of visual contact.
Every video meeting is an invitation into your world. What we see behind you says a lot about you. @PaulGeigerPSA
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Your Virtual (Yet Real) Space
Every video meeting is an invitation into your world. Most of us are working with a home office that doubles as an extra (or primary) bedroom. Since your on-camera environment may not be ideal, make the most out of what you’ve got. Here are some of my top positioning tips.
#1 – Shoot into a corner, positioning yourself just a few feet out from the corner.
#2 – Shoot with a bookcase behind you, complete with carefully placed items.
#3 – Shoot with a fireplace behind you. Celebrities always look good doing this.
In extremely limited space, or if you can’t work around the bed, you might opt for a room divider, or portable wall, containing a design that speaks to you. What we see behind you says a lot about you.
Be Creative and Be Honest
Positioning is essential, but so is composing the picture that new and recurring viewers see. Add items that connect to you. In my current virtual space, I placed an extra voiceover microphone, elevated on a stand right behind me. There is also a wonderful poster from a charity event I hosted on the wall over my shoulder. These two simple items send the message that you have entered the world of a speech coach.
Experiment with adding color, a secondary light source behind you, and camera distance. Curiosity, discovery, and familiarity must be balanced in the virtual space you choose to present. Upon reviewing a first-time client’s space, I noticed something taped to a mirror behind him. He felt embarrassed to point out that he had left up his three-year-old son’s artwork. I told him it was actually perfect! I immediately felt like I knew him better, and so would everyone else.
We are curious and social beings. We want to immediately feel like we are being given a glimpse into your world. @PaulGeigerPSA
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You should think twice about utilizing any virtual wallpaper. Do you expect people to believe that your home office window overlooks the Grand Canyon, or the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Lunar Eclipse from the Space Station? Even more conventional wallpaper like a high-end office, a magnificent great room with a fireplace, or a perfectly groomed garden tend to look like a “borrowed space”, especially when your image disappears slightly every time you move your head. Placing a green screen behind you will reduce the “clipping”, but it still doesn’t look believable. We are curious and social beings. We want to immediately feel like we are being given a glimpse into your world. Anything less makes us wonder why you’re not being real.
Worth the Effort
There is a very good chance that you will have to arrange your room each day to make it camera-ready. However, there is no doubt that this will be well worth the effort. I suspect that there will soon come a time when we will all have to update our virtual space, probably every six months. Right now, it’s only been several weeks. I’ll have to get back to you with some new virtual makeover tips.
Checkout a few quick tips from Paul Geiger’s Podcast series:
Speaking Tips 2 Go
Episode 1 – Taking the Plunge at Meetings: In a meeting, do you know how to find your opening? Paul points out how to recognize the signs and ways to segue into the conversation.
Episode 2 – How to Lose a Presentation in 30 Seconds: Beware! Learn the pitfalls of overloading your message. Through Paul’s tips, you’ll discover your audience’s listening limit.
Episode 3 – The Work of Networking: Are you uncomfortable at a meet and greet or maybe in an interview? Find out how to add depth to your on-paper presence.
Episode 4 – The Curious Case of the Sales Call: Wouldn’t it be great if selling sounded like an opportunity? In this podcast, learn Paul’s tips on how to lead with curiosity.
Episode 5 – Fast Talkers, Very Fast Talkers, and Super Fast Talkers: Nobody wins when you speak too fast. Today’s podcast focuses on tips for slowing your speech. Learn the art of a well-trained pause inside two minutes.
Paul Geiger, president of Public Speaking Advantage, has spent the past decade specializing in effective business communications. He has consulted with over 3000 executives, helping them improve their clarity and delivery when under pressure. Companies like Viacom, Google, Citi, Twitter, Bloomberg, NBC News, and Nasdaq turn to Paul and his Public Speaking Advantage as their public speaking insurance policy. #BetterBusinessSpeech #SpeakingTips2Go #PSACoach