Everything is online today. COVID-19 and the various Stay-At-Home Orders around the country have forced business to go virtual almost overnight and it’s left some people woefully unprepared. I laughed so incredibly hard at this sketch from Saturday Night Live’s at home show this week because it is surreal.
Fortunately for me, I was forced into the online space a couple of years ago by my good friend and Transform International CEO Elena Rahrig and when I say forced, that’s not an understatement. She hosted me to speak at her online conference and when I accepted, I had no idea what I was getting into. You see, I love to be on stage and I love to speak, but I found what usually worked for me during live events didn’t necessarily translate to the computer screen. After bombing that video and several attempts thereafter, I got some advice and some help that completely changed the way I approach online speaking, training and even video conferencing. Here’s what I’ve learned works best.
Manage The Atmosphere
One thing I’ve noticed during the thousands of Zoom calls I’ve been on in the last month is how most people give no thought to the distractions they’re creating in the background. Busy painting, cluttered bookshelves, dim lighting and dark walls that wash us out aren’t doing us any favors. I learned this one the hard way. I have a beautiful picture of John and Robert Kennedy on the wall behind my desk. I thought doing all of my videos there would make me look more professional. I was wrong.
Manage your atmosphere with two key moves; backdrop and lighting. Pick a light-colored wall and with nothing on it. One thing my coach suggested to me was to pin a gray bed sheet to the wall. It frames my best features and doesn’t reflect the light. As for light, you can go down a rabbit hole pretty quickly with this one. Softboxes are awesome and they aren’t that expensive. My problem is storage with three kids who I can’t trust to destroy them. Here’s what I’ve done to great effect. I use a floor lamp with the shade removed behind my camera. It gives me the right amount of light and keeps me clear on camera.
Improve The Video
I truly believe that you should use the best camera you can afford for every call, video or training you do. That, by the way, is not the one that’s stock on your laptop. That’s garbage. That means we’re left with two options; upgrade the camera, or use your phone. They both work and they both have huge advantages. I have do have a preference, but it’s purely personal.
If you choose to upgrade your camera, Logitech has a great option that plugs right into your computer. The video quality is great and the built-in microphone allows for good sound quality. For most Zoom Meetings, this is a fine option and it’s what most professionals choose to do.
I prefer my phone. Chances are good if you’re using a fairly new smartphone, it has the best camera you can buy included in it. I prefer this option to an external camera because the mirroring I get on the screen throws me off. I also love the editing software that Samsung has on their devices. If this is the route you choose to go, you’re going to need some extras. Specifically, a tripod and a microphone. I bought both on amazon and I think I have $15 in the whole thing but it has done wonders for my video quality.
The world is moving online. Meetings, training, and even basic check-ins are being done every day on digital platforms and when this whole thing ends, that’s not going away. Not many people are doing it well but with a few changes, you can improve your presence and look more polished and professional.