Do you know what other people see when they look at you on a Zoom call? Have you ever recorded yourself – and then watched it? A common reaction is: “do I really look like that”? or “my voice sounds weird”. If you could improve anything, what would it be? Do you want to look good on a Zoom call?
Have you ever studied how a TV presenter looks and sounds? (I mean really analyzed them?). They always look more polished than you do on your Zoom call – yes?
The secret is, they are no different than you – they are just benefitting majorly from something called production values. Granted, some TV presenters are professional performers, but that is not why they look and sound so good.
Here are the main ingredients for good production values:
Good Production Values
A planned and studied setting – what your setting looks like; what’s in it (and more importantly) what’s not in it.
A considered background or backdrop – intentionally created for the right effect. Sometimes an existing background is just fine as-is. In your case, that will depend on your location. Pay particular attention to your background as it appears to others online. This is what your Zoom audience actually sees. What message is it sending?
A studied video or webcam angle – also known as framing or shot composure. It’s amazing how many people get this so badly wrong.
Ideally a separate microphone – not the one on your device or computer. Preferably as close to your mouth as possible, but not getting in the way. TV presenters use lapel mics or off-screen boom/directional mics.
Planned lighting – a combination of daylight and multiple electric light sources. A strong ceiling light is a no-no.
Good grooming and makeup – yes, even for the men!
Suitable clothing, furnishings and decor
TV studios cost millions of dollars and TV presenters get the best clothing and grooming etc. While that may be the case, you can achieve many of the same outcomes, with little cost and some simple tricks.
If you could improve your image would you try? Then again, not all work-from-home roles require the razzle-dazzle suggested above – it depends on the nature of your work and your audience.
Clear video and audio and good connectivity are also important. There’s nothing worse than an echo-y room, with scratchy audio and a pixilated screen image. Clear communication is about ensuring the message is delivered well, with impact and clearly understood.
Tips to improve your presentability and communication are explored in two wofome categories; IMAGE and TECHNOLOGY. A perfect image will be wasted if the technology is not up to scratch – and visa-versa.
In this post, we are focusing on your image. You should also visit our technology category for a fuller picture (no pun intended).
Ideas for good image and presentability
Here are some of the things our IMAGE category intends to explore further:
Fit for purpose – planning your image, based on your role or what you are trying to present to the outside world.
Employer minimum standards – if you are working for an employer, do they expect any minimum visual, audio or presentability standards? Do you need to wear a uniform?
Seen or heard – are you doing video calls or just using your phone?
Branding or logo – are you required to display any kind of branding to accompany your image?
Screen composition and camera angle – how to frame your shots for the best delivery.
Visage and lighting – how your face appears to the camera and how you can change this using good lighting techniques.
Makeup – this is not the same as what you might put on to go out in the evening. It’s mainly about reducing sheen and improving tone.
Clothing – dress for the occasion or the desired message.
Background noise, echo and reverberation – often overlooked. Sound quality is just as important as video quality.
Eye contact – to a webcam, and to your audience. Most people on video calls look at their screens, rather than directly into their webcam. This has the same effect as ‘avoiding eye contact’ in a physical one-on-one encounter.
Voice – yes, there is such a thing as voice training.
Posture and comportment – how you sit or stand and how you move in reaction to the discussion at hand.
Participation and timing – when on a group call or Zoom. When to speak up and when to stay silent etc.
Can you add to this list?
Each of the above topics demands an entire post all of its very own. wofome will be creating these in future updates.
Presentability insights online
There are some great places on the web that provide some interesting insights into improving your image. Here are some examples – there are many more:
- The Twitter account hilariously judges Zoom backgrounds
- How To Look Good on Video Calls | Zoom FaceTime Skype | Blogger Secrets!
- Look good and sound great on videos from home (Zoom video conferences too!)
- Inexpensive Video Conferencing Lighting Solutions
- Entire Youtube Studio Setup ON ONE DESK! (This one is for serious die-hards, but there are some learnings that can apply to a more simple set up)
Testing and tweaking the quality of your online presence
It pays to know the Video and Audio capabilities of your own setup and the videoconferencing tools you typically use.
There are four levels to this:
- Your environment and setup. Things like lighting, camera framing, your background or backdrop, your microphone placement and acoustic properties of your location.
- The capabilities of your hardware – Computer, webcam and microphone.
- The robustness of your internet connection – generally the faster and more stable this is, the better.
- The abilities of the software and apps you are using – such as Zoom vs Webex vs Teams etc.
There are many testing tools available online. These tools are usually hardware, software and application-specific. Here are some general links you can browse. You should look for items that relate to your particular setup:
wofome will be drilling down into this testing area more thoroughly in future posts. Stay tuned.
Are you a Hybrid worker?
Many Wofomers* work both from home and their place of employment, alternating between the two throughout the week. It’s ad-hoc or based on a fixed schedule, like Mondays and Tuesdays from home and the rest of the week at the office. This kind of working is called ‘Hybrid’.
Do you need to maintain a consistent image regardless of where you work from? This may be a challenge if all your visual/audio props are located in your work-from-home workspace, but not available when you are working elsewhere. To what extent can you take these supporting props with you, when you are out and about? You may need to revisit your props and upgrade them to more portable ones, expense permitting.
(* a Wofomer is a work-from-home-er)
To sum up, image and presentability play a big part in the success of your work-from-home practice. You would do well to spend time and effort in this area.