Work meetings, interviews, professional development workshops and hangouts with friends have been looking a bit differently these days due to COVID-19 and the physical distancing measures in place. Thankfully, there’s a host of video conferencing options out there that helps keep these face-to-face connections going as we stay apart.
But how do you present yourself to put your best face forward? Business & Arts NL arts member Greg Locke, producer and director for Stray Light Media, has got you covered. With over 25 years of experience as a professional photographer, journalist, editor and media producer, Greg’s work has appeared in Time, Forbes, Canadian Geographic and Reuters (just to name a few), and he has also worked with corporate clients such as Rolls-Royce, Parks Canada and Kodak Europe. We asked Greg if he could share some of his expert tips and he kindly obliged. So, take it away Greg!
I have avoided Zoom…or Skype, or other online video meetings in general for as long as I could, except for the essentials. But now, more professional production, presentation, concerts and conferencing work is moving to this and other online video conference platforms and we might as well get with the times. So, how can we make it look as professional as possible and up to our usual standards? The answer is very simple actually, we just follow the same principles we used for photo and video productions as before! Here are the basic tech, staging and presentation basics for you or your clients. This applies to both the business and arts worlds.
1 — Get your camera, laptop or phone up to eye level. No one wants to see what’s up your nose or that light fixture on the ceiling burning up the image. Look that camera straight in the eye!
Speaking of camera positions…most webcams or laptop/phone cameras are really wide angle and therefore, not particularly flattering when you put your face too close to them. Sit back a little.
2 — Come to the light! Put some light on your face and don’t sit with your back to a window. A simple lamp or even sit-facing window will work. Light should be at or just above eye level. Too high and you get raccoon eyes. Too low and you get horror movie lighting.
3 — Sound off! Get a real mic. Even a cheap external mic is better than your laptop or phone mic. Let your voice be heard clear. You don’t want to sound like you are using a tin can and string.
4 — Location, location, location! Clean up your background. It’s a distraction. If your office is just too messy to tackle, choose the cool feature in Zoom that lets you choose a background image. You can look like you are reporting from Rome or someplace WAY more interesting than your kitchen table.
Think of all the journalists you now see reporting from their homes. Nice clean bookshelves usually, but make sure you remove any books or knick-knacks you don’t want in public view. Stage that room.
5 — Make yourself familiar with the platform before your show or presentation…don’t be fumbling around for stuff. Learn where the mute button is before you start.
6 — Have you all seen the video of the BBC TV reporter who was reporting on very serious financial news when his toddler and wife came bursting into the room? If not, look it up! It’s a good lesson.
If there are others in the house or office, try for a quiet room and close the door. Tell others what you are doing or stick a “Do Not Enter” note on the door. If there is background noise, use your mute button when you are not talking.
7 — Now, get dressed, brush your hair, look awesome, be a Zoom star.
You don’t need expensive equipment either. Here is my setup: Seven-year-old laptop with webcam resurrected just for Zoom/Skype/Google meetings, an LED lamp and Rode mic off my video camera, and 20-year-old Sony headphones. I bought nothing for this setup. Just stuff I have laying around.
(Pictured) Notice the height of the laptop and position of the mic and light just slightly above.
Remember folks… production values matter!
Greg Locke is a professional photographer and media producer in St John’s, Newfoundland. You can find him online at www.greglocke.com or on Instagram @greg.locke
Here are some additional pointers from Business & Arts NL’s online community.
“Be yourself, dress professionally and it’s allllll about your background!” -Shelley Hodge (Shelley Hodge Creative Studios)
“Dress your ‘set’ for what’s in frame, good light, ring light or additional, and good mic.” -Jenn Brown (St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival)
“I stand. I have good lighting and a relaxed background (my home office so it’s real, but not too processed and plain). I have water on hand to drink. I have a notebook ready rather than take notes on my computer, as it looks like I’m not listening.” -Danielle Irvine (Perchance Theatre)
- “Look into your camera while you are speaking
- Have a tidy and clutter-free background (or virtual background)
- Ensure good lighting
- Speak with your usual energy and enthusiasm
- Dress appropriately for the meeting.” -Gardiner Centre