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Tips on improving your virtual presence

During lockdown and very likely after restrictions have eased, your spare room, kitchen or home office will be the place from where you and your teams handle virtual meetings and conferences for your clients and networks .

By now, you’ve been on enough videoconference calls to recognise the signs of what’s being called Zoom fatigue – a range of behaviours in reaction to having to live our lives online for hours at a time, day in day out.

So here are some tips based on our background in video and our experience of advising clients since the start of lockdown.

1. Sound as important as vision

Broadcasters will tell you that viewers always prefer to watch a substandard video with good sound to good picture and bad sound. Our brains struggle to read the cues on people’s faces anyway when online, so if you’re having problems with buffering in a group meeting, try turning off your camera to decrease both bandwidth usage and stress for all.

The headsets that come with phones are not the best option, because the microphone is not near your mouth, and because they’re not good at reducing background noise. It’s worth investing in a simple headset (£30-50) to improve the experience for yourself and others – or if you will be doing a lot of presenting, a desk mounted microphone (£50-200). In both cases choose one that works via USB.

2. Try pre-recording instead

Filming yourself – to create a video clip you can play during the Zoom meeting – instead of presenting live, is another useful way of managing the vagaries of connectivity, as well as improving the viewer experience. By doing this you’ll be using a better camera and microphone than the webcam, you’ll be able to hone & if desired edit the content, and bypass all the degradation that comes with live webcam transmissions. Find a quiet, well-lit place, avoiding echo-y rooms, banging doors etc. Whether recording or live event, it is best to turn off all computer & mobile device notifications.

Most phones are fitted with good cameras and serviceable microphones, so are well suited to the job. Position the phone somewhere steady at eye level (it helps to have some Blu-Tack at the ready), look at the little dot not the screen, and film a short 10-second test first – watch out back and make sure your eyes are looking right at the camera and your voice can be heard clearly.

3. Experiment with tech

For live events and virtual conferences, really get used to the technology – Zoom, Teams, GoTo, Skype and so on. These platforms are consistently updating their functionalities, so it’s worth asking your resident IT or technophile to monitor and share new features as they come onstream,

Some platforms – like Zoom and Teams – have features that can enhance appearances at the click of a button, adding virtual backgrounds to remove or obscure domestic backgrounds. You can even create your own branded versions too. This is great, but the tech is not failsafe and people can disappear when moving around – so always worth testing internally first.

4. Boost your performance to the camera

At our co-produced virtual event Insight Live, performance coach and communications trainer Charlotte Hume explained how the camera sucks the life out of everyone. The trick therefore, is to dial up how you naturally communicate, with your whole body, avoiding the temptation to become flat and expressionless instead.

While it’s distracting to see yourself on the screen in front of you, we all need to practise moving our focus to the camera. Look for the little dot on your computer or phone and remember that is where to bring your attention. Over time you will become more used to it.

Remember TV broadcasting rules about clothing. Bright or block colours work, but avoid stripes and busy patterns.

5. Basic internet tech tips

Get as close as you can to your router ahead of the call. If you haven’t done so recently, turn the router on and off again ahead of an important video call. Also for crucial meetings and events, if you and your team can use an ethernet cable rather than wifi, it removes one potential problem with connection.

Need some help boosting your/your business’s online presence?

If you’re really stuck, Mike has recorded a video of these tips. We’re offering clinics to help people get some simple makeover tips for their home/work studios. If you’d like some advice, technical or otherwise, please call Wendy on 07866 263242.

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