• Lifa Communications

How to nail the “On camera but remote” interview or meeting

At Lifa, we spend a lot of time on media training and presentation coaching for our clients. Since lockdown began and Skype, Teams and Zoom became our new best friends, we have received numerous requests for advice on how to come across in the best possible way when “on-camera but remote”.

Our top tips list is not intended to be a replacement for professional media training (which is now more important than ever). However, it will serve as a useful introduction to the basics of video call etiquette and technology.

1. Flatter yourself with correct camera placement

The webcam on your laptop or computer should be at or above your eye level and certainly no higher than your hairline. You don’t want your webcam looking up at you – it’s not a flattering angle for most of us. If your camera is positioned too low, it will make your chin look disproportionally large – plus you’ll be giving your colleagues an unwelcome view up your nostrils. If need be, raise your computer by placing it on a pile of books and add or take away volumes until the camera is at the same level as your face.

2. Lighten up

Turn on a desk lamp over your laptop so it shines on you, or sit facing a window. Experiment to find a light source that illuminates your face and shows you at your best, but isn’t too harsh or too dim. Make sure you’re not backlit as then you’ll appear as a silhouette. If you’re relying on natural light through a window, remember that this will vary depending on the time of day and the weather.

3. Get the look

Check your appearance before you settle down – use a mirror, not your webcam. You don’t want your meeting to start while you’re still doing your hair or fastening your shirt buttons. When it comes to clothes, business casual is fine. Even though participants can usually only see you from the shoulders up, wear something that looks great on you from the waist up. In fact, the better you dress from head to toe, the better your posture will be and the better you’ll feel. If you feel good about yourself, you’ll be a more relaxed and more confident presenter. We shouldn’t have to say this, but pajamas and onesies are not business attire.

4. Be the centre of attention

Sit at the right distance from your camera – avoid cutting off the top of your head or your chin, and make sure you’re not too far to one side. Adjust the angle of your screen if you need to, or move further back. As a guide, aim to be properly framed by creating an imaginary triangle between your forehead and shoulders.

5. Check your background

This is one of those rare occasions when a blank wall comes in handy. Make sure you don’t have a lot of distractions behind you. At the very least, don’t showcase a messy room or unmade bed. You want your audience to be able to focus on your presentation, not your bookshelves. Try to keep the background simple by avoiding anything that looks busy or cluttered, and beware of windows, mirrors or paintings that that might reflect your computer screen. Some video conferencing programmes let you blur your background, or replace it with a neutral colour. On the subject of distractions, pick a place in your home where you won’t be disturbed by children or pets, and explain to your kids that you’ll spend time with them when your important meeting is over.

6. The eyes have it

Eye contact is everything when speaking in public, and things are no different when it comes to video conferencing. On video calls, a lack of eye contact can come across as nervousness or even defensiveness. So while you should aim for 40-60% eye contact in face-to-face conversations, on video your goal should be 100%.

You should lock your eyes on your webcam – and DON’T LET GO. It may feel unnatural, but it works. What might help is putting something just behind your webcam that you can focus on rather than the camera itself.

For many people, “on-camera but remote” is arguably the most challenging format for communications but with practice and preparation, you can start to feel more comfortable with this newly popular technology. For more information on presentation technique training or in-depth media training, please contact Lifa today.

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