The ancient Greek tragedian Sophocles once said, “Always desire to learn something useful.” That’s one of the best things I like about being a freelance writer, the opportunity to learn something new every single day that I sit down at my computer. However, just a few weeks ago I learned something that intimidated me. Intimidating me is no small feat – I have children! – but when a colleague asked me to speak during their company’s video conference that’s exactly what happened. I felt intimidated by something I’d never done before.
Dress for Success from the Waist Up
One of the reasons I love working from home is that if I choose to stay in pajamas until 2pm, the only people who have to know are my family, the occasional delivery person, and our surly old, nocturnal tomcat that is usually sleeping until then anyway. However, my comfortable flannel top with its faded print of clouds and stars probably wasn’t the best choice for appearing on camera. And the basket of laundry on the table behind me probably wasn’t a great background image. It was obvious that I had to work on my overall look, but where to start first?
- The setting should look professional. Whether you’re in the boardroom or the family room, make sure the lighting is adequate. You don’t want lights so bright that your image is surrounded by a supernatural-looking halo, but on the other hand you don’t want to sit in a dark room that makes you look like a character in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Using a desk lamp to bounce light off a white wall behind you so that the light hits your face at a gentle angle will give you a look that’s both professional and easy to achieve.
- Your physical appearance doesn’t only apply to how you’re dressed. Get enough rest the night before to avoid unsightly bags beneath your eyes. Comb your hair. Make sure there’s nothing from lunch lingering between your two front teeth. And the clothes you wear should be something that’s either professional or at least professional casual. Loud colors and complex prints are not just distracting but they could disrupt how the feed and how you appear on video to people on the other side of the screen. Finally, avoid pale colors or white but choose things like warm grey, medium blue, and similar tones.
- Distractions can detract from your message. Keep your background free of things that might divert your viewer’s attention. I attended one webinar event that resulted in my staring through the window behind the host to watch his neighbor across the street as he mowed the front lawn. Eliminating distractions can help keep the audience focused on the topic of the video conference. Unwanted sound can prove just as distracting during a video conference, so be sure and set your cell phone to silent and sign out of any instant messaging programs not associated with the event.
When you participate in online web video conferencing, depending on the nature of the event you might have to share your computer screen, such as for a PowerPoint presentation. If this happens, be sure you practice with your materials beforehand. Closing all non-relevant tools like instant messaging programs, email, web browsing apps not related to the conference will help keep you running at top speed.
Additional Tips to Consider
Don’t forget to take necessary steps for sounding your best. Don’t chew gum or eat anything during the conference. Keep some water on hand in case you get thirsty. Pausing for a sip of water is a great way to stall if you want to pause and collect your thoughts, too. One thing that helped me feel less nervous, as well as sound less nervous to my audience, was to do some light stretching about 30 minutes before the conference started, and then practice some meditative breathing about 10 to 15 minutes before it began. It made me feel more relaxed, and therefore I sounded more confident about the information I was presenting.
Keeping these things in mind will help you look your best on video whether you’re working from home or a corporate setting and regardless if people are looking at you or your PowerPoint presentation. Being prepared saves everyone precious time and while it might seem like a lot of work to do at first, before long you could be hosting your own video conferences.
Freelance writer Sophie Evans is also a mom and she understands the importance of being safe regardless of the circumstances, which is why she uses sites like http://securevideoconference.com to get all the latest updates on using videos to communicate online, whether it’s with friends or her family doctor while on vacation. A resident of Balboa Beach, California, her favorite thing to do is build sandcastles with her husband and their son and daughter. Sophie is also a self-proclaimed Disney enthusiast and plans to spend her next birthday at Disneyland where she and her daughter will share a celebration fit for a princess.