Putting your best face forward in a webinar-heavy world
We’re living in a world where it’s easier and more useful than ever before to put ourselves on video.
How many times since the COVID-19 pandemic began have you tuned into the TV news and seen an interviewee dialling in from home on a Skype call? On a more personal level, how many times over the past couple of months have you “attended” an online event where you would previously have been part of a live audience?
Even with the easing of lockdown conditions in Australia, we live in a suddenly webinar-heavy world and it could soon be your turn to be a star of the screen. But how prepared are you for that day?
And how prepared are you for a Twitter account to rate your “studio”?
— Room Rater (@ratemyskyperoom) May 13, 2020
The good news is nobody expects you to look like a TV anchor and , with just a little bit of attention to detail, you can frame your shot in a way that looks crisp and professional.
I’m not talking about literal noise, although it’s a given that wherever you shoot should be as quiet as possible to avoid distractions for you and your audience.
But visual “noise” in the background can be just as much of an issue. We’ve all laughed at the classic BBC interview, when the children of the expert on South Korean politics wander into the room behind him, followed by his frantic wife. Thankfully, the world is increasingly, and rightly accepting that we all have lives outside of our professional roles, and while scenes like these are today considered more charming than faux pas; we should still plan to avoid them if possible.
One of the most basic things to do in preparing for your webinar or interview, is knowing what’s behind you.
I’ve no doubt your dog is cute (just like that of our Consultant Morgan Ballantyne, below), but is its presence in shot going to take away from what you are saying or demonstrating?
Equally, you should avoid backgrounds that are overly messy or busy – like this one, which has the added dilemma of a little too much sunlight.
Angling for compliments
A decent angle can make or break your interview or presentation – and by “break”, I mean throw off your audience completely.
Nobody likes to be looked down on, in real life or virtually:
Your audience doesn’t want to have to use a telescope to get a decent view of you:
But neither do they want to be too up close and personal:
There is a long list of “don’ts” when it comes to framing a decent shot, including having the camera looking down on the subject, leaving too much empty space above a subject’s head or, by contrast, not leaving any space at all.
Seeing the light
Most people will appreciate that bad lighting can totally ruin an interview or presentation and it’s pretty easy to demonstrate how this happens.
Consider this glary backlighting from a nearby window. Would you endure this for three minutes (or longer)?
Equally, it’s simple to imagine how the shadows below would make footage hard to watch and distract from the key messages:
And yes, in the case of sunlight, there definitely can be too much of a good thing (particularly when it’s coming from a bad angle).
Getting it right
All of the above demonstrate what happens when things go wrong. But, take comfort; getting it right isn’t particularly difficult. Simply being mindful of some easy-to-avoid pitfalls can render your next webinar brilliantly effective.
This shot, framed within a 9-square grid isn’t far from perfect:
It was also very simple to create – subject nicely framed in the middle third and lit from the front, with a homely but simple background that won’t distract an audience.
There’s a little bit of space above Morgan’s head, but not too much. Neither is she so close to the camera as to make it an uncomfortable viewing experience.
Zoom has many built-in features to improve video and picture quality, as well as enhance video with virtual backgrounds and filters. These settings allow for a better meeting and webinar experience, as well as allow hosts and participants to add some flair to their video.
But, be careful adding too much flair…
The pandemic has prompted many webinar mishaps, as people adapt to working from home. Lawyer Rod Ponton’s accidental morphing into a wide-eyed baby cat appears destined to achieve viral immortality.
To avoid this happening to you, read this step-by-step guide to zoom filters.
In short, it approximates the kind of interaction we probably all preferred before we entered into this COVID-19 world.
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