13 Ways To Improve Your Next Video Or Web Conference

Editor’s Note: I recently wrote a post called “Six Ways to Rock Your Next Skype or Webcam Interview.” Ken Molay of Webinar Success added a comment with so many additional insights that I asked him to write a guest post. Ken covers best practices for web conferences and webcasts on The Webinar Blog.

Web-based video is becoming more common. Brad mentioned Skype in his post, but news organizations may connect with you using a variety of video conferencing or web conferencing software products. I deal with these technologies all the time in my business, so I wanted to add a few more tips for success with personal web video.

1. Never sit in front of a window: Exterior windows can shine bright light into the camera, leaving your face in shadow. Interior windows invite distracting or embarrassing activity from others behind you. Similarly, never do an interview from an open office plan environment. Get into a closed room and put up a sign saying “ON AIR” (because nobody respects “Do Not Disturb”).

2. Avoid Wi-Fi: Use a hardwired Internet connection and hardwired audio/video gear. Your transmission speed, quality, and reliability will be better while leaving less opportunity for signal interference.
3. Don’t use a headrest: If your chair has a headrest extension, see if it can be removed. The sides of the headrest may peek out from behind your neck like curious growths.

4. Adjust your posture: Sit straight and tall. Slouching or leaning is accentuated on camera.

5. Reduce reflections: Take off your glasses if practical. If you need to wear them, turn down the brightness on your monitor to the lowest level where you can still see it. Check your image for reflections and try to move yourself or your lights to avoid reflected glare. You can try angling your glasses slightly downward on your face, but don’t overdo it to the point where you look disheveled!

6. Frame your hand movements: Check your image and note how far you can move your hands and still have them be seen. Don’t gesticulate outside the video boundaries. Watch out for a “3-D Effect” when your hands move closer to the camera than your face; it looks unnerving to viewers. On a tight shot, your hands need to stay between your collarbone and ears to show up properly. What feels right to you doesn’t look right to a viewer. For safety and simplicity, just keep your hands motionless out of frame.

7. Use a mirror: The last thing to do before broadcasting your image is to check yourself in a mirror. Have a hairbrush handy to smooth your hair back in place. Check for food on your teeth.

8. Cover your image: Once you have checked your image for proper position, framing, lighting, and focus, cover it with a sticky note. Otherwise you will keep looking at yourself on the screen.

9. Watch the camera: If you need to look at something on screen (speaking notes, presentation materials, or your interviewer’s face), try to position it high and centered on your monitor directly under your webcam. This keeps you looking in the direction of the camera.

Webcam Smiling Man
And here are four bonus tips for people who appear on webcam frequently enough to justify extra investment in gear (these are impractical for a one-time interview).

10. Buy umbrella lights: The best lighting for video work is diffuse lighting positioned high and roughly 45 degrees to each side of the camera in front of you. Amazon carries a line from CowboyStudio that is reasonably priced and fine for casual video work.

11. Buy a portable backdrop: It is quicker and easier to set up a neutral backdrop behind you than to clean and arrange your bookshelves and office space. It also lets you broadcast from any location without worrying about what is behind you. One option is the CVI Studio portable backdrop. Note that some news organizations may ask you to use a more natural setting because this looks very “studio” on camera.

12. Use teleprompting software: If you need speaker notes or a script, consider using a program such as Script-Q to scroll your text in a window on your monitor. You will need to practice reducing eye movements while using it. (Editor’s note: I’ve written about the challenges most presenters face when using a teleprompter here.)

13. Use a foot pedal controller: I use the Fragpedal Dual from Good Work Systems in conjunction with Script-Q. It lets me unobtrusively adjust speed and direction of the text scroll while leaving my hands free for gesturing or resting naturally.

Ken Molay is the founder of Webinar Success, which teaches busy professionals the skills to more effectively create and deliver web seminars. He blogs at The Webinar Blog.

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