Virtual meetings have become the norm, and I'd like to share my observations to help you make a great impression. I worked as a camera operator, assistant director, and director for a cable outlet and a public television station. I learned a few tips from watching the talking heads (anchor people and hosts), and I want to pass them on to you.
Whether you realize it or not, when you turn your camera on and unmute for a virtual meeting, other people can see and hear you. I've watched participants fix their hair, put lotion on, yawn without covering their mouths or start talking to someone who walked into the room. I've seen people pick up their device and put it down, so now we're all looking at the floor or ceiling. I've watched people sit in the dark like they're in a witness protection interview. It's funny, but it's bothersome and, ultimately, disrespectful.
Here are a few suggestions to help you stand out from the crowd in a good way.
When you watch the news, you'll notice that the person front and center never touch their face or hair. Once there's a commercial break, they will quickly fix up a bit. They may take a sip of water, check their makeup or clear their throat. You can do all of this before you turn your camera on for your meeting. If your attending event is long and you need to get up, turn your camera off and mute yourself. Get back as quickly as possible. Most people recognize that we're at home, and we may need to deal with varying situations. Trust me, we don't want to watch you blow your nose, pick spinach from your teeth or rub your eyes. Everyone should do their best to look and be professional.
It's not easy having a give and take with an online audience. Be engaged with the speaker. Sit up straight, shoulders back, head lifted, and smile. Nod your head to show you agree. Lean in to show interest. These small movements mean a great deal to a host trying to connect and get their information across.
Bookcases seem to be the background of choice. It's a little distracting for me, though. I'm trying to see what the titles are. I want to know if I've read some of the books or not. If your space isn't camera-ready, use a virtual set. Most platforms have built-in filters you can use even if you don't have a green screen. The only problem is you may disappear if you move too far back or to the side. Pay attention by checking your monitor once in a while to make sure you're being seen. I think the best backdrop is as clean as possible with very little to distract an audience. If the only choice is your bedroom, make the bed and pick up any laundry off the floor. I can't believe how many messy bedrooms I've seen in the last few months.
Frame yourself so that there's a small amount of space above your head. I've seen people sit way too far back as if they don't want to be noticed. I've also watched people sit to one side, so part of them is cut off. It's disconcerting seeing only half a face like a scene from Willy Wonka. Before you join a meeting, check your audio and video before you start. There's a link that says, "Test your microphone or speaker." When you click on it, a window will open for you to test both. You can also click on "video" and check your picture to make sure you're centered and lit correctly. Ideally, the light source should be in front of you. If the light is behind you, it will cast a shadow, and you'll be hard to see by everyone. Wear bright clothing, so you don't blend into the background. The small details add up to help you stand out and be your impressive self.
Take advantage of any opportunity to put your best foot forward. You never know who might take notice of your poise and professionalism. We are the stars of our production, so let's make it great. I will be happy not to feel the need to yell "Cut!" when I see someone on Zoom scratching their backside. Again, we can see you.