Because of the pandemic, the Georgetown community is attending classes, meetings and social gatherings over Zoom. Just as with in-person presentations and meetings, how you choose to present yourself on screen should vary depending on whether you’re speaking to a large audience or attending an informal meeting with co-workers. Of course, many of us are trying to work in close quarters with roommates, siblings, spouses and children of all ages, and finding a quiet spot for online meetings can be challenging.
No one expects perfection during these incredibly stressful times. But if you have options of where to set up for a meeting or presentation where you want to look and sound your best, here are a few tips that can help you look and sound your best from Barrinton Baynes, Beth Campolieto Marhanka (shown above) and Mike Matason from Georgetown’s Gelardin New Media Center.
Do a Test Run
- Always begin a new Zoom meeting ahead of time to make sure you’re happy with how you look and sound. Try not to make people wait too long for the meeting to start.
- If you aren’t the host of the meeting, you can still create a separate Zoom session in advance for a test run of the audio settings and to go through the checklist of all the tips offered in this article.
Use Adequate Lighting
- Natural, diffused lighting is the most flattering light. If possible, set up facing a big window, or even sit outside if it’s not too noisy. If natural light isn’t an option, place a lamp with a white lightbulb behind your computer screen to achieve a similar effect. If natural light isn’t an option, place a lamp with a white lightbulb behind your computer screen to achieve a similar effect.
- When possible, avoid harsh lighting coming from a single direction, especially from above, that will cast unflattering shadows on your face. Also try to avoid lighting from behind you, which will leave your face dark and silhouetted.
- Try your best not to mix different colored lights. Being consistent in using either a warm or cool light works best.
Framing Your Image
- Your face and upper chest should be centered on the screen. For the most flattering angle, place your computer or phone on an elevated surface so that the camera is at or slightly above your eye level. This might sound silly, but try it and you’ll see the difference it makes in your appearance.
- Try to find a spot where your background isn’t too distracting. If your workspace isn’t ready for primetime or you’d like to keep your space private, the Zoom app on some smartphones and computers has the option to choose a virtual background by clicking on the up arrow next to the Start Video icon. Unfortunately, this function isn’t consistently effective on all devices, so it’s a good idea to test beforehand. You can use images or video on your computer or find something new from a royalty-free website like Pexels, Unsplash, Pixabayor Coverr. Keep the Peter Parker principle in mind and use this virtual power responsibly!
- In the Settings menu under the Video section, you can also choose the option to Touch Up My Appearance. This function retouches the video display with a softer focus, smoothes out the skin tone on your face and presents a more polished appearance. It’s like getting a free makeover.
- Learn where the camera is and try to look into it the same way you maintain eye contact in person. This will make the audience feel like you’re speaking right to them.
- If you are presenting during the session and want to read from notes, create a makeshift teleprompter by positioning a Word or Google doc with your notes in a small window right below your camera.
- Solid color shirts are best when you’re on camera; busy patterns can look blurry on video.
Beware of Ambient Audio
- Phone and computer microphones pick up a lot of noise that you might not be thinking about. Pay attention to background sounds such as appliances, TVs, pets, traffic and other noises. Log in from a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed. Inform your roommates and family that you’re in a meeting so they don’t interrupt you.
- If you aren’t getting good sound from your computer, use a headset or a microphone. The Logitech USB Headset H390 is a simple and inexpensive option. If you already have headphones but need a better sounding mic, the Samson Meteor USB microphone is a small portable choice with its own stand.
- Be sure to mute your microphone when you’re not speaking and if you’re running a meeting, mute all the participants if ambient noise is causing a distraction.
We’d love to hear whether these tips are helpful and your funny Zoom mishaps. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org