Your setup can have an impact on your ability to give a memorable online performance.
First impressions count—if you pop up on screen in a messy, poorly lit room, with hard to hear audio, what impression does this immediately give the audience?
Set up a space that immediately tells your audience that you are professional, credible, and ready to get down to business.
The devil is in the detail, which is to say that although your content and confidence are the most important things, the little things, like how you set up your space, matter.
Whether it’s a webinar with clients, a live keynote, a remote TV appearance, or you are talking with potential event organizers, there’s no better time than now to upgrade your setup and put your best face forward.
There are three main areas you’ll want to focus on when upgrading your remote working video setup so that your online performances shine: your background and room setup, lighting, and equipment arrangement. So we’ve put together this article to share with you some of the best setups for remote video streaming.
Background: Think neutral and professional
Finding the right background is a balance—you don’t want to be too personal or too sterile.
Everyone understands you are working from home and maybe you don’t have a specific room to work in, but you are in control of what your audience sees in the background.
Dirty dishes, stacks of papers and bills, piles of clothes, an unmade bed, multiple empty coffee mugs, messy shelves… these should be left out of sight as they show a lack of professionalism.
Your wall art and decorations should be work-appropriate. If they are not, or you are not sure, move them out of the shot.
A background packed with items can distract your audience. So keep it minimal.
But don’t go too far. A completely empty background could look sterile.
Here are a few safe bets:
light, neutral-coloured wall in the background. Shades of grey, cream, or white can work especially well.
professional-looking plants (ie. not a jungle or selection of poorly-faring house plants)
bookcase or lightly-adorned shelves
Remember: Anything distracting in the background can potentially pull attention away from the content of your talk.
Good lighting lets your shine.
Just like on stage, you want the spotlight on you, so arrange your room, lights, camera setup, and body position accordingly.
A dimly lit room can look unprofessional and dated.
To look your best on video calls you’ll need a light source that brightens your face, positioned in front of you.
If you sit in front of a window during the day, chances are, no one will be able to see you for your harsh silhouette.
If the angle of your front lighting comes from a position lower than your face, it will cast harsh shadows upwards. Likewise, if you have a very strong overhead light, it will cast shadows downwards. Either could end up giving you the look of an old-school horror villain.
You don't want a single bright light on just one side either, as might come from a window, as it will cast heavy shadows on one side of your face. You can neutralize this by using a light on the opposite side.
Arranging the room and your tech
Let's get into the nitty gritty of how to ideally arrange your workspace room.
Window to the front or side, not behind
If you have a window in the room, you want to face it, or if this makes it too difficult to see your screen, to the side with an additional front desk light positioned on the opposite side to create balance.
Avoid being backlit, as this will give you a silhouette effect.
Use carpets, rugs, and soft furnishings
If your room is empty and uncarpeted, it can result in hollow, echoey audio, distracting to others. Carpeted rooms with soft furnishings tend to create the best audio during web conferences.
If the room you're calling from doesn't have carpet, even putting a rug on the floor and some floor pillows in the room can reduce reverberation and create a warmer sound.
Keep your door off-screen
Make sure the door is not in the shot. If you get an unexpected interruption, you can swiftly manage it offscreen.
A toddler wandering in might make a hilarious meme, but a quick check to make sure the door is offscreen can help you avoid untimely mishaps.
Reduce background noise
Keep background noise to a minimum. Turn off A/C units, fans, radios, music, or anything else that makes significant noise. If there is noise outside, close the windows.
Most computers and laptops have a webcam built in, however, the quality is variable, and if you are looking at your screen instead of directly at the camera above the screen, this inhibits your ability to make eye contact with your audience.
A laptop camera can be difficult to position and may shoot you at an unflattering angle, often from below.
A high-quality external USB webcam will not only offer a better image but can be placed in the best possible position for your setup.
The camera should be at eye level, and positioned between you and your screen.
Ensure that you leave some space between where you sit and the camera so that the audience can see your head and shoulders, and not just a large face.
Ideally the light source will be directed at your face, coming from somewhere generally in front of you.
You can buy special lighting such as a ring light, which will ensure you are properly lit from all forward-facing angles. Or your setup can be as simple as sitting facing a window, or having a desk lamp directed at your face.
Ensure there are no unsightly shadows cast across your face.
You want your voice to ring out strong and clear.
For optimum audio, without grating, muffling, reverb, background noise, or other distracting sounds, position your microphone as close to your mouth as possible, with the front of the mic pointing towards your mouth.
Ideally, you want the mic about 8 inches / 20 cm away from your mouth for the best sound, but this will vary by microphone. Check the recommendations for yours.
If possible, keep the microphone out of view, below your camera shot.
Wrapping it up
If you want your audience to immediately see you as a professional—make a great first impression.
Taking some time to make sure that your setup is fine-tuned for a professional video conferencing experience will start you off on the right foot.
Ensuring that your background is uncluttered, your lighting is bright and well-positioned, and your room and tech are properly set up will give you the confidence to speak, knowing that you have already shown yourself to be professional.
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