Deliver your messages in a virtual world!
It doesn't always have to be a professionally produced meeting. Most of our communication happens on the fly via some sort of video collaboration tool.
So, while we usually don't have any involvement in your day-to-day meetings, there are visually creative people at el-j who can help with the design and look of digital content, but even the best images need to be accompanied with an equally polished delivery. And that’s where I come in as a speech coach. In particular, there are several elements that need special attention when moving to a digital platform. The good news is that these skills are crucial beyond the current crisis, so though the timeline may seem forced, the practice is timely.
If you are speaking via an online platform (Zoom, WebEx, Skype, GoToMeeting, etc.) there are many camera-oriented skills that must be addressed. The top six are:
2. Microphones and Vocal Production
4. Layering and Colors
6. Sight Lines
Lighting: We all look better with side lighting than down lighting. To this end, turn off all overhead lighting and use table lamps, floor lamps, or side windows. However, do not have an open window behind you and make sure the background looks professional. If you are at home, even a shelf of books sets the right mood - no bedroom shots or messy children’s rooms.
Microphones: Even though computers have built-in microphones, use a set of earbuds or a headset which will place the microphone closer to your mouth. HOWEVER, use your “speaker phone voice” to convey strength and confidence with the material. Just because you have a microphone does not mean you can be vocally lazy. Besides, we want to feel your enthusiasm as much as hear your words.
Pacing: There are many potential distractions for listeners in a virtual setting, so break up the session/call/workshop into small sections. I recommend that you summarize and recap every 7-10 minutes. You can also add an easy quiz to keep listeners engaged or consider adding action pictures or short video clips to break up the pace.
Layering and Colors: In terms of clothing, layers always look good on camera. Ladies, that would mean scarves, jackets, or a sweater over a blouse. Gentlemen: a jacket, tie, or sweater. Layering tends to imply depth of content, so we can use that to our advantage. In terms of colors, women tend to look better in jewel tones (amethyst, cobalt blue, bright green or pink) while men look better in pastels (pink, jade, power blue). Avoid black and white – it is hard for the automatic iris in the computer’s camera to find the right exposure.
Physicality: There is a tendency in small spaces to minimize gestures and facial expressions. I suggest something I call “dinner party delivery”, which means speak as you would around a table of friends. Use your hands extensively, smile, and exude the sensation that you are happy to be here with us on the call. One major hint is to stand up - your voice will be stronger and you will feel more freedom to move physically. Usually placing your laptop on a box on top of your desk will suffice. Standing will also give you more energy during longer sessions since you can move and bend your knees a little.
Sight Lines: There is a lesson from soap operas called the sight line “triangle”. Actors were
coached to look at the person to whom they were speaking, to the side, and slightly down. The same principle applies for us virtually, but the triangle must be tighter. Therefore, I suggest looking around the frame of your computer screen. This lets you blink, think, and adjust your gaze naturally in a camera-friendly manner. Secret pro tip: sticky notes on the side of your screen will also keep you on point. Here’s a version of my own:
Mastering these six tips can make your virtual presentations and meetings more engaging and gives us a head’s start on some good camera techniques for future endeavors as well. Let us know if you would like individual coaching on these valuable skill sets.