How to (Better) Connect via Video Conference

Audio conference calls are quickly becoming the thing of the past. With the advent of video conference tools like Zoom, Webex, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, it’s easier than ever to connect with your clients, coworkers, and loved ones with video. But for most people, hitting that “Start Video” button can be terrifying.

As a video veteran and on-camera confidence coach, I wanted to share some industry tips on how to look more confident on-camera though you may not feel like it, so here’s how to look like a pro and connect with others on a deeper level using video conferencing!

Testing testing…is this thing on? Clear audio is so important during a call, so I recommend not only using an external microphone, but also wearing headphones during a call. So our first tip is:

  1. Wear headphones with an integrated microphone or buy a separate external microphone
    • You’ll hear others more clearly and vice versa. People tend to connect and build rapport more easily with a clear audio connection.
    • You’re less likely to be distracted by external noise if you’re wearing headphones.
    • It’s good practice to mute yourself whenever you’re not speaking in case of ambient or surprising background noise (i.e. dogs barking, neighbor’s music blasting, zombie apocalypse outside).
  2. Bring your camera to eye level
    • Most people rely on their built in web-camera, which is great! However, the angle from below looking up, isn’t the most flattering. One way to approach this challenge is to put your computer on a box until your camera is at the same height as your eyes. You can connect with people better if you make it appear as though you are really talking and looking at them at eye-level.
    • If you have a seperate web-camera, then mount it onto something that is at eye level with you. I happen to have a lamp that works perfectly for this.
    • The alternative is looking down or up at people. Psychologically, this could create an impression you may want to avoid.
  3. Lighting is your friend!
    • Avoid looking like a silhouette and invest in some lighting, like a selfie ring light. I own a $20 QIAYA Ring Light that works like a charm! People want to see who they are talking to and you can come across like a video pro with some extra lighting.
    • Or use a window as a lighting source. Try to find the brightest, most consistent light source available and set up your computer so you’re facing the light.
    • Avoid mixed lighting. This is an advanced option that isn’t available to many people, but if you’re able to make it work, then it’ll add to your video conference’s production value. Sunlight is a different color than most bulbs you use at home. You might notice an orange tinge when you turn on your desk lamp, but then notice that you have some blue light (AKA sunlight) coming in from outside. Choose one or the other by turning on your lamp and closing off your window or turn off your lamps, and rely on outside lighting. Trust me, it’s a subtle difference, but it can be a difference on how you are “seen”.
  1. Remember: Your Background can reveal a lot about you
    • Be mindful about what’s in your frame; this can be used as a tool to connect! For example, I attend board meetings for a non-profit in San Jose, CA. Before COVID19, we met monthly in a law firm’s office after work. Everyone came dressed up in their work attire, so that’s how I knew them. After COVID19, we began meeting virtually via Zoom and for the first time, I got glimpses of people’s lives! I saw their homes, their pets, their kids, and even some bedrooms. I felt more connected to them than ever before. And I’ve known some of these people for years! Your background can say a lot about who you are and create a connection immediately. I’m not saying that you need to move all of your furniture around and create a set, but do be mindful about what’s in the frame of your video. A messy bed in the background might count against you!
    • If you’re uncertain about your natural habitat, Zoom allows you to use a virtual background. You can speak from a beach in Hawaii or from the top of Mt Everest. What I love about virtual backgrounds is that people’s creativity can really shine, also demonstrating a piece of your personality.
  2. Talk to the camera like it’s your friend!
    • When it’s your turn to speak, try addressing the camera directly 50% of the time. The other 50%, you want to gauge the other person’s body language and if they are indeed listening to you. You can create a deeper connection when you’re appearing to talk directly to them (through the camera) vs at their video.
  3. Practice!
    • It’s good practice to record your video conferences and then watch them afterwards so you can see how you did. Always, and I repeat, ALWAYS get permission before recording a video conference call. Not doing this can break trust and asking for permission can instantly show your integrity.
    • Remember, you can also practice your video setup before an important meeting to make sure everything is functioning correctly and appears how you want it too. Or else you might get stuck as a potato the entire time, like this woman did.
  4. Spice up your meetings!
    • Since COVID19, our weekly production meetings now happen on-line, and our Chief Creative Officer decided to give us weekly themes. One week, our theme was Film Noir. We posted this photo on Social and got a lot of praise for being lighthearted and exhibiting fun, which is one of our values.

Video is an effective tool for connecting us in times of physical isolation. If your business needs to relay an important message; if there is a live event you want to take to a virtual platform; or if you simply have more questions about on-camera confidence, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Four Winds Creative.

About the author:

Charlyn Villegas is co-founder of Four Winds Creative, an award-winning video producer, and professional speaker with 20 years of industry experience, both on-camera and off. She is also on the Board of Directors of the San Jose non-profit, Christmas in the Park, where she co-chairs the PR and Marketing Committee and leads their Diversity Committee.

Lights, Camera, Action.

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