Embrace Your Inner Blogger

Digital happy hours. Online family reunions. Endless video conferences. Being on camera is now part of our “new normal” and new territory for many. On the other hand, ‘digital natives’ (many millennials and Gen Zers) camera presence is second nature. They have practiced and refined their content-creation craft and the digital space is teeming with ‘bloggers’ who have become social media influencers and popular YouTubers (with top performers earning upwards of $20 million in 2019, according to Forbes). While you might only be looking to improve your next video meeting, you can learn some quick and easy techniques from these digital natives.

Here are a few of the tried-and-true tips for upping your video conference game:

1.

Camera Position

Remember selfie-sticks? Those were all about enabling camera position. The objective is to raise the camera to just above eye level. Aim to position the camera at arms-length — if you get too close, you may see distortion; too far and your audience will have a tough time seeing you, especially if they are on a smaller device.

Figure out where your camera is on your device and use the reverse tool to display what you want your audience to see. The reverse tool flips the view from the back of the device (like a standard camera) to the front of the device. Often on phones and tablets, you want to use the screen-side camera.

If you hold your iPhone or iPad upright with the screen facing you, the camera is on the upper right. If you look at the screen during your video, it will appear as if you are looking off to the side in the actual photo/video. Instead, try looking directly at the camera.

How to find your camera location:
Look for the lens on the back of the device, for placement. You can usually find the lens and a flash. On a computer, you can usually see a small pin light near the camera. Regardless of the device, the key is knowing where the camera lens is, and looking in that direction when you are ‘live’.

Think about positioning and placement. If you are setting up at a table, you can use common household items like a small step stool, or a file box — something to elevate your camera 12”. One thing I’ve found that has worked well is my son’s ‘debate table’ with adjustable legs. Alternately, I’ve found that you can stack monitor mounts or add books to a monitor mount. For phones, a lot of bloggers use tripods, which you can find online for about $20.

2.

Lighting

This can be tricky. Ideally, you would have a bright light in front of you, slightly above your head. This can be hard to achieve at home or in the office. One suggestion is to test your environment. Take your phone, open up your camera, then move about your space looking at the various lighting options.

Once you are pleased with the light, you can set up from there. If that won’t work and you have identified your spot, you can bring in lights to help. You’ll want overhead light as well as lighting from both your right and your left side. Lighting behind you should be dimmed or turned off. If you are setting up in front of a window, close the blinds.

3.

Background

In the era of coronavirus, backgrounds have been a hot topic. In some cases, you might skip the background and let your audience in your space. This is much more personal and welcoming but you might have seen viral videos of little kids interrupting their parents video meetings, so you might want to think about what is going on in your space as you make decisions on whether to use a background.

Certainly an unexpected cameo from a spouse, child or pet could be embarrassing, fortunately, this can be avoided with a background which works a lot like the ‘greenscreen’ that meteorologists use. Many of the video conference apps allow you to adjust your background, and some even let you upload your own picture and use that as your background. That can be fun and beneficial but there are some pitfalls, too. It is a good idea to test your background ahead of time and to try to use contrast to your advantage. For example, if you are blonde and wearing a light shirt, you might consider a dark background. Your best bet is to contrast yourself (and your clothing) from your background. This will help the system distinguish you from your background. If you are wearing a dark jacket or top, and you want to mask a dark chair, cover it with a light sheet or towel and then seat yourself.

This will help the system firmly hold its shape as you move around. Of note, sometimes the background will pick up on patterns or graphics on your clothing. For example, if you are wearing a dark shirt with a mountain image in white and you have a light background, the mountains might take on your background.

4.

Audio

There are several ways to tackle audio. You can use the computer’s audio. You can use wired or wireless earphones (including ear buds or AirPods) or you can dial in via your phone. Again, test things out. Does your computer audio do the trick? We’ve found this is often the best case. However, if you really need to have a clear voice, you can consider adding a wired microphone. Our experience is that phones are less consistent than computer audio.

5.

Connectivity

For the most part, if your wireless signal is strong, this should not be a problem, but be cognizant of other online activities in your household. If you’re at the office and have access to the corporate network, this is less likely an issue. If you are streaming a meeting and someone else decides to join a different meeting or watch a movie, you could start to see latency and have issues with your Wi-Fi. If this happens, you can dial in from your phone (not using Wi-Fi) – but be sure to mute one of your devices. Also, you can switch to audio only, especially if you are not presenting, this will reduce the drag on your wireless network.

While we seem to be moving toward a solution for the virus and things will revert closer to normal, I do think as a culture we will continue to rely on video for collaboration and connection. Hopefully these tips help make your video sessions a little easier.

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