So, here are a few tips ahead of the holiday season that will make people on the other side of the video line feeling merry and brighter. Or at very least they’ll be *more* impressed by the presentation of your digital self. ‘Cuz who doesn’t love a little dazzle around the holidays?
THE 10-TIP CHECKLIST:
1. Declutter that Background
This is the biggest miss I see with the biggest payoff when followed. And it’s easy. You’d be surprised how much a clean and minimal (not totally blank — we’ll get to that) background can play in how people perceive you.
A table with a plant, a piece of art or two, or even a chair with a comfy throw blanket can work really nicely, especially if you’re not right up against your laptop and can create some visual depth. Make sure that added space behind you is tidied up though. If it looks like you’re in a college dorm, people may perceive you as a messy college kid and generally speaking (perhaps not always?) that’s not the impression we’re after.
2. Don’t go Barren
I actually laughed out loud doing this example but I’ve seen it so many times. Zooming with a blank white wall behind you tends to look like one of two things in my eyes — an acting audition or a hostage video. 2020 has done enough to us already, we don’t need to add you (appearing to be) getting kidnapped to cap it off.
I also try to avoid wearing white shirts, especially when I’ve got some good lighting (we’ll get to that, too) because the light tends to reflect and temporarily blind those who are looking at my screen.
3. Don’t go Busy
If “don’t go barren” was the last tip, “don’t go busy” is an easy next one. We want to see that handsome face of yours, and when you wear busy patterns it tends to distract not only from you, but from what you’re saying as well. All I’m thinking when I look at my example here is wow I wish I was at the beach in some flip flops right now.
Wear something that’s “on brand” for you. Solid colors are a safe bet, whether it’s a T-shirt for a casual call or a button-up for something more formal.
4. LIGHTS, Camera, Action
This is an easy tip, since there’s often actually no lighting required aside from what naturally comes into your space. So if you can, crack those blinds and position yourself in front of a window. If you can’t, some of you may know I love my ring light, but there’s no need to get that advanced here (most of the time).
Just make sure your light source, whatever it is, is directly on your face and coming from as close to eye level as you can get it. Lighting from above or your side will cast shadows across your face. I’m not sure about you guys, but that’s not my best look. Additionally, backlighting might be hot in a bar or nice restaurant, but when you’re on camera it tends to make you look like you are being interviewed on 20/20 as a fugitive in the Witness Protection Program (i.e. You will be seen mainly in silhouette).
Pro ring light tip: If you’re wearing glasses the circular light shape will be visible in both frames so try out a LumeCube if you want to go advanced with your on-camera lighting game.
5. Find Your Angle
Dare I say most of us know our angles at this point based on how many selfies we take? (No, it’s just me taking them…). Don’t be afraid to prop your laptop or phone up on a shoebox or raise your standing desk if you’ve got one. I’d say most of us look better on camera at eye level or slightly above and a laptop sitting on a desk pointed upward is the exact opposite of that.
There’s no shame in my game; I’ve used shoeboxes, side tables, even a recycling bin. The only one who knows what’s out of camera frame is you, so if you look better in-frame for doing what you have to do then props to you. Just make try to find a comfortable distance to sit back from your screen. If you need to type something, sit forward and do what you need to do then get back on your “mark” as they say in showbiz (the x on the ground). We also don’t want people looking up our noses!
6. Don’t Forget You’re on Camera
Oh and of course, don’t forget that just because you may not be the one speaking and in the center Zoom box, others can and may be watching and listening to you. That means those keyboard clicks if you’re multitasking (or messaging your friends) during a meeting or those eye rolls (if you’re really being yourself) can be heard and seen.
From all of the funny stories I’ve heard, like being at the gym with music blasting and forgetting to mute yourself, this is the one people forget most. And while I love a good laugh, and an even better story, I hope after reading this or hearing them yourself this isn’t one you forget!
7. Know your Audience
Alright, so if I was Zooming with someone I was dating (lol — me dating) or a good friend I would give this look a go. But a casual hoodie, unzipped or not, may not set the best tone in terms of people taking you seriously, since it’s something we often throw on instinctively just to be comfortable.
I’m not sure about you guys, but people call me a lot of things, and when “comfortable” is one of them it makes me rethink a few things.
8. Be Careful who you Bring to Bed
I’m laughing right now at this picture because it looks like I’m actually about to shoot an “adult video” we’ll call it. So yea, unless that’s your industry, be careful who you Zoom with in bed, or even just with your bed in-frame with.
When you see someone in or near their bed what’s running across your mind? Whether it’s a pretty picture or a scary one it’s probably not whatever they’re talking about…
9. No, Don’t use the Digital Background
We’d all love to be at the beach right now and that’s the main problem when it comes to a digital background — they’re distracting. They also tend to reshape your head like a hologram every time you move, which is even more distracting (though, entertaining I’ll admit).
Again, with friends and close family these rules may not apply — maybe mom wants to see you on a beach and thinks it’s the most technologically advanced thing since sliced bread (do people still say that?). But, this is all about looking our best so when it’s time to stun, keep this tip in mind. We want your head to stay head-shaped!
10. Be Yourself!
We’ve all been forced into this digitally-led environment and let’s face it — it can be awkward, weird, and annoying at times. But, just because you’re behind a screen and on camera now, there’s no reason to act any differently than we would in real life. Smile, laugh, and accept the awkwardness of it all because we’re all in it together.
That brings us to the end and the biggest tip of all: You will almost always get back the energy you put out. Zooming in BHL style is quite simply about being your best self in the digital world we now all live in. So smile and have some fun, because we can’t really go anywhere else right now!