Ever recoiled at yourself on camera? (Don’t worry: no, you don’t really look like that.) With the outbreak of COVID-19 causing many in-person events to pivot to virtual events, we’re here to make sure you put your best foot forward in your next recorded video pitch or presentation.
1. Test everything.
Whether you’ve done this a million times before, or are giving this a shot for the first time, be sure you have all the appropriate apps, plugins, or software updates installed and working properly. Verify the wireless and hardwired connections between all your devices are strong and stable. Make sure your battery is fully charged and that you have enough disk space to store your recording. Then record a test pitch or presentation.
2. Clear the clutter.
Choose a simple background, or if you’re presenting from a desk, clear away anything you don’t need immediately for your pitch. “The only focus should be on you,” says Paul J. Bailo in his book The Essential Digital Interview Handbook, “with a bland, neutral background that frames you as the focal point.”
Putting you center stage also means you should prevent pets, children, app notifications, or stray noises from interrupting your presentation. Put a sign on your door politely asking visitors to come back later, and package handlers to refrain from knocking or ringing the doorbell.
3. Check the lighting.
When reviewing your test presentation, pay attention to the lighting: are there any weird shadows under your eyes, nose, or mouth? Can you see your face clearly? Is your face only lit by the glow of your monitor? Be sure your face is well-lit with light from multiple angles, not just from overhead. Natural daylight is best, but if you can’t sit in front of a row of bay windows, surround yourself with lamps stealthfully placed off-camera.
4. Project your voice.
Digital audio can be finicky, picking up the dog barking across the street but not the sentence you said ten seconds ago. Speak clearly and slightly louder than normal speaking volume. If you have to stand away from your camera to give your presentation, consider using a Bluetooth Headset or earbuds with a built-in microphone to pick up your voice.
Prepare and practice an outline or script so you don’t ramble.
5. Notice your body language.
Remember what you were told as a kid? Don’t slouch, make eye contact, and hold your head up high? That still applies. Avoid crossing your arms or looking at yourself in the monitor. It is fine, however, to talk with your hands if that makes you comfortable!
Relatedly, place the camera at eye level–no higher, no lower. Look directly into the camera lens because it gives the viewer the same feeling as eye contact does: it is confident and personal.
6. Wear pants.
This may seem silly if you’re only recording form the chest up, but dress head-to-toe exactly like you would in person for a high-stakes interview. This will not only make you feel more confident, but also it makes the viewer see you as organized, professional, and prepared.
Avoid wearing bright, flashy colors or busy patterns as these don’t often translate well on camera. Wear whatever you plan to wear during your test video so you can see how it looks from an outsider’s perspective, or ask for feedback from a friend or family member.