When creating live training or pre-recorded learning content, there’s one question you should ask yourself – what is your on-camera presence like?
In the learning industry, your on-camera presence is key to getting your message across.
But what if you’re not a natural in front of the camera? Don’t worry, the truth is most people aren’t. If you want to learn how to improve your on-camera image, we’ve got just the episode of The Visual Lounge for you.
Diana Howles, CEO and Co-Owner of Howles Associates, shares some tips for success and breaks down all the little details you should think about to improve your videos and give a great impression to your audience.
Diana is an award-winning speaker, author, and international virtual trainer with 25 years of experience in the learning industry. She has conducted live online training for clients since 2000 and has taught virtual classes in more than a dozen countries. Diana is also the author of the book Next Level Virtual Training.
You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…
What is an on-camera presence and why is it important?
In Diana’s words, presence is an idea of shared community and connectedness. In the modern world, where many of us interact virtually on camera or get involved with virtual training, Zoom and pre-recorded video content have become more commonplace.
With it has come the importance of how we present ourselves on camera. The impression we make on our audience is key to establishing a connection.
Why is this important? If you want to teach or influence your audience, you can only do that if you’ve built rapport and trust. By building connections, you’re building relationships and credibility, and helping to deliver your message more effectively.
Top mistakes to avoid when you’re on camera
To learn how to improve your presence on camera, a good place to start is to learn what not to do.
One of the top mistakes that Diana sees is when people don’t think about their background.
Sometimes you’ll be on a Zoom call and see someone with an awkwardly placed plant behind them, and you spend the whole session imagining it growing out of their head rather than listening to them. Or maybe someone will have a distracting ceiling fan right behind them.
The problem with these little quirks is that they can distract from your message.
If there’s too much going on in the background, your viewers will end up looking at that instead of listening to you.
“We know especially for learning and development, learning absolutely necessitates attention. So we really do a lot to minimize distraction.”
Another common mistake is having bad lighting in your video. Even if you’re just on a Zoom call, bad lighting can be distracting for everyone.
Bad lighting can be caused by people having a window behind them or ceiling lights that create a halo effect or make you look washed-out. To learn how to get perfect lighting in your videos, check out this blog.
The third biggest mistake Diana sees is poor framing. Some people will have their face or even just part of their face in the bottom corner or looming at the top, which creates an awkward angle either way. Anything that covers your face or is distracting can get in the way of your message.
Clean up your on-camera image with B.L.E.A.C.H
So what can you do if you want to improve your camera presence? Diana has a handy mnemonic that helps her remember the most important principles of virtual meetings and training.
Her phrase is: clean up your on-camera image with B.L.E.A.C.H.
This stands for:
- Background: Ideally, you want a background that’s professional and not too distracting. Professionals like attorneys might want a logo of their practice in the background, for example.
- Lighting: Avoid lighting from the back, always light from the front and try to have soft, even lighting to avoid harsh contrasts.
- Expressions: Using gestures, movement, and facial expressions is great, just be sure to avoid blocking out the camera with those gestures.
- Angle: Avoid using a low-angle camera (e.g., from a cell phone or laptop) because it can feel like an intimidating posture.
- Clothing: Remember that solid colors pop better. The golden rule is if you have a light background, avoid light colors, and vice versa with a dark background to avoid the classic floating head look.
- Headroom: A good rule of thumb is to ensure there’s a gap of about three fingers above your head and the edge of the frame. This helps you check you’re not too big or small in the frame.
Ways to feel more comfortable on camera
Not everyone likes being on video, but if you have to deliver video training, Diana has some simple tips.
Hide your video
Part of the reason so many people get screen fatigue is the feeling that you have to constantly “perform,” because you’re on camera. Hiding the self-view is a simple trick that can help with that.
Many video conferencing platforms now let you hide the self-view, which can become really distracting.
This way, you can still establish that face-to-face connection with others without spending the whole time worried about how you appear.
Focus on your audience
We have a tendency to think about ourselves when creating live or pre-recorded videos, but the trick is to focus on your learners or audience instead and what they need. Diana likens video to a “conduit between you and your audience.”
“When you put the focus on you, that creates sort of this angst that doesn’t need to be there.”
Sit versus stand: Which is better when recording videos?
Of course, it’s down to personal preference, but Diana highlights that standing naturally gives you more energy. Standing can also help you feel more comfortable using gestures that can help you communicate better.
When you sit down, you can sometimes lose some of that energy. Her tip is to try to generate twice the amount of energy you usually have because it takes a hit as it travels through the screen.
To learn more from Diana, be sure to check out her website and awesome new book, Next Level Virtual Training, which has a chapter all about camera competence and one about hybrid learning.
In the meantime, check out more resources on improving your video skills in TechSmith Academy.