Why bother?

We all know that whether they should or not, impressions count. In normal life most of us pay attention to how we appear, especially when representing our business. Yet, for some reason, maybe because we are working from home, standards sometimes slip online. Or maybe it’s because we simply don’t have the experience to know what works and what doesn’t.

So, assuming you want to look good, here are a few tips to help you look your best online.

You

Think about how you look, just as you would in the real world.  Shirt and tie, blouse, open necked shirt, t-shirt. Jewellery. None, some or dramatic. It’s your choice. Just make it consciously appropriate to the message and image you want to convey.

Don’t forget to adjust for online.  Consider how you look on a screen. Stripes often don’t work well online. Some colours work in contrast to your skin, hair and background better than others.

Your camera

Your lighting and your camera position are two of the most critical considerations online.

Ensure the majority of your lighting is in front of you. Bright light behind causes silhouettes and can be off-putting for others. Sitting as much as you can in front of a window is a good solution.

Ideally your camera should be about arms length away at eye level.

our body should more or less cover the middle third of the image and your eyes should be one third from the top of the screen with the top of your head a little below the top of the image.

Having the camera at eye level ensures you aren’t looking up into the shot.  Likewise it’s not good to have the camera too low.  People don’t like looking up your nose and you may inadvertently convey a message of arrogance by looking down on the viewer.

Your position

Some like to stand for online meetings. It can help if you want to gesture and use your stance to convey messages. Very helpful for professional presenters.  So an option to consider, especially as it may also have a psychological as well as a physical impact on you and the impression you give.  All the above comments on lighting and camera position still apply though.

Don’t assume the same configuration works in all circumstances. A camera high up on the wall, above the end of a board room may be effective when joining a board meeting where most are physically present. However, this conveys a real impression of distance emotionally as well as physically when online.

Your background and environment

Just think about it! Will it detract? Is it cluttered? Are there distracting objects, colours o posters?  Fairly plain is probably best. Virtual backgrounds can be good, along with plain, nice imagery or branded, just as long as they don’t distract. Green screens used to be essential, but nowadays the artificial intelligence software can nearly always pick out your head, shoulders and clothes as long as they clearly stand out from the background. So choose clothing that doesn’t blend with the background.

Your technology

A HD webcam costing £40 – £80 is a good investment. In addition to being higher quality it gives you so much more flexibility in positioning than a laptop camera built into the top of the screen. Webcam and PC microphones are good enough for most situations. A stand microphone is probably worth the £30 – £50 investment. A microphone costing £150 or more is probably not worth it, unless you are a professional presenter. Whilst a phone often has a good quality camera, they don’t seem to work well for interactive, online meetings. The combination of the small image and the fixed camera often detracts from the experience.

Your behaviour

Consider the nature of the event and behave appropriately for that type of event.

MD2MD meetings are strictly interactive webinars with cameras on and microphones ready to be switched on to speak. Participants are expected to join in the meeting fully as they would in a real world workshop. They should interact with the presenter(s) and each other to be fully present throughout. To quote the legendary Nigel Risner (MD2MD Speaker) [in the real world] “When you are in the room be in the room” [and in the virtual world] “When you are on the zoom, be on the zoom”.

Many internal business meetings should operate in the same way. With everyone paying attention to their colleagues and contributing fully to the meeting.

By contrast webinars are normally one-way presentations. Whilst to gain full value you need to pay attention, cameras are usually off. Just as when you are watching TV, no one sees if you are distracted or asleep. You just miss the value – your choice, your loss and no real affront to others.