The inspiration for this post comes from a recent demo. The Aircall team was investigating a new piece of software that would, potentially, improve our workflows.
Product aside… the presentation was flawed.
This particular rep was working from home with the blinds drawn. There was track-lighting behind his head, and since we were basically looking at this guy from hip level, we could see a ceiling fan rotating full-speed in the background.
The physical elements of the frame were distracting, but more importantly, everyone joining the meeting on our end felt a little disrespected. He must not see this call as important.
Because of these first (and initially subconscious) impressions, the demo started with a significant handicap. To change our minds, the presentation’s content would need to contain inspirational excitement equivalent to that of the lunar landing.
It did not.
The truth is, you don’t have to be a professional videographer to know good media when you see it. Video content is everywhere, and we’re drawn to images that are well produced and aesthetically pleasing.
While there’s a fair amount of leeway given for live video streams, we can use the same videography best practices to make our sales, customer success, and job interview calls as consumable as possible.
Here are four easy tips to set your video calls up for success.
1. Make Sure the Light Source is in the Right Place
Nothing trashes video production like poor lighting. It’s one of the simplest things to fix, but we tend to consider our immediate environment over what the viewer sees.
For instance, you might sit with your back to the window to save your viewer the sight of a messy desk. Similarly, you may not want to directly face a lightbulb because it’s uncomfortable. However, both of these instincts are wrong. Your positioning around the available light strongly affects how you’re seen.
The correct light-camera-subject setup for quality video calls
The light needs to illuminate the subject, and the camera lens needs to face away from the light source. If this equation is reversed, the camera will be flooded with light, and anything between that light source and the lens will appear dark and grainy.
These two calls were filmed in the same room, one facing the window, one facing away.
2. Consider Framing
Some camera angles are more flattering than others. Literally speaking down to your counterpart creates conscious and subconscious biases.
You’ll look more professional by raising your laptop or cell phone camera closer to eye level. Consider using a stack of books to boost your camera a few inches.
Headspace and Shot Size
When filming a human subject, you don’t want to cut their face off at the forehead, but you also don’t want to leave too much room above them in the frame. In showbiz, we call this the headspace, or headroom.
Choose an amount of space that allows your eyes to be the focal point of the screen. For video calls, where you’re the only speaker on your end, position yourself in the center of the frame** with your eyes approximately ⅔ of the way up the screen from the bottom.
**More artistic forms of video will suggest you follow the rule of thirds for the horizontal and vertical positioning of your subject. But for video calls, it feels more natural to put yourself smack-dab in the middle.
And how big should your face be in the frame? Position the camera so your shoulders take up approximately half of the horizontal space on the screen. This will let the speaker see your body language and any hand gestures. Additionally, it’ll prevent another video-call mistake: Gigantic Face Syndrome.
A little close there, bud.
3. Audio Quality: Use an External Microphone (and Headset)
Even if you’re sitting in a quiet room or call booth, your audio quality could come across as echoey or hollow.
The safest solution is to use a wired microphone. Bluetooth microphone technology may improve in the coming years, but it’s still too volatile to trust when it comes to important calls.
You may think the full-headset look is a bit silly, but even a solution as simple as apple earbuds can make a world of difference.* Just be sure to check your computer’s audio settings to test that your voice is registering properly.
*The last webinar I attended was saved at the last possible second when the host plugged in her $15 earbuds.
4. What Should be in the Background?
The safest background for your sales demo, customer success call, or job interview is a solid-colored wall, positioned far enough behind you so there aren’t any shadows.
However, this is by no means the only solution.
So long as your background isn’t in constant motion (such as a ceiling fan or looking out a train window), feel free to display depth and activity.
If you have a professional and tidy home office, show off your personality. If your workplace presents energetic or positive vibes, go ahead and include it in the frame.
Here, the background on the right has depth and motion, while still giving off a professional vibe.T he one on the left, however, lacks the same professionalism. (If you’re uncertain or pressed for time, solid background is the way to go.)
Meanwhile, I see one co-worker who could stand to read this blog post.
The Importance of Quality Video Calls
A beautifully framed video call — on its own — won’t win the deal or land you that dream job, but a poorly executed one may have detrimental effects.
We’re living in a time where video content is everywhere. Whether we’re aware of it or not, this influences how we think and act. Give yourself the advantage on your next video call by following these tips and looking your best.
Published on March 1, 2023.