Appearing Professional in Online Presentations
It is not uncommon to see the occasional student walking down a crowded hallway of campus in business attire as a telltale sign of student presentation day. Presenting online over a videoconference can carry the same expectation of formal dress as an in-person presentation (at least from the waist up), but here are a few additional online-presentation-specific tips to improve your online video.
Good Video Needs Good Lighting
Lighting makes the biggest difference in the apparent quality of a person's video in an online video meeting. You don't need to invest in an expensive three-point lighting setup to improve the look of your video. Smart positioning around existing light sources and/or an inexpensive desk lamp makes a huge difference. Presenters should try to position themselves in the room so that the room's primary light source (often an external window) is directly in front of them and casting an even light on their face. Positioning yourself with a window behind you can lead to a shadowy, silhouetted, and grainy look that can make it difficult for the audience to pick up on facial expressions. More light is better when it comes to video, so bringing in an extra lamp can brighten and even out the lighting to lend that pro-video look to otherwise poorly-lit or back-lit environments. In this comparison image, you can see how a small desk lamp drastically improves the lighting and compensates for the less-than-ideal window positioning in this home office setup.
Pay Attention to Head Room
A key tenet of video framing is the subject's "head room." Head room is the space in a video frame between the top of the subject's head and the top of the frame. Professional video framing includes just a little bit of head room. The image above provides a good example of proper head room. Notice how the top of the subject's head is near the top edge of the frame but is neither cut off nor touching the edge. Too much head room or no head room can make the shot look askew. A more-thorough and illustrated explanation of head room can be found on this Arizona State University website.
Look Behind You
Check your video background for noticeable clutter and pay attention to what is being shown on camera. The beauty of video is that nobody knows what is going on outside of the frame. Taking a few minutes to make the bed and move that pile of books and coats off-camera can help the audience stay focused on the presentation and not the presenter's environment.
Some video conferencing applications also support a background blurring or replacing functionwhich could be used to obscure any distracting elements in the video background.
Keep the Camera at Eye-Level
The ideal position for a presenter's webcam is at eye-level. If you're using a built-in laptop webcam, you can raise it up by placing a few textbooks or a shoebox underneath the laptop while sitting at a desk or table. Just a few extra inches of elevation can make a big difference; there's no need to build a toppling tower to achieve true eye-level.