APRIL 2020 | AROUND THE ABA

4 tips for looking your best on your next video calls

The new normal for most people is now working remotely and communicating by platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. So, it’s important to look professional on camera, just as you would in person. 

Julie Brown knows a thing or two about looking good on camera.

The broadcast manager for the American Bar Association has spent more than 30 years working both in front of the camera and behind it, helping countless spokespersons look their best.

Here are some of the gems she’s collected to help you put your best face forward during video conference calls and digital events: 

Know your equipment.

  • Plan to use your laptop or desktop device (iPad or tablet). Use your cell phone as a last resort since ideal positioning is difficult.
  • Locate the webcam (a tiny pinhole usually at the top edge of your screen).  
  • Position the lens directly opposite (in front of) your eyes.  
    • Imagine that tiny pinhole as the eyes of a human being and get used to the idea that you are making eye contact with that imaginary person. If necessary, place a tiny Post-It note or sticky dot adjacent to the lens to remind you to “maintain eye contact.”  
    • To ensure your eyes and the lens are on the same level, you may have to adjust either your chair or use books or other items to raise or lower your screen.
  • Familiarize yourself with Zoom, if that’s the application you’ll be using.
  • Click here to watch a basic tutorial on “Joining a Zoom Call for the First Time.”
    • Activate the Touch Up My Appearance filter, which is designed to “smooth out the skin tone on your face, to present a more polished-looking appearance.”

Create the ideal setting.

  • Find a quiet, well-lit room.
  • Choose a neutral background with no windows.
    • Place your chair at least 3 feet from the wall, allowing you to maneuver for ideal positioning.
    • Position yourself in the center of the screen.
    • Pay attention to what’s behind you. You want to ensure the viewer is paying attention to what you’re saying, rather than admiring your high school trophies and family photos in the background. Make sure there are no door knobs or light switches “growing” out of your head.
  • Present yourself in the best possible light.
    • Natural, soft lighting is ideal, such as lamps and other indirect sources. Harsh overhead lights tend to accentuate under-eye shadows and dark circles.
    • Experiment to get light that illuminates your face in a flattering way but isn't too harsh or too dim. 
    • Position lights on either side of the webcam to illuminate your face.
    • Avoid sitting with your back to a window (or make sure you have light-blocking window treatments).  When light from behind you hits a webcam, it compensates by going dark, making you look like a shadowy silhouette.

Dress for success.

  • Avoid white, bright red and all-black outfits. All three of these colors pose technical problems.
  • Stick to solids or simple patterns. Loud patterns are too distracting.
  • Avoid stripes and herringbone patterns and shiny fabric.
  • Stay classic.
  • Keep jewelry simple.

Minimize distractions.

  • Ensure your internet connection is strong and reliable.
  • Close any computer programs you don’t need. Random background programs can slow down your connection, reduce the quality of the broadcast and make it hard to see and hear you.
  • Turn off your cell phone and any other devices that may produce disrupting sounds that could throw you off message.
  • Tape a “Do Not Disturb” sign to the door to keep out any unwarranted, unwitting visitors.
  • You and others on the call should keep your microphone on mute when you are not talking. Practice taking your phone on and off mute before an interview begins.

The bottom line

Your goal is to clearly convey your message to the viewers. They should not have to strain their eyes or ears to see and hear what you’re saying. They should be able to concentrate on your words and not be distracted by your surroundings or dazzled by your designer wardrobe. Wowing them by making it all look effortless will give you a winning webcam experience!