October 28, 2014

Thinking of doing a Hangout? Read this first!



Wearing a virtual cat face on a Google Hangout
This is not going to be a technology article, so if that's what you were hoping for... sorry!

Nope, just good ol' fashioned presentation advice, but the kind you need when you're going to be on camera.

I recently watched a Google Hangout where the content was all good, but the speakers' on-camera performance left much to be desired.

Just a few simple adjustments would have made this presentation so much better, and I would have been able to focus on the content rather than the distractions of the visuals.

Here are some tips for you whether you're live on a Hangout or shooting a DIY video for later upload.

1. Place your webcam at or above eye level

When you sit at your desk, your screen tends to be a little bit lower than eye level, unless you have a really high desk or a massive monitor. But when you shoot a Hangout or video, you don't want to be looking DOWN at your audience, which is what will happen if you keep your monitor where it is.

If you're using a laptop, elevate it on some books or a box, so that you're looking directly into the camera or even looking up a bit. If you're using a standalone webcam (anyone still use those?) position it the same way.

2. Actually look AT the webcam

I'm shocked when I watch a video or Hangout, and professionals who should know better are looking down at the screen instead of into the camera. Just because you're looking at someone's face on the screen, doesn't mean you're making eye contact with your audience. If you want to make eye contact (and your audience wants you to), you must look INTO the webcam lens.

This takes practice, and it helps some people to tape a picture of someone next to the lens. The more you get used to talking into the camera, the easier it becomes.

3. Put on some powder

Yes, guys, even you. The last thing I want to see on a livestream is some sweaty, shiny guy on the other side. I'm the least likely person to tell you to wear makeup, because I don't enjoy wearing it, and it's actually one thing that keeps me from shooting as much video as I should.

But you don't need full stage makeup, just a little something to even out a blotchy complexion and keep you from blinding the viewer. A little basic street makeup for women, and at least some powder for men is required to keep you from looking either shiny or washed out on the screen. And guys, that powder will need to go on your pate as well, if you're losing your hair. Just sayin'.

4. Pay attention to your backdrop

If you don't have a nice backdrop at your desk, fake one. Ruth Sherman taught me to put a plant or some flowers behind me to liven up (and lighten up) the scenery, even if I have to put them on a step stool.

Your audience can't see what's holding it all up; they just want something pleasant and non-distracting behind you instead of saggy drab curtains, a mishmash of books and knickknacks, or a big piece of drywall (which is what you would see behind me at my desk if I let you!).

You don't have to have a fancy studio setup or expensive lighting when shooting video or live Hangouts. But as a professional who wants to be seen as an authority and an expert, you do have to come across as someone who knows what they're doing and has the confidence of a pro. And the last thing you want to do is distract your audience with these piddly but noticeable mistakes.

Making these little tweaks to your appearance and to your performance will make a subtle but important difference in how your audience perceives you, your credibility level, and overall, your ability to make a connection and build a relationship with your audience.

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