Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.
Are You Amazing or (Unintentionally) Amusing on Video Presentations?
One of my good friends is a frequent participant in online courses and conversations. Recently, she was struck by a rather unprofessional webinar. The content was amazing, but the delivery was amusing.
Position Your Webcam to Avoid "Up Your Nose" Videos
Most all laptops, tablets, and smartphones have the ability to record video, video chat, and broadcast video with their built-in webcams. This offers content creators an easy and cheap way to create, record, and distribute video.
But here's an angle that most video content creators forget, particularly when using desktops, laptops, and tablets: The angle of their devices relative to where they are sitting. Often, presenters will have the device on a desk or table. This positions the device's webcam significantly below them and angled upward. The camera is a "dumb" device and captures whatever is right in front of it, which is usually the bottom of presenters' chins and noses. In addition to making these facial features appear larger than what they are, it also offers a not-so-nice "up your nose" shooting angle.
TIP: Position your device so that the webcam lens gets all your features fully in the frame of the video, and they appear in normal, natural proportions.
If, especially with desktops or laptops, repositioning is impossible, consider using a USB external webcam that you can more easily position. Also consider purchasing a small tripod that can be adjusted for both height and angle.
Keep experimenting until you get an optimal video result.
Webcam I Use for Recording Online Video Presentations
Audio Tips for Video Recording
Audio is one of the most critical and difficult aspects of creating videos. The narration or speaking should be loud enough and clear, with as little background noise as possible.
You can find a lot of crazy solutions online for getting good audio. Some are DIY (Do It Yourself) concoctions that are a real trick to get right. (Trust me, I've tried.) Others involve purchasing expensive microphones and booms (a boom is the stand or holder for a mic) that could set you back some bucks.
When trying to make cheap videos that are the best quality possible, I've found the following to usually be good enough. Note that most record in mono (not stereo) audio. Stereo recording is usually not a requirement for making a webinar or regular YouTube type video.
- Mic on Smartphone or Smart Device. Use the microphone on the smartphone or smart device that you're using to shoot your video. But you need to be close enough to the microphone to get good sound.
- External Mic. This can cut down on ambient white noise, but could run into some money. If you're recording in a noisy environment, it's important to consider purchasing one, along with a windscreen. A windscreen is a small foam piece that goes over the mic to reduce popping noises you make when you talk and other extraneous noises.
- USB Headset Mic. This looks like you're an "On Air" personality! Seriously, though, it can help you hear the audio you're recording. Plus, the mini boom mic can help cut down on ambient noises, especially if you get a windscreen for it. I've used the Logitech H390 for a number of years for both video recording and while on video chats or podcasts.
- Webcam Mic. Get a good webcam that has decent audio capture without additional equipment. I've been happy with the audio captured by my Logitech C920 Webcam. I perch the webcam on a small tripod so that it captures both a decent image and audio.
TIP: Remember that many people may listen to the audio while doing other things, and totally ignore the video. So make the audio worthy of being listened to by itself.
Next to audio, lighting is another crucial element of video. But lighting equipment can be awkward to handle, expensive, and difficult to get right. Cheap (or free!) ambient light, light from windows, and regular household lamps can all work if (that's a BIG if) positioned properly.
Remember that webcams and cameras don't see light the way humans' eyes do. What looks great to you in real life could look horrific on camera. As with everything else when trying to be professional and cheap, you'll have to experiment with what you have to get the best result possible.
I've found that daylight color temperature lighting works best for me. I use a desk lamp with fluorescent bulbs that mimic daylight, positioned to my right and shining on my facial area, with some natural light from a window on the opposite side.
TIP: Because people want to see your face, make sure it is well lit with whatever lighting source you use.
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Makeup and Clothing
Respect your virtual audience by dressing and grooming appropriately. When you're recording or broadcasting video alone in your home or office, it's easy to forget that you could be virtually meeting thousands of people on the Internet. Look like the star you are!
I've worn makeup for most of my video work throughout the years. However, when I started using a different webcam, I found that the makeup I wore for video work and regular in-person events was too much and looked strange on video. So I experimented and found that I needed much, much less with today's more advanced webcams. This is where experimentation, prior to broadcasting, is so important. You may find that you need more or less, depending on your webcam and lighting.
Keep your clothing simple and avoid wearing bold prints. Prints can be distracting and can look awful on video.
As with clothing and makeup, keep what appears in the background of your video simple, too. This helps eliminate distractions and helps your audience focus on you and what you're saying.
For example, you don't want to your audience to fixate on the lamp in the background that looks like it's growing out of your head!
Video Editing Tips
Got a lot of dead air or awkward moments in your video? Cut 'em out! This requires a video editor. But before you invest in a video editing software package—which can run into the hundreds of dollars and may have a pretty steep learning curve—check out some basic video editing tools that are available online.
TIP: My personal favorite online video editing tool is Screencast-O-Matic (www.screencast-o-matic.com) which has lots of easy to use editing tools. Plus, it has screen capture (which I'll discuss in a bit). The Pro version is so cheap ($18 per year for 1 year at a time, $36 for 3 years of service as of this writing and subject to change), that it's a no-brainer investment.
However, while it is pretty easy to use, it does require a fair amount of time to learn how to edit. Take time to learn how BEFORE you have to do it for an important video.
Screen Capture Videos
Want to join the video trend, but not be on camera? Then you might want to consider doing screen capture videos. With screen capture, everything that appears on your computer within the frame of the video is recorded. So it's great for computer training videos. As well, you can use it to record a PowerPoint type presentation where you just narrate the slides that show on the screen.
I've seen and created lots of online video presentations of this type. The one complaint about them might be that people want to see who's speaking. I've gotten around this by including a snippet or two of live video interspersed with the screen captures for promotional and introduction videos. I've seen other presenters merely post a slide with their professional headshot picture at some point in the video, usually during the introduction. Another strategy is to use picture-in-picture recording where the live video is in a corner of the screen capture area.
Webinar platforms may also have screen sharing capability which can capture and record whatever is happening on the screen, such as a PowerPoint presentation. Picture-in-picture options may also be available.
CAUTION! With screen capture software or screen sharing, make sure you don't have anything on your screen that is confidential or inappropriate! Remember, it's recording everything that is on your screen. So watch what you're capturing, especially if you're broadcasting live!
TIP: Screencast-O-Matic, which I mentioned earlier, has an excellent, inexpensive screen capture function, in addition to editing tools. I use it all the time. Other (and more expensive) options include programs such as Camtasia. But as with video editing, practice and experimentation is required to get a good result!
What About Facebook Live?
If you've got a smartphone with the Facebook app, you can shoot Facebook Live videos to connect with your audience. It's easy, always available, and cheap. But there are some caveats.
Check Yourself and Your Surroundings. As with all video, check your appearance, lighting, and background before you go live.
Have A Script... Or At Least A Clue. Because it's easy, cheap, and available, people just don't know when to end their Facebook Live videos. They yammer on endlessly while saying little. Have a script, even if it's just in your head.
KISS (Keep It Short, Sweetie). Even though the limit for Facebook Live videos is 4 hours (Good God!), try to keep your Live video time to mere minutes to help prevent people from tuning out. If it's going to be a longer presentation or webinar, alert viewers accordingly. In fact, it's probably a good idea to let potential viewers know how long you plan to be live, regardless of the length of time.
Remember, It's "Live." As the name suggests, Facebook Live is LIVE! Every mistake or flub will be seen by whomever is watching. And unless you delete the video post later, it'll be there for everyone to see... forever.
Video Interview Tips
Many online video interviews feature a side-by-side screen setup for a host and guest so that both are visible to the viewing audience during a broadcast or recording. However, if not orchestrated properly, this setup can cause a lot of staring into the camera (for either person) with nothing to do while the other person talks. Awkward!
Guests should only be brought on when they are actually going to be speaking. Don't make guests have to be live during "housekeeping" announcements (such as instructions on how to view the broadcast) and other content not related to their guest appearance. Have an agenda and let guests go off when they're not needed! And, if you're the guest, have a discussion with your host about when and how you'll appear onscreen.
Some platforms, such as Google Hangouts (which is still free as of this writing), can automatically switch screens to feature only the person who is speaking loudest at the time. That helps get rid of the staring blankly into the camera.
TIP #1: As with everything else in online video land, practice, practice, practice! Do a test run for online video interviews well in advance so that when it's time to go live, everyone is ready.
TIP #2: If the interview or webinar is live, make sure you mute all the participants other than the presenter and host! Otherwise you'll have all kinds of background noise and nonsense on the live version AND your recording.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Heidi Thorne
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 05, 2017:
Thanks, Cindy, for stopping by and chiming in! Agreed, the tips also work for webcam calls (such as Skype). Have a great day!
Cindy Schroeder on October 05, 2017:
As many business owners are starting to make videos this article is very timely. Tons of great information that I can incorporate into my webcam phone calls as well. Thanks Heidi.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 03, 2017:
Linda, please let us know if you do any videos. Would love to see what you would do with them. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a terrific day!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 02, 2017:
There are so many great tips in this article, Heidi. If I ever make my own video presentation, I will definitely be following your advice!
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 30, 2017:
Flourish, indeed, there are a ton of ways an online video presentation can go wrong. And I've seen a lot of them! Thanks for chiming in. Have a lovely weekend!
FlourishAnyway from USA on September 29, 2017:
Great tips here, Heidi, from a real pro. As you point out, there are so many ways this can go wrong!
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 29, 2017:
Bill, we'd love to see more videos from you. I agree, they are a time consuming effort. Even the pros estimate that it takes 1 hour of editing time per 1 minute of final video. Yikes! So that's why I'm very judicious on what content I provide with video. I'd rather be writing books and blogs. :) Hope you have a great weekend, too!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2017:
I'll file this away on the off-chance I'll somehow find the time to make more videos....chances are slim, but we can always hope. Thanks my friend, and have a great weekend!