Need to psych yourself up for that next video call? Putting on a nice, solid-colored shirt is a great start, but if your energy is low, your technology isn’t working and the lighting is off, you may still struggle to communicate as effectively as you had hoped. Lorraine Lee, Prezi’s editorial director and a top-rated virtual keynote speaker, joined us at #MELive2022 to share her tips on how to stand out on video and make a memorable first impression using her TEA method.
“T” Is for All Your Tech
We’ve all had to learn new technologies in recent years, but the setup, use and troubleshooting can still be overwhelming. We’ve all experienced Wi-Fi going out at the most inconvenient times or the microphone deciding not to work until after the meeting or presentation is over.
As many presentations moved from the office to our homes in recent years, that feeling of overwhelm can intensify. Although in-person presentations still have their challenges, there are even more factors to consider during virtual presentations.
Lorraine breaks it down into two parts: hardware and software. Starting off with hardware, Lorraine explains that there are three pieces of hardware to account for: microphones, an external camera and a clicker.
- Microphone: “Many people will forgive bad cameras, but they will not forgive bad audio,” she says. Lorraine recommends buying an external microphone for better sound quality, the ability to “adjust volume and other toggles to ensure that you’re getting the best sound based on your voice.”
- External camera: “Similar to audio, our laptop webcams are really bad. They make us look grainy and dark. Now, when I got my Logitech Brio webcam, which is considered one of the best webcams for the price, I instantly felt more confident,” she says.
- Clicker: This is not mandatory, but it can add value to your presentation prep. “Having the clicker in your hand, instead of needing to look down and figure out what key to push, is going to make you look more professional and confident on camera and just make for a smoother presentation viewing experience.”
These pieces of hardware can immediately improve your virtual presentation, though they aren’t the only things you’ll need. The software you use is crucial to taking your video sessions to the next level. Lorraine uses and recommends tools such as:
- Krisp: A system that eliminates the background noise so your audience can hear you clearly.
- Camo Studio by Reincubate: This app allows you to use your phone as a webcam.
- Ecamm: Livestreaming and video production software that allows you to have more control over your video presentation.
There are many other software and hardware options that can help make your video calls run smoothly on the technical side. Use these tools to help relieve that feeling of overwhelm and operate your tech with confidence.
“E” Is for the Energy You Need
Next up, we have “E,” which stands for energy. When you think of energy, you might think about feeling awake, getting things done and being alert. But Lorraine says that it’s more than that.
Your energy speaks to how you are presenting yourself during the virtual presentation. Lorraine explains that energy, in this case, involves your introduction, finding a moment to reset, making eye contact and smiling.
“People make a first impression of you in as little time as a few milliseconds and in as most as a few seconds,” Lorraine shares, and someone’s first impression is “heavily influenced by your energy.”
Lorraine emphasizes the importance of your mood, as people can sense how you’re doing even through your face on video. She encourages people to raise their mood before a call by thinking about something that made you happy that day or earlier in the week.
“With the move to virtual, we are hopping from meeting to meeting to meeting with no breaks. It’s back to back without giving us a chance to breathe and context-switch. And as a result, we go into meetings more frenzied and agitated, trying to respond to our emails and Slacks quickly before the next call.”
The best way to counteract this problem is to schedule meetings to end at least five minutes ahead of the half-hour or hour to give yourself a break.
“In person, we make eye contact to boost oxytocin, which is that social feel-good hormone. So, let’s try to re-create that online too.” In video meetings or presentations, you always want to be looking at the camera or right below.
The goal is to connect with those on the other side of the camera. That can be hard to do, as it’s in our nature to glance at ourselves to make sure we look OK. Lorraine says that we have to fight the urge, and turning off self-view on video calls can help.
“When we smile, the person or people on the other side of the camera see that we are enjoying ourselves and we’re excited about what we’re talking about. And it’s going to encourage them to feel the same,” Lorraine says.
It can be hard to remember to smile, especially when you’re nervous, but given time and practice it’ll become second nature in your virtual presentations. “A smile is going to lift your mood and the mood of those around you.”
“A” Is All About Aesthetics
The word “aesthetic” is often used to describe not just how something looks but also the overall experience that it exudes. “Aesthetics are not just about how you look, but also how the world looks around you and how all those things combine to make a first impression,” Lorraine explains.
For video calls, your aesthetic will include your lighting, environment, framing and, of course, your clothing.
“Believe it or not, confidence can be greatly impacted by lighting, and lighting is really, really easy to fix. But for some reason, it’s often an afterthought for most people,” Lorraine says. Lighting does wonders to your perceived mood and energy during your presentation. Try using ring lights, a softbox or a photo box to help with your lighting.
When possible, natural light is your best option, especially because it’s free! Remember, you want the light to shine on you from the front, never from the back.
“Having a well-thought-out, curated environment is going to give a more professional look and feel to your presentation. And, similar to lighting, if you look more professional, you’re going to be more confident with how you’re coming off. And when you’re confident, people view you as more competent,” Lorraine shares.
Always strive for a clean, uncluttered background that doesn’t distract or take away from the presentation. This applies also to your virtual background, not just what’s physically behind you. “You can have both a great background — a physical background — and your video environment becomes even more impressive once you add on-screen visuals,” Lorraine says.
“Your video should ideally show your shoulders and a little bit of your torso with a little bit of space above your head,” Lorraine says. You don’t want to be like the Great and Powerful Oz with a floating head on camera. When your face leaves space, you’re not overpowering the screen. That helps viewers feel like they’re in a personal conversation and glance elsewhere if they need to.
“Make sure to always check yourself on camera before jumping on an important call to make sure your clothes work well,” Lorraine says. You want to avoid shirt colors that blend into the background. You also want to avoid elaborate patterns. While stripes and other patterns are great to wear in everyday life, on video, they can create the illusion that they are moving. Lorraine’s advice focuses on tops; if you want to stick to sweatpants, that’s OK,
For many of us, our first impressions are happening in video these days. With the “TEA” method, you can ensure that you put your best foot forward every time.