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Speaking Effectively on Camera

Small Business Technology Tip - Dave Pelland
Dave Pelland Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Speaking Effectively on Camera

Speaking Effectively on Camera

With more of us working from home in response to the coronavirus, video conferencing is a part of most of our days. Video calls have similar elements to conference calls or in-person meetings, but enough differences to make the experience a format all its own.

Here are a few thoughts to help you speak more confidently and effectively in a video conference:

Eye Contact

One of the first questions people have about participating in video conferences is where to look while they’re speaking. It’s natural to want to look at the other people on your screen, but doing so dilutes your eye contact because, on most devices, your camera is mounted higher than your screen.

Eye contact with your audience is an important element in communicating your ideas clearly and effectively. In video conferences, this mean looking directly into the camera while you’re speaking, and only glancing down quickly from time to time to get a sense of everyone else’s reactions.

It’s also a good idea to raise the laptop so the camera rests at your eye level. An easy way to do so is to place your laptop on a box or a pile of books, and to connect a Bluetooth keyboard so you can type during your meeting. Another option is to get an external webcam that attaches to your computer via USB cable, and mount the camera on a small tripod.

Pace Yourself

Try and speak a little slower than you would during an in-person meeting, because network bandwidth can add a slight lag as your video is sent to your fellow participants. You don’t have to change your regular speech patterns directly, but be aware that if you tend to speak rapidly, you may be tougher to understand in an online environment.

Equipment Needs

If you don’t use an external webcam, the built-in camera on most laptops offers good quality in a bright room, but the image diminishes rapidly if there’s less than ideal lighting. To address this, placing a small desk lamp behind the laptop will help illuminate your face and make you look better.

If you’re going to be on video conferences consistently, and your room doesn’t offer good lighting, investing in a small ring light can help. Ring lights, as the name suggests, are circular lamps that provide an even light source and can help eliminate glare for users who wear glasses.

Similarly, your laptop or tablet’s built-in microphone probably won’t be the best choice for conveying your voice clearly. ¬†Wired or Bluetooth headsets or earbuds both offer better sound than your built-in microphone, with the choice largely resting on your personal preference or what you already have on hand.

You should also pay attention to the background because a cluttered background is going to be distracting to your viewers. In most cases, a blank wall or just simple decorations behind you offer a suitable background that helps other participants focus on what you’re saying as you speak.

Some video conferencing apps allow you to use a virtual background, but those can be distracting as well. A beach image, for instance, may not be the best choice for a serious conversation.

With some planning and practice, you’ll be productive and confident as you present during video conferences.

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