Turn Your Camera On – Making the Most of Your Virtual Presentations and Calls

I will admit that I have had a few calls when I don’t turn my camera on. Hair not done. Do I have to put on makeup? I’m still in night clothes. Whelp! But if we are going to Show Up and Show Off we got to do it with our cameras on.

My company Goldenmedia is currently producing the Alliouagana Festival of the Word Nov 20-22, 2020 on Montserrat. It’s not a new festival but this year everything is online. That means I’ve got to do my hair, add a bit of makeup and make sure I’m always camera ready.

I reached out to Film and TV director Howard Allen of HAMAFilms to check with these suggestions I’ve compiled, based on my experience so far.

Dont wear white or black tops Don’t wear white or black tops. If you are of the dark skin persuasion then both of these colors on camera will be a challenge if you don’t have a perfect lighting set up. Cheat the system and don’t use black or white on video calls. Also, stripes and patterned tops can cause the camera to have trouble focusing and will distort the video. Stick with a plain, solid color top.

Howard added “if you have to wear glasses, watch for distracting reflections that obscure your eyes. It could be as simple as repositioning yourself.”

Smartphones deliver a better video quality than the average laptop. If they will be recording your presentation for replay and it won’t be longer than 40 minutes use a smartphone or a device with a high resolution camera. Smartphones tend to overheat if the call is very long so it is not for events that will go on for hours. But for a video which you may want to repurpose for social content then improve the chances of the end result being what you need it to be from the start.

Face the window. Sitting with your back to a brightly lit window will turn you into a silhouette and we won’t be able to see your face or your features. Let the window light work for you as it can illuminate your face and we can see as well as hear your brilliant presentation.

Face the windowKeep Your Background Distraction Free. For a moment I was obsessed with wanting to have the perfect set up. It’s costly and it also was distracting me from doing what I needed to do, which was share information to help others. You want people to focus on you, not the books or family photos on the shelf behind you. A single feature in the back is better options.

“Stay away from plain flat lightly colored backgrounds especially solid white that too can result in lighting challenges,” he also advised.

Camera Should Be Eye Level.  Don’t own a fancy tripod? Use books and boxes, whatever it takes to make sure your eyes are on the same level with the camera of your device. You don’t want us to be more familiar with your chin than your face.

Move Back/Perspective. Most phones and laptops capture wide angles. Don’t sit too close to the camera. There should be space to the right and left of you. Give yourself a bit of headroom also.

Can You Hear Me Now? The most famous words heard all around the world on Zoom and other webinar platforms. It is easier to forgive bad video than bad sound.  

“Avoid using the built-in microphone on your device use a plug in microphone instead. This allows you to get closer to the microphone and will help to improve your sound significantly. Rooms with flat walls and very little furniture tend to produce a “hall-ish” sound. Rooms with bookshelves, heavy drapes and wall hangings will help to improve the acoustics. If you are in a room with a fan or AC either turn it off or put it on low setting.”

Remember – Mute yourself when it is not your turn to speak.

I hope these are helpful. Most of all, plan and practice your presentation before going live. Here’s to turning your camera on for your next virtual event.


Nerissa Golden is media and business strategist and the author of seven books, including In Plain Sight and The Making of a Caribbeanpreneur: Strategies for Overcoming Fear and Building Wealth. Follow her on Instagram or LinkedIn for more tips and ideas to help you grow as a Caribbean entrepreneur.

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