Virtual presentations have become a norm and almost everyone, if not all, has had that on-cam exposure even just to say “Hey!” or “Thanks, guys!” in a video conference.
But such isn’t the case for instructors who are, well, part of the main cast. Teachers, professors, trainers alike share similar experiences about continuous screen time, talking to silent thumbnails, awkward camera angles, and battling with howling background noises — all of which we didn’t think much of pre-pandemic. Making sure you’re presentable and engaging through a digital screen is harder than being in a classroom setting. You are now being watched not just by your presentation skills, but your room background, your audio quality, your lighting, your dead air, and more.
So whether it’s a live virtual session or a recording you’re doing on your own, it’s important to keep basic video production tips in mind to make sure that the quality of your output does not interfere with the content that you’re trying to deliver.
Evaluate your audio-video environment.
Remember that your stage is limited to a small screen and it’s best to make the most out of it. Check that your background is not distracting but instead, engaging. You may keep it plain and simple or dress it up according to your topic or expertise. Virtual backgrounds are also your friend when it comes to a more engaging thumbnail. It can be animated, interactive, or static, but remember to wear a top that’s contrasting in color. We don’t want those weird spots where you disappear on-screen. Tip: Might be best to avoid moving backgrounds or bright colored ones so it’s not too distracting for the viewer.
Audio quality is also very important. Before a presentation or a recording, always check if your sound levels are optimal, not too loud nor too quiet. Also, when wearing a mic, such as headphones or a lapel mic, make sure that it does not pick up the sound you make when parts of your clothing or body brush against the mic. There are various noise-cancelling apps available that you can use to help you minimize these extraneous sounds.
Prepare yourself and your script.
Have all your materials ready for presentation and recording. Just like with any other performance, it helps to rehearse and to know that your multimedia setup is working well. Prepare notes or a script and keep it nearby so you don’t lose track of your outline. For long presentations, you can download free teleprompter apps on your tablets or phones. Wherever you install them, put the gadget right behind your camera so you don’t have to look away when reading it. This way, you can avoid awkward eye movements when delivering the script.
Whatever your expertise is, remember that you need to be comfortable enough with your content to be able to deliver it with ease once you hit record. You may choose to write and memorize a script or to write an outline and discuss extemporaneously. Choose the style that makes you appear confident, engaging, and shows off your expertise. Avoid a robotic recitation of a script.
Be equipped with equipment.
No need to invest a hefty amount on your equipment. The basic setup of LED lights, a tripod, and a condenser microphone can make a huge difference in your output. These three tools can help you standardize your lighting, camera angle, and audio quality for every video you make from home. You will also have more freedom to adjust according to the height or size of your space. No more stacking books and reams of paper to get that perfect angle!.
Lighting plays a big role. Remember that your light source must always be in front of you and never ever behind you, to avoid contrasted registers on camera. his is applicable whether you’re using natural light or otherwise. If you’re someone who wears eyeglasses, the glare from your light source can be annoying to your viewers. Try placing a diffused light source off to the side and higher than your head, such that the light hits you diagonally. This is best done with two light sources from both sides of your face to cancel out any shadows, if you want to be extra. A great lighting setup can also make or break your register with a virtual background. Experiment with heights and angles for a clean video output.
Equipment handling isn’t difficult to do either. A quick golden rule that we’d like to remember is to always set up your camera directly at your eye level or slightly higher than your face. Just like taking a selfie, right? This is a flattering angle and encourages you to keep your posture alert.
Speaking of cameras, web cameras usually have low resolutions. There are available apps that allow you to link a mobile device, whether a phone or a tablet, to your desktop and use it as a camera. If this isn’t possible, investing in a plug and play HD web camera can make a huge difference in the quality of your materials.
Dress to impress!
Okay, maybe people can’t see your lounge bottoms on screen, but you certainly know they’re there! It’s always best to dress as if you’re actually presenting in a room with your audience. This improves your posture and your energy level when delivering your content. It helps if you can stand up, too, and, if you do, remember to adjust your camera to eye level.
Whether you record seated or standing, remember to allow enough headroom (the space between the top of your head and the edge of the screen). Center yourself on the screen, and if you have props, center yourself with the prop, and make sure your camera is zoomed out just enough so you and the materials you are talking about can be seen clearly. Avoid zooming in too close to your face or zooming out to include too much of the background. Both can be distracting. Imagine taking a passport photo and leaving ample space around your profile so that you are clearly seen on the screen.
Engage and enjoy.
All cliches are true and here we say, enjoy what you’re doing. Your audience’s response to your instructions will depend on your delivery, so you have to be engaging. You are successful when you bring about response and feedback, which is what we want to achieve: a back and forth exchange, as if in face-to-face setting.
These are just a few of the many hacks you can do to keep your learners interested and engaged with your content. The more they’re engaged, the more they are likely to learn from your lectures. Get creative and inventive! New norms are a thing now, anyway.
For more tips on instructional engagement, check out the Classroom Management in a Virtual Environment Course on Xepto Academy.