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Best face forward

Dealing with the screen



All of a sudden, you’ve entered the world of video conferencing. Are you presenting yourself in a way that allows others in the meeting to focus on your ideas, not your tech? Here are some tips:


Lighting is key. On sunny days, the natural light from my north facing window can be flattering, but it is rarely sunny where I live and our meetings are scheduled across several time zones, making even the “day” part of my transmission rarely an option. Besides, natural light turns me blue as the day fades. Portable LED lights or a ring light on a phone, or desk or floor soft box can help. These lights are warmer. The key with artificial lighting is the word “diffuse.” Diffuse lighting offers a soft, flattering glow.


Consider the camera. A grainy image is not like a gauzy photo filter. It does not make me look younger and more mysterious. It makes me look as if my computer is old, which it is. People who make videos for a living use a separate camera. The folks at BoomBoom recommend Logitech. 


Create an atmosphere. Don’t miss the opportunity to create a look that is personal to you, a look that is authentic, but still lands somewhere between ‘solitary confinement’ and ‘bunny slippers kitsch,’ unless, of course, that is your most authentic. Consider your function within the group. Consider what others depend upon you for. Consider color and contrast and texture. The right atmosphere melts away. The best atmosphere gets everyone to your eyes and your words.


Create energy. I can no longer be a physical presence in the room. This is a big minus for me. I cannot share my energy the way I used to. I am in a square on a screen, hoping that my message can still come across. One way to suggest energy is to become comfortable with split screen maneuvers: Here I am. Here is an illustration. Here I am again. A rhythm.


What’s behind you? Many video services like Zoom provide virtual background screens. These screens can be used to cover up a room. Users can also create a background screen. Here is some fantastic opportunity to create an atmosphere, to set a tone and capture and recenter attention.


Test it first. Have you ever hit the ‘reverse screen’ button on you phone camera and suddenly you are staring into a double chin you didn’t even know you had? Right. To avoid the jump scares with video conferencing, do a test run of how you and your space look before you join the video conference.


Catherine Berlin, a longtime style writer for Spree, is currently working a project that relies on regular videoconferencing.


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