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Making the Most of Your Video Call Setup

Today we are spending most of our day in front of a computer and quite a bit of that time with our cameras on. This change has happened rapidly and the transition from being in a meeting room to being in front of a camera can be difficult. In this talks I will present several tips and tricks on make the most of your video call setup by making tweaks to poisitioning, improving your body language, and using free software to make your setup shine.

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Transcript

Thank you for the nice introduction. Welcome to the making the most of your video call set-up. It is a topic dear to everybody nowadays. I know before everything that happened happened, I had a few video calls a week, and then suddenly my whole week was only video calls. That was at work, and also a member of the public speaking club, and suddenly the speaking club went to video calls.

So for the last two years, I guess like as many people, I spent most of my time in video calls. In those two years, I've learned quite a bit on what you can do to actually have a bigger impact, not when you just are presenting, but also when you are in a meeting and talking.

One big difference before we were in a meeting room sitting all together talking about each other, and it was like more a group discussion, nowadays when you're on Zoom, if you say something, everything you do is a small presentation, because normally you're on the big screen, and everybody is looking at you compared to in the meeting room where it's like a group of people. Even if you don't put any presentation at work, every time you speak in a meeting, it is a mini presentation.

I'm going to give tips, tricks, and guidelines on how you can make the most of what you already have of your set-up. It's nothing by the most expensive camera, buy the most expensive microphone, it's use what you have and optimise that. Today that, we have to go back to the basics. You have to realise every time you say something in the meeting, it is a small presentation. That can be scary for some people. Quite a lot of people don't like presenting. I know I had that problem for a long time. I didn't like to speak in front of a crowd. I like to talk to people individually but don't do presentations. That is one of the reasons why I joined the public-speaking club, and that over the last five years has helped me quite a bit and now they say I enjoy doing presentations and speaking in front of people.

Every time we talk about doing a presentation or a speech, we have to go back to the basics and developed the old Greek like what does speech consist of? It is normally three elements: ethos, logos, and pathos. Nice old Greek words, but what do they mean? Ethos is the credibility you as a speaker have. If I'm talking to you, and I don't have any ethos with you, you won't believe had a what I'm telling you, because you don't believe or take me seriously.

So it is important to have a certain ethos with your audience, otherwise it doesn't matter what you're talking about, they will not believe you. Similarly, with logos which is the logic. What you're telling me doesn't make sense in my head. It doesn't matter how much I believe you, how much ethos you have with me, if the logic of your argument doesn't work with me, I won't listen to you. The last element is pathos which is basically the heart. It is our feelings, our emotions, all of that plays a role.

If I'm emotionally invested if what you're telling me, I'm going to listen more, and pay more attention. And those three things can be very easily increased to make your point to help you stand out in the crowd. First, let's talk about logos. That is probably the easiest thing to change it to get more logos in your presentation or argument when you're talking. This will go in the direction of public speaking, and then later we're going back to the video call set-up.

So for logos if you're in a meeting and want to put your point across, quite often I see people who ramble along a bit or jump from one point to another to another so it's really hard to follow people. If you have a very important point, make sure that maybe just before you speak, in 30 seconds think about how you want to structure your argument. Let's say you want to convince the people that you should go for option A instead of option B that is discussed in the meeting. The idea of the point is to say I think we should do option A because of these benefits, even though it has those downsides compared to option B because option B while having those benefits, the downsides are much bigger. This is easier to follow than the option A, B, option A, option C. Think about the structure. It doesn't have to be complex.

Make sure the points are flowing, that there is not a break in logic. Very simple things. And then a very important thing is the beginning and end, especially in Zoom or video conferences, it is not like being in a meeting room. You're in a screen. In front of a screen. And we all used to being on a screen, being entertained, and in Zoom meetings people might be browsing, chatting, watching YouTube.

You can use your beginning to capture people's attention. You can use a rhetorical question like: imagine if we choose option A, the future of our company will be like this. So people have to start thinking about it and that pulls them in. As before, you can use your structure to bring your point to the people and then, at the end, you have to basically loop back somebody always calls it a train track, to the beginning.

Imagine a company if you choose option A in five years, with , then you put your argument, and in the close, and say by choosing option A I'm certain we are going to ensure the bright future of our company in five years, and then you look back to the beginning, making your whole argument round. These are a few public-speaking trips that help and improve the logos of your speech. Let's talk about the pathos, the heart of the message. There, it is important to remember that human beings are story-driven beings.

If you think about our culture, our society, we live in stories. We watch movies, we read books. When we tell each other things, we normally do it in the form of a story. But when we are at work and we want to present something, suddenly we just are listing very dry facts, we just show numbers. It doesn't really interact with the storytelling part of the humans.

If you want really to bring home your message, use stories, only where sensible. Don't put everything in a story. If you are going to present the financial numbers of last quarter, you can tell a story, but it's hard. But on the other side, if you want to convince your board of directors to launch a new product, don't just list this product is better because A, B, C, D, maybe tell the story from the perspective of a customer. The customer is buying this product because they need better performance, better value proposition, and at some process make it personalised, and that will connect to people.

And then, use props. Especially in the video conference world where you're not in the meeting room but at home, you can use a lot of props to make your speech more entertaining. It can be a bit cheesy sometimes, but it breaks the flow and keeps people entertained because they're known and used to it from a screen to get entertained. This is going to be very cheesy, but if you want to talk about a sales strategy, you can say let's add a bit of spice to our sales presentation. It's cheesy and everybody will laugh and interrupt the flow of words and draw people in and listen to you more.

That was like the more public-speaking part of my presentation, and now the more what you can do with the set-up. Because only if you combine them, you get the full effect of what you're doing.

And, let's talk about ethos, the credibility when you are presenting. There are a lot of ways to increase your credibility using your video call set-up at home. One of the most important ones is camera placement. I've seen in so many meetings that meme are only visible half of their face, or maybe the face that is very small, so make sure that where you place your camera, you see your face and your upper body. Because a lot of the communication we're doing is with our body language, not with what we are saying.

Being able to see your upper body and maybe even your head movements and hands means you can point better across. That is very important. Also, make sure that the camera is focused so you're so the not blurry, that the camera is not like slighted. It is torn important to say that the camera is on the eye level because you might be looking down on what people don't like, or looking up on people which is also a weird feeling.

So the ideal camera position is right in in front front of you on your eye level, so you can look into the camera, and then people will feel like you are actually looking at them. And that is also important when you do a presentation, like I'm doing right now: if I keep looking at my slides, you don't feel the connection as if I'm looking at the camera. That is something that needs getting used to, because normally we look at our screen, and we have our screen and on top we have our camera.

So at least for me, I have to force myself to keep looking into the camera instead of my screen, because people will notice and think you're not listening to them, but when you're speaking, you're not caring about them, and looking into the camera directly creates a personal connection which increases your ethos.

Then, a bit more of a personal topic: when you talk, should you be standing or sitting? For me, that is not really a right or wrong. It is more a different opinion. If I'm in a long meeting where, for most of the meeting I'm not going to say anything, I'm going to sit. In a meeting where I know I'm going to talk a lot like here doing a presentation, I always make sure that I stand. If you have a standing desk at home, that is easier, but even if you don't, there are options to increase your camera.

Why do I prefer standing? It gives me more body movement which makes it easier to get my point across, but, more importantly, when I sit, I have a lower lung capacity making my voice not as full as when I'm standing.

And, more biological reasons, people listen more to a more stronger and more forceful voice, and, when you're standing, your voice is more forceful and more full. Standing gives you the edge and you will be taken more seriously because you sound better. That's why I prefer standing. And then background, as you can see, a beautiful uniform background. Having the right background is important. It doesn't have to be a perfect background, but it should be chosen carefully. As an example in Zoom, you can have virtual backgrounds. They work kind of well as if in the picture here, you have a green screen.

If you don't have a green screen and a very birthdays background, sometimes it cuts off part of your arm, or part of your head, that is really distracting. So personally what I prefer is not using a virtual background, but using a real background, and then making sure that it is not too distracting.

Here, I just have some curtains with a single colour which is very simple so people can focus on me. Sometimes I have a shelf with books which is also okay. But if you have a shelf that is a lot of little figurines, people might look more at them than you and be distracted. In Zoom, you can have a video background, and some people play videos quick like a Star Wars fight scene, or a ski slope. That is super distraction. We are primed to see movement. If someone is presenting the front of a background that keeps movement, I keep looking at the background and not on the person. And that really distracts me, and also takes away their credibility because I'm not focusing on them.

There are a to background, the lighting is important, and quite often something important I see going in other presentations. You have to try to have even lighting so your face is clearly visible, should not be over exposed and not too dark.

The reason is simple: if it is too dark, nobody can see my face, nobody can see my facial expression, taking away from my message. If it is too bright, the same: my facial expressions are not visible and it might be distracting. Also, what happens at home for me is you have a window on one side and the light is falling to one part of your face, this doesn't look good, it distracts. So the idea is to get a blanket or some blinds and close the window and use artificial lights you have in your apartment, and make sure that you are evenly lit.

You don't need to buy expensive box lights you put in front of you like a movie studio. Just have some close lighting and make sure that you are clearly visible. And then presentations: a lot of our work, or a lot of our video calls are presentations at work. There are so many guidelines on the web that I'm not going to offer all of them. I wanted to talk about some of the basics. They are very simple to follow and they improve a lot.

It is like the classic things don't have too much text on slides, don't have too many animations, or in my personal opinion, don't have any animations on your slides. I don't like if you have videos playing in your presentation. That can be distracting.

And then what quite often happens at work and which really, really annoys me is people do presentations with all the figures, and all the information written on the slides, and then when you ask them why, the reason is that afterwards they have to send the slide around to a bigger group of people, and they have to be able to understand the slides without listening to your presentation. And I know that happens at work, but it's still a stupid excuse.

A better way is to create the stack with all the information so people can read it without listening to your presentation, and then create a second deck of slides which is used in your presentation, and there you can only have a few key words, and a graph, that's it, because the rest you're going to mention in your presentation. People who are listening to you live, they get the full experience of you talking, presenting, showing the slides and they just see the simplified slide but they get the message.

And the people who can't attend live, they get the more complex slide with all the information where you don't need yourself. In an ideal world, you also record yourself so people can choose what they prefer, because some people like to read, other people like to listen. But for me, please never use the slides you send around for your presentation because then people will spend time reading your slide instead of listening to you, and that decreases your ethos and makes you less credible. And then the last point is keeping your authority.

By being on stage, by talking, you directly get a lot of ethos, or authority bestowed on you, because you're the person speaking. If you are invited at a Conference and you're a speaker, the people in the audience belief you have some valuable knowledge, they might not have, because you're allowed to speak at the conference, this gives you credibility. But it's very easy to lose.

Like what I see often is when people go to present the slide, or they go on top of the stage back in the old days and connect their computer, something is going wrong. That can happen that is totally not so.

The important thing then is to act as if it is natural and say something is not working, I'm going to fix it, or give me a minute, I will work on it. What you should not say is, "Oh, I am so sorry something is wrong, let me fix it." If it is not really your fault and you really didn't screw up, don't say, "I'm sorry", because this lowers your ethos with the audience because you're apologising for something.

If you present something and just like, oh, I'm not sure about this, that questions your knowledge about the topic so you should not say that, or avoid phrases like, "Maybe this is happening", or, "I don't think we should do this." Of course you have to have facts and you have to have the knowledge, but be precise and be concrete saying we should not do this, or we should do this instead of I think we should not do this. I think we should do this.

Be concrete and stand up to your opinion. This gives your ethos more authority. If you apologise, it just lowers it, and you don't need that. That happens I think for more junior people who are less sure about the things than more senior people, so, it takes a bit of practice, but you have to own what is happening. A cool thing you can do is "call the room", it's called. If you're in a meeting and you see something happening, you can call it out.

Let's say somebody has accidentally, a cat is walking through the screen, you can say, "And we have another listener" to break up the flow, and in a also increases your ethos because it shows that you're in control of the meeting, and that is kind of important. Those are like the general tips and guidelines. It is nothing ground breaking but important and quite a lot of people don't follow them.

Now I want to talk about a few extra topics. One of them is if you are in Zoom meetings, and like me, eight hours a day in the Zoom meetings, you get bored of the layout, the slide in the middle, a little head talking and other heads beneath which are listening, and the slides are the big, and then the talking person is small.

It is a really cool open source software called Open Podcast Software where you can create custom layouts, use your screen share, your video camera, and create a layout whatever you want, like half slide, half you talking, you can even have some screen transitions where you change the layout midway which creates a virtual webcam which you can use in Zoom. This is an amazing effect.

If you're doing a presentation at work and you use the software, suddenly in the meeting where everybody is used to a big slide, and a small head talking, it changes up. Everybody's surprised and listening to you more and something new and we as humans like new things. So listening to that is always a nice idea.

And then I said before, you don't need expensive equipment to have, a an impact, but having good equipment of course helps. It is not necessary, but for me, if you talk a lot, the most important thing to invest in is a really good microphone. A USB-C you can probably get for $60 which is pretty good.

If people can hear you better, the intonation in your voice, it's better, compared to if there is a noise in the background, or if they can only hear every second word, that's really bad. Once you have a good microphone, the next thing to invest this is a good webcam. Have an HD H can webcam with autofocus to make sure your image is always nice and clear so people can see you at your best. It's not necessary, but it helps.

If you follow those guidelines and rules, I can't promise everyone will follow your advice or the things that you're saying, but at least they will listen to you more and there is a higher chance they will actually remember what you told them and how to deal with it. And that is all. I hope there were some helpful things. There might be some questions in the chat, and I'm happy and looking forward to answering them.