Part of the nature of virtual events is that eventually, one or more of your chosen experts is bound to be presenting their portion of the meeting from a remote location.

While a town hall or quarterly update is bound to have more energy when all of your speakers are broadcasting from the same room where they can play off each other, remote presentations are inevitably going to be a part of your future productions.

This leads to the impending question, then: how do you make those remote presenters look and sound great? Or, supposing that you are in fact one of those presenters… how can you make sure that you look and sound your best?

A. HOW TO OPTIMIZE THE VISUALS

1. General Set-Up

Make sure your computer, laptop, and/or webcam is placed directly across from your eyes (not looking down, and not looking up) on a solid surface that will not shake or shift. Be sure to test out what happens to the camera feed if you tap the table or move papers around on your desk. Sometimes this can cause the camera to shake or vibrate, so you should check for those kinds of issues in advance.

Additionally, you should set up the camera in such a way that your head sits in the top three quarters of the screen–– not in the “exact middle” or lower. A lot of camera users will try to set their eyes in the direct center of the screen, and as a result this may leave a drastic amount of room above their heads when they film.

2. Webcams

Most laptop computers nowadays come with built-in cameras, and some desktop computers may have them as well. However, if you have the option, using an external webcam could produce a crisper, higher-quality video feed. When preparing a remote presentation, try switching between those two cameras to see which one you (and the production team) may prefer.

3. Lighting

While it may sound obvious, you need to be in a location that has sufficient lighting–– and just because an office or a conference room has plenty of fluorescent installations, that may not automatically constitute good, balanced lighting. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that you are surrounded by a minimum of two light sources (though three or more is always better), and the two strongest ones are in front of you.

If a stronger or brighter light (like a window) is located behind you, you’ll get turned into a silhouette like an anonymous informant on a true crime documentary… and nobody really wants that. If you want to purchase some sort of external lighting rig (much like you may have a separate webcam already), ring lights are especially popular for lighting phone or webcam videos because they tend to encircle the camera with a bright light that illuminates your face and eyes very well.

4. Backdrop

Try to select a backdrop that will direct focus towards you, which is pleasing to the eye. This could be a blank wall, a nice painting, or an area with a few shelves. If you choose a window, try to pick one that opens into an empty yard rather than a busy street. Try not to apply some sort of blurring effect to your surroundings if you can help it, as this can get somewhat distracting. Additionally, whatever backdrop you choose, make sure to wear clothing that is not the same color. We don’t want your body to disappear!

5. Dress to Impress

Just like any other professional event, it always helps to look your best! Style your hair (gentlemen, make sure to shave or trim any beards). Put on some nice, workplace-appropriate clothes (ladies, don’t go strapless because the camera could make you look nude). Any tiny or intricate patterns on the fabric may look fuzzy when streaming, so larger patterns or solid colors may appear better on-camera. Lastly, though this may sound strange, don’t drink too heavily the night before your presentation. It actually really does show.

B. HOW TO OPTIMIZE THE AUDIO

6. Avoid Echoes

Try to find a room that doesn’t have hard tiles or wood floors. Long hallways or even spacious conference rooms can be especially susceptible to this.

7. Microphones

Like webcams, many modern computers come with a built-in microphone. However, their quality can vary, so using an external professional microphone is a great way to boost the quality of your presentation. It’s always better to have two options so that the production crew can tell you which one sounds better.

8. Earbuds

While they aren’t always necessary, it’s a good idea to bring earbuds if you have them, to avoid any accidental feedback loops. These loops sometimes happen when microphones accidentally pick up audio from the computer’s own speakers and create either a deafening screech or just a very obnoxious echo. Even though most modern devices are programmed to avoid this issue, it still happens occasionally. Using earbuds will direct the computer’s sound to you directly, and the microphone won’t be able to pick up any of it.

9. Silence Alerts

While most people remember to silence their phones just like they might in a movie theatre, a lot of people actually forget to silence notifications on their computers as well!! We can’t tell you how many times we’ve had the calendars or emails of major executives “ping” right in the middle of their own presentations!

10. Dress Quietly

Lastly, make sure to avoid wearing any jangling jewelry, keychains, or accessories that could clatter and make noise when you turn your head or wave your hands.

C. OTHER STEPS TO OPTIMIZE THE PRESENTATION

11. Platform Settings

Depending on the platform you’re using to stream your video, there may be settings that are designed to optimize your broadcast feed if you want to increase the quality of your video and audio. In Zoom, for example, you can check this by selecting “Preferences,” and selecting HD video, audio settings that will match your background noise, and even a de-echo option under “Advanced,” features.

12. Steady Internet

If you’re going to be broadcasting a video feed remotely, decent internet access is a little important (that was sarcasm, in case you weren’t sure). Not only is a robust signal helpful–– it’s vital. In fact, sometimes plugging directly into your modem is one of the most ideal ways to connect to a reliable internet signal.

13. Avoid Interruptions

This also tends to go without saying, but try to pick a broadcast spot that isn’t going to be heavily-trafficked. Look for a secluded spot (maybe not a cafe lobby) where you might even be able to lock your door or let your peers know that you’ll be unavailable for the duration of the virtual town hall. Granted, not all interruptions can be helped–– fortunately, most audiences are very understanding of that fact. You’re not going to get penalized just because your cat knocks over your fishbowl, or your neighbor starts mowing their lawn.

14. Don't Read a Script

We’ve covered this in our blogs before: the age of video-chatting has in some ways atrophied our abilities to give a presentation without having our notes directly in front of us at all times. Many speakers have been able to get away with reading their own manuscripts word-for-word because they position their digital document right below their webcam. But we can assure you: this is boring and disingenuous.

Your viewers can always tell when you’re reading, instead of just speaking. Are you allowed to have a few bullet-pointed notes, or to reference your powerpoint presentation if you have one? Absolutely. But it’s obvious when you’re reading something word-for-word, especially if you’re using terminology that you wouldn’t be using in a standard conversation. We didn’t come to watch a textbook recitation: we came to see an expert sharing their knowledge with the world.

15. Test Everything

Always prepare and test your webcam, audio, and internet connection in advance of your virtual presentation. If your town hall is being broadcasted by a professional crew, they’ll probably request that you log on early so they can do a “tech check” and run through all of these aspects of your setup along with you. Never skip a tech check! No matter how many times you’ve presented remotely or attended a virtual town hall, Murphy’s law applies to each new session that you might be joining.

Remote presentations involve a whole lot of different pieces of technology, and technology has this nasty habit of malfunctioning or changing settings or just plain old not working (often for the most arbitrary of reasons that can require trial and error to troubleshoot). Broadcast professionals are highly aware of this fact, because even we are not immune to these dangers. So, always test everything.

Fifteen steps may seem like quite a lot to remember for a single remote presentation, but the good news is that over time you’ll recall most of these steps by default. Before long you’ll know how to look good and sound good almost effortlessly, with practically no checklist at all.

GOT MORE QUESTIONS?

Here Are Some of the Top Questions We Get Asked About Virtual Events:

If you’d rather not wait for us to release our next blog article answering each of these questions in turn, feel free to reach out to us at optimumproductions.com/contact-us and we can help you plan the virtual event that’s right for your company!

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