All The World Is A Stage: Zoom-Time Presentation Skills

This is a new era, and the tools are developing quickly. In an effort to support your elevation to the next level of your presentations, here’s a checklist for you to consider as you up your chops. This is primarily for at-desk media and Zoom calls, not on-the-go.


☐ Get Your Angles Right

Zoom Giant

To make sure you don’t look like a giant gazing down at your audience – and also keeping a more flattering view – raise your camera angle to one slightly above eye level. Put some books under your computer so you can look slightly up at the camera, and avoid the ‘up the nostril’ shots.

 ☐ Make Eye Contact 

The Downlooker

Make eye contact with your audience – remember where your audience is – look in the actual camera, not at the person on the screen. This might not be possible all the time, but it is especially important to land your main points. 

Sometimes you can minimize the screen and position the other faces on your call as near as possible to your webcam. They may appear smaller, but your eyes will roam closer to the camera, making it seem like you’re more engaged in paying attention to the other participants. Psychologically, looking towards the camera will make the other participants feel like you are more sincere and like them more than looking at their face lower in the screen, as we are all prone to do naturally.

☐ Hit the Lights 

Lost in the Dark

The simplest way to have good light is to find the best window in the house and sit in front of it.

But that, of course, only works when there is light, not when it’s smokey outside or you’re operating before anyone in the house gets up. 

Here’s one affordable recommendation that I have recently adopted. It’s changed my whole room!

Also…in case, like me, you have windows in your background that are putting off glare, here’s a solution for how to remove glare from bright background windows

☐ Clear the Clutter

Clutter Village

Not too cluttered, or anything that will draw your audience’s attention away from you. So minimize trinkets that will attract attention, and of course, try to avoid kids or dogs passing in the background. But…it happens.

One option is to cover your back with a backdrop.

☐ Get Mic’d

In many ways, audio is your best friend when you are presenting or making a video. For recorded video, an affordable lapel mic will up your game considerably. This also gives you the chance to step back from the camera and not have to yell. Get a lavaliere microphone

☐ ‘Cam it up

There are many options for improving your audio and visual presence, and getting a webcam is high on the list. Here’s one that’s well reviewed on the lower end, but something that should be a good improvement over your computer’s camera. We’ll provide more perspective on this coming soon. 

☐ Avoid the Blur It’s often a bit strange to be in competition with your children. But to be in competition for who can actually speak without being frozen to the world? That’s the kind of challenge I face in the days of Zoom school. Maybe for you it’s not your kids…it’s your team or your partner, or you’re just not sure how much speed you can get at the table outside the casino in Nevada. 

Flash Golden

Zoom, Skype and Facetime can really tap your wifi speed…especially if you’ve got kids in the other room in class or on Minecraft. And of course at home we may have family members streaming Netflix or other streaming video. Also, some automated backups like Dropbox can sometimes slow your bandwidth, so when troubleshooting, pause those as well. Lastly, are you using a VPN? Most are fine with live streaming video, but some are not.

☐ Use Your Hands  

Sasquatch Fingers

Using your hands can be very helpful to show dimension and action. Make sure you are aware of your camera frame, however, because half-off-screen motion can be confusing to the audience. Also if you’re a hand-talker like me, be careful of slowing down the camera. If you wave them too fast, or too close to the camera, you slow the processor speed as well as seem like you have, well, huge hands. 

Try a Speed Test

If you’re on the move or suddenly look up and find there are five of you in the house on Zoom, it’s good to check your speed before you meet with the Prime Minister. To check your speed,  Minimum bandwidth is 600kbps (up/down) and recommended is 1.5 Mbps (up/down).  

☐  Ready Slide Go

For presentations, I have found that there can be an uncomfortable moment when I start sharing my screen and have to show all of my next few slides in Powerpoint. To avoid this lag, go to the ‘Slide Show’ tab in PPT and click ‘Play from Current Slide’ and tee up appropriately.  Then, when you go to share in Zoom, it will go right to your presenter slide.

☐ Recode the Dress Code 

Some types of clothes work better than others on camera. Busy clothing patterns can wash out the resolution. A white shirt can make for a washed out view, while a black shirt can make you look like a head suspended in animation. And a patterned shirt can make you look like you have static electricity. The best solution is a solid color shirt, but not black and white. And if you’re using a greenscreen, you probably don’t want to wear green. 

More Resources 

Eye to eye hack for Zoom calls

It can be a bit odd, still, to look directly at your camera and not at your audience. You can use that same teleprompter above for an interesting hack to look your clients right in the eyes. Here’s my friend Brighton to give you a good solution to see your audience.

☐ Use a teleprompter for presentations

I’m not a huge fan of teleprompters, but if you’re giving speeches frequently, and not tended to work off of talking points, here is a good teleprompter you can use. 

☐  Learn some editing tricks 

Learn simple tricks on how to make your own jump cuts. Here’s a short video with some tips to help you become a better editor.   

All for now! More coming soon.

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