Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Like it or not, online video meetings are a new reality. And, of course, we've all noticed that many people have no idea how to appear on the screen. We've all been subjected to the nostril view, the head-in-the-bottom-left view, and the mafia-silhouette view and other visual horrors.

Instead, let's pay attention to our screen presence, so that everyone else at our video meetings see us as fully present and engaged. Here are the basics of screen presence. (These basics assume that we're sitting.)blog pic 1

1. Orientation to the light

Put the main light source in front of you.

If your face still looks unevenly lit, add light from a table lamp to even it out. If you're next to a wall, you might bounce light off the wall onto the side of your face.  Experiment until it looks right.   

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2. Web-cam height 

Prop up your laptop until the built in web-cam is at the same height as your eyes.

You might have to measure both heights from the floor.  


 3.  Eye and body placement on your screenBlog pic 3

Tilt your screen until your image eyes are 1/3 of the way down the screen.

Now move forward or backward until only the upper half of your body shows on the screen. 


 4.  Your body language

Mostly sit upright, or lean very slightly forward.  The point is to show that you're paying attention to everyone else in the meeting. 


5. Background

Glance at back at what's behind you.  Is there anything so visually demanding that it would draw attention away from you? A minute's silence please for the on-line trainer whose partner wandered naked through the background looking for a towel.


6.  Where do I look when I'm speaking? 

Ignore the advice that says look at the web-cam - it's wrong.  Instead put your gaze about 1/3 of the way down the screen. The technical setup means that each person in your meeting will feel that you're talking to them. (Incidentally, if it's a small group Zoom meeting in gallery view, you'll find that you're centering your gaze on an image of yourself. But don't worry, no one else will see that.)

And now, relax. When you're listening to the others, avoid major distracting movements, but small body movements are fine. When you're speaking, do use normal body, arms, hands and head movements to emphasize the point you're making.


One more point:

Enjoy your screen time. Who knows? There may be 15 minutes of fame in it.


About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally-charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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