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.)
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.
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 screen
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.
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.