Many of this works for me and may already be known to you. When setting up your space and station, keep some of this in mind, you may already be doing all of this, but with every tip and trick, your results may vary. I hope some of this is helpful to you in your own work.
All the things
The way you set up your workstation/desk contributes to your own feeling of control or preparedness. The trick is it needs to be versatile and dedicated to the majority of the kind of work you do.
Stand/Sit: My monitor setup is designed to stand and sit… stacked monitors, and I have a couple of shoeboxes for standing.
Audio: Mics matter, headphones too. The quality of your sound speaking and listening can make a huge difference. That is also a factor when someone evaluates whether you are dedicated to the session. The production value of your content can only get better with better quality sound. Also, learn to manage all the app sound effects and those in your space, door chimes, alarms, smart speakers, etc…
- Headphones — I prefer bose, AirPods, Jabra, and the new echo pods… all have some level of active noise reduction and hear through or sidetone.
- Bose. Nearly any over-ear is great.. unless you don’t want your hair messed up (headphone head and sweaty ears)
- Airpods. The pros are awesome but have a defect in them that causes the little bit of adhesive between the noise canceling sensors to get loose and vibrate like crazy when ANC is on. So beware… but they otherwise are great.
- Jabra. The new Elite line of in-ears is really great and has a four mic at least setup, and with the app, you get some nice additional features. Also, the battery life is all day calls… and two charges from the case.
- Computer Mics et al. They are less than useful. Why? Cause they have a hard time managing input from the mic and your speakers’ output. It’s just a factor of the laptop and the proximity of the components plus all the software elements that make your laptop not a great tool to handle telepresence interactions via third-party tools like zoom and teams.
Videography. Here’s the thing with video, in general, people struggle cause they don’t get the few things you need to have a good video.
- Space staging — You are the subject, not your space… more you less your things. The thing about decluttered and creating a relatively clean space so the focus will be on you, not your space. This also
- Illumination — Natural light cast from slightly above your forehead from a window is perfect, with some sheers diffusing the light. You’ll look awesome and have shadows in just the right places.
- Positioning. Being considerate of your seating position is super important and can help make the session seem more like a professional newscaster, sitting at their desk…
- Make sure your camera and seating position are at an optimal angle for the light you’ve got. Meaning slightly above eye level is ideal. Also, make sure as much as you can to keep the angle of the cam perpendicular to the surface it is sitting on. Now I know that is hard with most laptops, so use an attached camera they’re cheap.
- The appropriate distance is roughly far enough to get your whole face and some screen space around your head and cut off at just about your collar bone.
- These are all preferences suggestions, watch the news, and you will see ppl stacking books and setting the laptop on top and make 18” or more distance from the cam on laptops.
- Additional reading, I found this article useful back when all this started.
Managing and maintaining proper bandwidth and knowing how your bandwidth is being consumed especially if you share bandwidth with others in your space. Accessing your router to see what is consuming can be helpful and informative. Rationing when kids are streaming, schooling, and all the IoT can make calls smoother and less choppy. Take time to have a look.
Fast.com – And any bandwidth monitor worth its salt will tell you up and down bandwidth. The other concern is others on the same or shared network. By others, I include all devices that consume bandwidth.
Also, as pictured below, your computer’s services will often trickle consume bandwidth, but they also add up.
The iStats tool I use is awesome at tracking and letting me know who’s hogging bandwidth. It also is a real-time or near updating tool. So on a call, I will have this up when I am presenting to see that I am not getting interference or consumption spikes when I am presenting. You can also see which telepresence services use too much bandwidth; Teams from MSFT is a super hog, Pro Tip: making the widow smaller reduces the amount of bandwidth consumed.
Contingencies/Fallbacks — I do many contingencies in my own life, and work is not different. I employ several back-up plans to make my life a little easier and provide seamlessness in a workday that can be derailed by murphy’s law and gremlins. So the following is what things I do to make my day smoother. Get to know your tools, spend time in the preferences and configuration areas of the tools like zoom and teams, etc. Many valuable features can make your life easier on stage.
Join twice— Often join twice one by phone two by another device.
Wifi and LTE — Have wifi, but be joined by LTE just in case esp. if you are presenting materials or the host
Two headphones — have a backup pair handy if your batteries are not going to last, or corded ones are good.
Switch Process Practice — Practice on non-client calls the switching rejoining and resharing etc… it always feels better when you have muscle memory
Decks downloaded — have all your materials handy, DO NOT rely solely on the cloud and connections break; at least you have the materials locally and can dial in if all else fails.
Multiple hosts— key meetings use a second host or make someone else a host when kicking off.
Multiple presenters — presenters should pick up where others may drop for whatever reason, so have a designated survivor can make the difference in keeping meetings alive if others fall off.
Board monitors — When workshopping, having team members focused on watching participants’ actions and activities is a virtual way to keep things from devolving into chaos.
Plugin before the meeting — many may use batteries to do meetings, and that is fine; key presenters and folks sharing need to as much as possible be plugged into power when it’s their turn.
Tabs to have — Couple tabs to have upon a second screen or your phone… hangouts, or other chat not on the meeting chat. Include all folks, so no one misses msg cues like me. Also, having a call plan or key emails or other evidence can help contextualize commentary in case you need it. Close tabs or use a different browser for client-side sharing to avoid ‘oversharing.’
Drawing. Feel free to sketch on a call; any live-action can be a way to hold attention. Don’t worry about the quality of the picture. Just focus on the capture of the discussion.
Live note-taking – Whether docs, sheets, or notes on the iPad sharing live note-taking or multi-screen sharing can make a difference in the attention mercantile exchange with your audience.
Cam’ing up and down – When not speaking, turning on and off your camera can also create a ‘scene change’ in the session, drawing attention to what you are saying.
Preps – Have as many short preps to make sure your poise, presence, and posture are where they need to convey your message compellingly and comfortably. Selling is about you and the message, not just the message.
Scene changes – When presenting, consider changing from decks to just camera to iPad for drawing or other changes that can move people through various scenes. It can act as a way to maintain attention, and a little scene change can be useful.
Reintroduced – Calls can be long and joined by several people. Reintroducing yourself or others can be a way to keep people engaged; nothing gets attention than hear people’s names when speaking. Listen to public radio or tv techniques for how hosts address and toss back and forth during broadcasts.
Tossing – Verbal handoffs and handovers are a way to make smooth use of virtual cueing control of interactions in virtual rooms. Tossing is also a critical bit of stagecraft that really can put the awkward silences at a minimum. The clients and prospects will feel that more professional and smooth facilitated or moderated experience.
Verbals/Non-verbals – There are many verbal ticks, sighs, silences, pauses, push backs, keyboard tapping just after you say something, throat clearing, muting, so many indicators to watch. You could do a mining exercise to be aware of these and adjust your behavior or recheck with folks if they are still following with a ‘digital nod of your head.’ The aforementioned is both a soft and hard skill to be honed and can give you an edge in understanding where participants are in a call and a sales or approval process.
Use of Silence – Intentionla silences can make more meaningful that crucial point you are trying to make. Pauses with a few hundred milliseconds can increase the impact and memory absorption; it can project confidence and allow something key to sit for a minute, allowing comment or further discussion. Play with this on preps and hear for yourself.
Muteology, Unlike silence, is the classic mute problem, silence then the ‘hey you may be speaking on mute’ This is just bad form. We have been on virtual calls for 30 weeks in a row; if you have mute issues, you’re a mutant!
Conference call bingo.
Dos and Don’ts
Don’t do the stuff above in the conference call bingo sheet if you
can avoid it.
Do focus when you are presenting on how the audience is hearing you, recheck with the group, take deep breaths and recheck.
Don’t have too many aah and uums when speaking that shows you are struggling with the material. Storytelling benefits from fewer rejoinders when presenting.
Do practice your choreography with teammates and the materials being shared or created on the fly. Perfect practice makes projects and clients feel that their time is valued.
Do care about these items for your own professional practice and build your confidence when you are on!