Getting The Most Out Of The Video Gear You Already Have | Up And To The Right | Episode 037

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UAR 37 | Video Gear

 

In our current situation with the pandemic and social distancing, video is becoming more essential, and video conferencing plays a larger role in how we interact going forward as a business. In the second of a two-part series, Stephen Krausse discusses how we can get the best results from the video gear that we already own or from a modest investment. Get to know the specific technical aspects of video that you can do to improve your video’s overall look, feel, and performance. Don’t miss this episode as Stephen gives some tips, advice, and information about what you can do to make your video better.

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Getting The Most Out Of The Video Gear You Already Have | Up And To The Right | Episode 037

Last time, I talked a little bit about the importance of video and how video is becoming more important and it is important. It’s going to continue to be important. It’s going to play a larger role in how we interact going forward as a business. As we learn to use these tools out of necessity, we’ll become accustomed to them and realize the value and begin to use them more and more. I want us to talk a little bit about the technical aspects. We’re going to get a pass for a little while as small business owners, entrepreneurs, coworkers and whatever as we get used to using this technology for business more effectively and frequently. At some point, we’re going to start being expected to understand the technology and be competent with it.

We’ll realize that everything we do in video becomes a part of the message we’re trying to send, whether that message is to our boss or our coworkers, or whether that message is to a customer, a vendor, an outside party or an investor. It does matter more than we might think at first. Just like we got used to long ago using cars, less long ago using computers on a day-to-day basis. As a culture, this is something that we will also get used to and we’re going to be able to build on it. Being able to be not experts, but technically competent, as not all of us are expert computer users, but most of us are competent to use a computer and technology in our day-to-day lives. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Let’s get right into this now. This is the second of a two-part series of video stuff. Last time, I talked about not only the importance of video in business but also trying to extract value out of using in business. I want to talk more about the technical side of it and getting the most out of the gear that you already have. I touched on this a little bit last time, but this is a rabbit hole you can go down pretty far and it can get very expensive very fast. Not only in terms of the actual expense of gear, but also in time. The time to set it up, learn how to use it, and to test it in the various configurations that you might want to want to use it in. All of that, instead of being an asset to your small business, it starts to become a liability. That’s what I want to keep you away from. We don’t need this to be a liability. We need to learn how to use video as an asset, and that’s what we’re going to cover.

One of the things that I want to make very clear is this is not about making you anxious or creating anxiety around what you can’t do. This is about giving you tips, advice and information about what you can do to make your video better, given your circumstances and your resources. There may be portions of this that you have no control over that you cannot change. That’s okay. Look at the whole thing as a larger picture and do what you can, where you can, with the equipment that you have and make those changes. Eventually, if you have some resources that you can do something a little bit differently, whether that’s an investment in gear or a change of location, which is going to be an issue for all of us for a while, then you can make those changes. You don’t need to worry about, “I can’t do this, so now I’m going to have problems with video.” No, let’s try to make the most of what we have and then we’ll make incremental increases or improvements as we go forward.

The Audio

There are four sides to the video screen. There’s the top, the bottom, the left and the right. It’s audio, lighting, video and environment. Those are the four things we’re going to talk about. The first thing is getting into the audio piece of it. It might sound counterintuitive because we’re doing video. As it turns out, users will be turned off by good video with bad audio much more quickly than they will be turned off by a bad video with good audio. At first blush, it might not sound like that’s true or that it would be true, but what people have found is simply that audio matters and makes a big difference in how you’re perceived on video.

What do we do about that? There are a couple of tips that can change things. One is getting your microphone close to your mouth. In the case of the studio here, I’ve got a couple of things. I have my main microphone. I have a laptop-like everybody else that has a microphone in it. The problem is that microphone is 2 to 3 feet from my mouth. The impact of that is in order for it to be able to pick up enough of my voice to have clear audio, it ends up being amplified and picks up environmental noise as well. That’s the first problem. The second problem is they don’t put the best mics in the world in microelectronics or in small electronics like laptops, tablets and phones. They have serviceable microphones so that you can make a phone call. They’re not designed for environments that might have background noise or where you want clear and concise audio.

Everything we do in video becomes a part of the message we're trying to send. Click To Tweet

This especially becomes important if you’re working with non-native English speakers or non-native speakers. If your native language is English in the first place, and you’re working with people who don’t speak your language. The more clarity you can provide, the more easily you can transfer information and get your point across. That’s one important thing. The other piece is if the video is going to be recorded for the future, then you don’t know what environment it’s going to be listened to. You also don’t know what environment your other participants will have when you’re speaking to them. If you couple a mediocre mic with mediocre computer speakers or table speakers on a subway, where your recipient is, pretty soon, you can understand where that audio quality would fall off. If people can’t hear you or can’t understand what you’re saying, it becomes very difficult to want to continue to engage in that particular video, whether that’s a recorded video or even a meeting. It makes it very hard for people to participate if they don’t understand.

Get the microphone close to your mouth, which means oftentimes we don’t want to use the microphone that’s built into our laptops or even our phones. If you’re doing a video call, you’re not to have your phone right up to your face. What can you do about that? You can use the things from around the office or your home office to correct this. If your phone came with a headphone set with a microphone in it, that microphone might not be great quality either, but it’s going to be much closer to your mouth. Typically, they rest close to your chest versus 18, 24 to 36 inches away. Even that change can make a big difference.

You can debate whether or not you want the look of having your headphones on or whatever. That’s a decision there you have to make with how professional the environment is and whether or not you need to take care of that. You can also clip the microphone on the inside of your shirt and tuck the headphone earbuds somewhere. Use the microphone and don’t worry about the earphones. We can talk about monitoring the audio a little separately but that’s the most important thing. Get that microphone close to your mouth. The good news on this is you don’t need a broadcast mic to make that happen. You can use the earbuds and microphone set that came with your phone if you’ve got one.

I do have a couple of examples of inexpensive audio technical mic and it’s a lapel mic. It would clip on. Here’s a tip, you don’t want lapel mics to be pointed up towards your mouth. You get a lot more popping and breath noises when you do that. You turn them upside down. In this case, I have the microphone in the holder upside down. You want to point it down to avoid those breath noises that you’ll get otherwise. This is a $30 microphone. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It needs to get closer to your mouth.

I do have another USB mic that I got here. This one deceptively plugs into your USB port making it useless as an improvement over what you already have for the most part because it’s still far away from your mouth. It comes with an extension cord. You can figure out a way to maybe put it on a book or something, depending on your setup. You could use something like this, but there are some nice USB mics that come with stands. They’re still very inexpensive if you have access to one. Going back to, do you have something that you could use already? That’s where the earbuds with a microphone in them, a very common product. A lot of people have them. They come with a lot of phones, so you have that option. I would strongly recommend using something like that instead of using the microphone in your laptop or computer.

Before we move on to lighting, I want to talk about monitoring the audio. You can use earbuds and you have a white line if your buds are white. They’re very visible in the shot is what I’m trying to talk my way around. That can be a little bit distracting. It can certainly take away from any professionalism. If you put on a suit in the morning and then put earbuds in, you have to think about that. You can monitor with your earbuds. One trick is to put them on so that they’re running behind you, instead of right down your chest. That requires you to have potentially a longer cable. If you have a long enough cable, that’s great. If you don’t, there are some extension cables that you can buy. Those are not expensive either. That will improve the way you come across, so you don’t have that right across your chest when you’re trying to talk.

The more clarity you can provide, the more easily you can transfer information and get your point across. Click To Tweet

The other thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that these software packages, Zoom, Skype, Webex and stuff like that, they’ve all improved their echo and noise cancellation. That’s not to say it’s not possible to get feedback and echoes but test it because it’s possible you could use your computer speakers and it would work fine. I do think you should test that if you want to use an open source-like speaker. It’s important to run it through some paces, talk to somebody in another building or something. Call your house, your office, your friend using that technology and see if you’re getting an echo or feedback. It’s very possible that you don’t have to use earbuds to prevent those kinds of noise problems. That’s something to look at or listen for and try to work on. That allows you to step away from having to have earbuds in at all. That does provide a cleaner video presence than having the earbuds in. Even if you little earbuds, people still see that. It’s something to think about and look at that.

The Lighting

Moving on to lighting, this is something that people don’t pay as much attention to as they should. Lighting is important in videography and photography. Cameras don’t see like our eyes do. They need lighting a lot more than you might think in order to perform well. Rule number one is to try not to use overhead lights. For example, in the studio, I do have a whole set of overhead lights that I turn on sometimes during the day. There’s a lot of them, so it’s a lot of electricity and I try to avoid that. The problem is that when your light is from above, if you’re graced with beautiful bald like I am, you end up with a very shiny head. The next thing that is more impactful on communication is you shadow your eyes from above. Your eyebrows will shadow your eyes and your nose will shadow your mouth. Two of the primary things that we use to express ourselves in communication are now less expressive because they’re shadowed.

We want to try to avoid that contingency by removing overhead lighting. What do we want to do? We want to light from about 45 and 45, which means your light about 45 degrees up-ish and about 45 degrees off of center. That’s not a hard and fast rule and it depends on the rest of your room, the lighting situation that you have in terms of whatever ambient light is around. In here, I have complete control of light. The light is where I wanted it to be in the first place. If you’re working in a home office or in a standard office where you don’t have absolute control of the light, then you don’t have that option. As a rule, 45 at 45 is a pretty good thumb rule to say, “I’m going to set my light here.”

The next thing we want to talk about is how bright the lights need to be. It’s as bright as you can tolerate. When you start doing video, if you want it to look the best that it can, it’s going to be uncomfortable at first until you get used to how bright those lights are. I’ve got two lights. They’re literally right in front of my face. They are very bright and you get used to it, but it does make a big difference in how the camera can perform. The low light performance of these cameras, especially if you have to use the onboard camera on your laptop or your phone or your tablet. Because of the sensor size, the size of the glass in terms of the lens and the distance from the lens to the sensor itself, there are lots of physical constraints around the low light performance that we can get.

The more light that we can apply to our subject, which in this case is us, the better your video is going to turn out. We want to do that. We want to have as much light as we can. I want to talk about practicals a little bit. What we call practicals in videography are the little lights that light things. Most of the time, you don’t even see a practical light. What you see is the accent that your eye is being led to. I use two practicals in this show. It’s a little orange one. That is designed to attract your eye attention enough to see my cool tape drawing of whatever the subject of the live stream is. I have another practical and that’s a blue one, and it’s an homage to my time in the Navy.

The practicals are used to provide hopefully, a subtle interest in your background. I’m going to talk about backgrounds a little bit under environment, but where we care about is using light to drive people’s eyes or eliminating it where we don’t want people to look. You only want to light where you want people’s eyes to go. If you’re lighting your entire office, then you’re inviting your viewer to spend their time looking around in your environment instead of paying attention to your message. Only light what you want people to focus on.

Video Gear: If people can’t hear you or understand what you’re saying, it becomes very difficult to engage in that particular video, whether that’s a recorded video or a meeting.

 

Finally, the use of natural light. There’s a lot of talk about using natural light. It’s free. If you can use natural light in your video work for Zoom calls or whatever, that’s great. The downside to practical light is you don’t have control. You may have a beautiful bay window that you can sit facing into so that the light comes on to you. It may look super when it’s sunny or maybe when it’s overcast. Maybe because it’s a big, giant, soft light, and it looks great when it’s overcast, but then it’s a sunny day and it’s harsh. You end up not having control over the light. One day your video performance might be great. The next day you’re calling another customer and your video doesn’t look great. Consistency is where natural light becomes a problem. We want to have as much control as we can. If natural light is all you can use, then by all means use it. Be aware that it changes depending on cloud cover, time of year, time of day, all of those things affect it, and you don’t have control over those things.

Around the office or home office, what can you use? You can use a regular desk lamp. You might need to pull the shade off of it to get it to be bright enough. I tried to find a clamp, and I’m sure I have one either at home or here at the shop. It’s one of those lights that you get at a hardware store. There’s a clamp on one end and it’s a silver bowl. You can use something like that. Put an LED bulb in it, and then you might want to drop a piece of 11×17 paper over it or something to soften it a little bit. You can clamp that onto anything and make a nice light out of it. There are plenty of options out there and it’s more about making the choice to use the light in a specific way than it is what let you use. As bright as you can get it and play with it, turn your camera on and change where lighting is and see how it affects the picture. The more light we can use, the easier it is going to be on the camera. The camera’s job is harder the less light we have.

The Video

We’re finally at the point where we’re going to talk about video. I’m going to say something nobody’s going to want to hear and that is if you have access to any camera that is not the camera in your laptop or your tablet or your phone, please think about using it. I know a lot of these things are sold based on how we can use these cameras to make these calls. We go back to the size of the lens, the distance from the sensor and the sensor size itself. Not the megapixels but the physical size of the sensor, all have an impact on how the picture looks. There are some great cameras out there, and I’m not disputing that in terms of mobile phone cameras and tablet cameras, but what happens is they distort the image, especially the closer a subject gets to that camera. If you’re taking a picture of a sunset in Hawaii with a mobile phone, it could be fabulous. If you start taking pictures of yourself or you start shooting video of yourself, the closer the camera gets to you, the more exaggerated the effect is going to be. That is the thing that is closest to the camera is going to be larger.

If you lean into the camera, in my case, my exaggerated nose becomes even more exaggerated. If I lean away from the camera, then I gain 20 pounds. The best thing to do is to make sure you keep those cameras away and keep the profile of your body fairly straight, which is why we stand. I didn’t put that in my tips, but here’s another tip. Stand when you do video. We want to keep the focal plane very flat so that we’re not exaggerating any specific feature one way or the other. The closer to this camera gets to your body, the more exaggerated those things are going to be. That’s why we try to avoid using these smaller cameras. For example, if you have a little video camera that you got for Christmas or something a few years ago, if it has an HDMI out, that’s a great opportunity to set that on a little tripod and use it for your video instead of using the camera in your computer. If you’re using a phone, you may have some other problems. I haven’t tried to hook up an external camera to a phone. That would be interesting. If you have experience with that, leave a comment and let other people know how that works.

The Environment

Let’s talk a little bit about the environment itself. This is what I see most people not paying attention to when it comes to doing video. There’s an assumption that if you’re working from home and you’re working in your dining room, it’s okay to have a sink full of dirty dishes or whatever because I’m home. That’s the authentic me or whatever. The reality is it probably is okay because we’re all getting used to what we’re trying to do here with social distancing and trying to figure out this video adventure. At the end of the day, professionalism hasn’t changed. If you wouldn’t take a pile of dirty dishes in to a customer meeting, why are you doing it in your house? I get it. It’s your house, but we have to start approaching how we do video more professionally as we move into doing this more regularly, and it’s going to happen. We’re going to be using this tool going forward.

Audio is the backbone of video. Click To Tweet

We talked about lighting before. Anything that’s lit, that’s an invitation. Anything in the environment is part of the message. If you don’t want to send the message that you have a Saint Bernard, then the Saint Bernard and related things need to not be in the shot. How do we fix that? You start to learn how to control your environment and clean up clutter. I’m not saying you have to do your dishes. I’m saying position the camera so they’re not in the shot. That’s all. Look at your shot from the position of a viewer. Set up your camera and then look in all the corners of the image. What are you seeing there? Is it part of what you want to convey to a customer, to a vendor, or to an investor? Make decisions around that and adjust your environment accordingly. Zoom and a few other ones will either let you use a green screen and then they can put in a background. A lot of them will even try to green screen you with whatever background you have and put you in a different environment. Put a clever background around you.

There are a couple of things I want to say about that. First of all, understand your audience. I’ll talk about this a little bit more, but that might not be a good idea in a professional environment. Second of all, unless it’s really good, it looks fake. It looks like what it is, a silly background in the software. One feature that both Skype and Zoom do, I don’t know about any of the other ones specifically, but that is blurring the background. That seems to work pretty well and it can be a cheat. It isn’t perfect. It’s certainly not going to get rid of your background, but blurring the background can de-emphasize it. If you can’t see what something is, then it’s harder to say, “That’s somebody’s dirty dishes,” or “Somebody left a big pile of papers.”

The other thing is, for example, if you’ve got a white board behind you and it’s got customer information from another customer that you didn’t think about, if you blur the background, it’s very unlikely that any confidential information would be at risk. There is an advantage to blurring your background if you like that tool and you don’t have a lot of control over your environment. You may be able to say, “I’m going to blur it. I can do a little bit less work.” If that’s all you can do, then do that and don’t worry about, “I can’t do everything. I’m going to be anxious about every video call I make.” Don’t do that. Do what you can. If blurring the background using the tool is a good option for you, then by all means do that.

In the case of your backgrounds, I have a dedicated background here, but you don’t have to do something like this. I do two internet shows a week, and then I’ve got two more that I’m working on. There’s a regular flow of video traffic that I create. Having a background that was designed for that made sense. That doesn’t necessarily make sense if you’re not doing video on a regular basis for publication. If you’re doing meetings and stuff like that, then take a little bit of a more practical approach and make sure that what’s in the shot is meant to be there and conveys the message that you want to convey as a professional.

The other thing that I wanted to talk about in environment is sound and sound treatment. As we talked about in the very first topic, audio is the backbone of video. When you started to look at how can I improve the quality of my interaction with an audience, whether that audience is a single customer, a workshop, a webinar, your boss, your investors or any of those things, how do I get that message across? Audio is key. There are a couple of things in a studio environment like this. We’ve got acoustic panels and stuff like that, but you might not have access to those, or you might not want to put the expense into it. That is certainly understandable, but you can make some improvements. Things to generally think about is any flat surface is going to reflect sound. Any flat shiny surface is going to reflect more sound.

What we want to do is hardwood floors. Put a throw rug down. That bay window that you think looks nice and gives you that great light, it’s also reflecting audio. It’s going to cause echo and distortion in your audio signal. That has consequences. In the case of windows, you may be able to draw the curtains. If you have full length curtains that cover the window, that might be enough, but now you lose your natural light and you have to work through that, but audio is important. You can cover windows with curtains. You can cover floors with carpets. You don’t have to buy a carpet or buy curtains. If you have to, take the throw rug from another room, put it in the room you’re doing your video in for an hour and then put it back. That’s not a big deal.

UAR 37 | Video Gear
Video Gear: Learn how to control your environment and clean up clutter. Anything in the environment is part of the message.

 

If you have curtains, we have at home a set of windows that have curtains that are only about 18 inches wide, so they don’t cover the whole window. You can throw a blanket over the curtain rod and do something like that. There are things you can do that will make a difference and they do make a difference. Blank walls, if you have a bookshelf, you can put a bookshelf up. If you can’t, that’s not very practical to put up and take down, but blank walls, it would be nice if you can do something to break up the sound. Even if it’s as simple as saying, “I’m going to take the coat rack from the other room, put a bunch of coats on it and put it in front of the wall,” that will do something and that will help break up the sound. You can play with it. Remember, flat surfaces are going to reflect sound. The fewer of them that we have that are exposed, the better.

Useful Tips And Hacks

That’s it for the environmental portion. What I wanted to do now is go through some tips. These are either tips or hacks that I’ve learned that could help you in any one of those categories, maybe not in any of them, maybe in their categories, and throw out some lessons learned. Before I do that, if this episode is helpful to you and the others on my channel, please subscribe and hit the little bell icon so you’re notified and share it with your friends. It helps us spread the message and share the channel. Why do I tell you that now instead of the end? Sometimes people don’t get to the end.

Let’s talk about some tips. The first tip is to break it with your friends. Get a video software, whatever one you’re going to choose to use and test it with friends or family or somebody that’s safe and make sure everything works like you expect. Ask them what the environment looks like. Ask them how the audio is coming through. Ask them how does the video look. Try to go through the motions that you would go through on camera and ask them to tell you how that comes across. A lot of times when people are interested, they lean in or if they’re getting contemplative, maybe they’ll lean back.

If you’re using a laptop or a phone camera, those movements will exaggerate physical characteristics, and you need to understand what that’s going to do. Have someone you can trust to say, “That might not be the most flattering way that you should sit.” Get on a call with your friends so that you can learn the software, understand how you’re coming across, and learn the equipment. If you made a change, if you hooked up your video camera from Christmas, is it working right? Is it making sense? Be early or on time. We’re going to get through this but right now, people are like, “I’ve got a Zoom call at 10:00,” and at 10:02, I’m fumbling to install Zoom. Don’t be that person.

You can be that person with friends and family and even potentially colleagues that you know well. We want to get over that pretty quick. It’s the same thing as being late to a meeting because you forgot your briefcase in the car or whatever else. It’s going to be okay for a little while because we’re all getting used to this but eventually, people are going to get tired of it. If you’re not at the meeting when you’re supposed to be, it’s not like people don’t have other things to do just because the meeting is a video meeting instead of an in-person meeting. People still have other work waiting on each other is not polite and we need to figure it out. Get used to the software in advance even if someone asks you to come to a meeting using a software that you don’t already own.

For example, I use Zoom and Skype and occasionally Facetime with people I know who have iPhones. If somebody invites me to a Webex, I’ve used Webex before, but it’s been so long that I would download the software. I would say, “Is it all working right?” I’ve got a Google Hangout. I haven’t used Google Hangouts or whatever it’s called now. We use that in a long time. I’m going to have to dig into that before that meeting occurs so that I understand how to use the tool. That’s the polite and professional thing to do. We need to get over this, “It’s new, I don’t have to deal with it until the last minute thing.” Let’s get up in front of it. Be the person who’s at the meeting ready to go when the meeting starts. If you’re doing video, let’s say if you’re doing it regularly, you should do this, but you should do it no matter what, especially if you’re doing it irregularly or infrequently. Check your setup every time you turn on your system to go onto a meeting.

The whole point of video is to bring that level of expressiveness and body language to an interaction that we can't have in person. Click To Tweet

Things happen and cables can get pulled, power supplies can get unplugged. The software can get an update and not work like you expected it to or not be connected to your camera, whatever. We need to make sure we understand the system. Ten minutes before the meeting, fire up your stuff and say, “I’m on the camera. I can test the audio. Everything’s good.” That’s a big one. Make sure that your stuff is working prior to the meeting. It seems like it might be an inconvenience but realistically, compared to traveling to a meeting, getting on your computer and saying, “I’m going to be on a meeting in ten minutes. Is everything working?” That’s not a big inconvenience in comparison to the travel of a real in-person meeting.

This goes back to what I was saying before. There is a lot of stuff with video and you can become obsessive about it or become even more anxious understanding how many things impact how it comes across. Try to realize that you need to work within your means. Do the very best you can with the stuff that you have with whatever equipment you have. Don’t go bonkers if there’s a limitation. If there’s a place where if you don’t have another camera, then don’t worry about it. What you can do, for example, we’re going to switch to my Facetime camera, which is not positioned. You can already tell why I use an external camera. The laptop is on a stand. Without breaking the internet or my setup, I’m going to try to put it down on the desk where it would be normally. You can see the angle of the camera and the distortion that happens as I get closer to it. One thing you can do if the only camera you have available to you is the camera in your laptop is put it on a stand.

What that does for us is it puts the camera more at eye level so that you’re getting a more flattering shot than you would if you had it down on the table and you’re looking up like, “I’m so scared right now,” Blair Witch style. That’s the effect of lifting the camera up a little bit. Your eyes should be in the top third, the rule of thirds. Art students can tell you about that if you’re not an art student. You want to place it so that it’s high enough so that you’re not looking down at yourself or looking down at the camera or up at the camera. You want to be looking as much as possible into the camera at a level place.

Going back to the point of that whole exercise is if you don’t have an external camera, there are still things you can do to improve the look of the cameras that you do have. Bringing them up to eye level and stuff like that can make a big difference in how they turn out. I have a colleague on LinkedIn that posted a picture of her laptop on a chair with one leg on a book so that it wouldn’t rock. The chair was on a table. It was a great setup. Talk about working with what you have. Her video was much better than it had been even the week before. It does matter when you make those changes. My point is don’t get obsessed if you don’t have an external camera, do what you can with the one that you have. Mark your cameras.

Eye contact is important. When you don’t have a human around, it’s hard to make eye contact with someone that isn’t there. We have to learn to look at the camera. In the case of the studio, we have tape on the table because it’s dark behind the lights. I can’t even see the cameras. If I switch from camera to camera. I’m on the wide-angle, I have to look here. If I’m on the primary camera, I look here and there’s tape on the desk to let me know what direction the camera is in. That’s an easy trick that you can do on your laptop as well for two reasons. One, to remind you where the camera is and two, to remind you to look at the camera. When we’re talking on video calls, it is tempting to look down at the person you’re talking to. Except when you’re looking at the person, you’re talking to on your screen, you’re not looking at the person you’re talking to on the camera. You’re not making the connection that you need to with the video call.

The whole point of video is to bring that level of expressiveness and body language to an interaction that we can’t have in person. It’s important to do that. Mark your camera and that way you’ll know where to be looking. Here’s another one. Don’t make your background more interesting than you or your content. When you’re trying to create a background environment. That doesn’t necessarily mean like a background that’s going to be static forever. This is why I take exception to those clever backgrounds that you can put on Zoom or whatever and using green screens to have yourself in your front of a stream in the wilderness or something. That’s fun and clever, and might be appropriate depending on your audience, but we don’t want the distraction.

UAR 37 | Video Gear
Video Gear: Don’t get obsessed if you don’t have an external camera. Do what you can with the one that you have.

 

We don’t want the background or our environment to distract the other participants from the message we’re trying to deliver. We’re in business. This is not an entertainment, unless you’re in the entertainment business, in which case you can make a different decision. We’re in business to create value and connect value. We don’t need those distractions being more interesting than the message we’re trying to deliver or the result we’re trying to get. That’s an important thing to think about. Don’t make your environment more interesting than you are.

Wear plain clothes. Some things that you don’t want to wear are stripes, checkers, plaids, paisley, and all of those complex patterns. What happens is there’s an effect in cameras that will make those lines start doing this. They’re very unsettling for the viewer. Plain clothes are better. I have to put this one in. Don’t shortcut your wardrobe. If you’ve done any Googling on failed Zoom meetings or failed web meetings, you’ll find lots of examples of people who should have put pants on. That is not helpful to your cause. There’s no reason for it. You wouldn’t go into a meeting with no pants or bunny slippers at a customer site.

You wouldn’t do it in your building. Don’t do it when you’re at home. You can make all of the “That would never happen to me” statements you want, but it happened to those people because you forget. You don’t turn off your camera. You don’t know what it looks like when your camera’s off. You can’t remember if you turned off your camera. You don’t remember that you’re in a Zoom meeting or your camera’s on in the Zoom meeting. Assume the camera’s on and assume that all of you are visible all the time and you’ll be much safer and always come across more professionally.

I talked about this a little bit earlier, knowing your audience. Understanding who your audience is going to play a key role in how important all of this stuff is and to what degree. I’ve have been a little hard on those backgrounds that people have in terms of the picture backgrounds. If you’re in an environment where that’s expected or accepted, that’s okay. If you’re in the entertainment industry or you’re in the photo industry or the videography industry or something, and you’re showcasing some product, that’s fine. If you’re trying to conduct regular business, you have to understand whether or not that’s going to be appropriate under the circumstances.

Video is fun and whatever for a little bit, and then it’s a tool. In some ways, it’s like getting a new car. It’s fun and awesome the first week or two and then it’s four wheels and an engine and you drive to work. You go home, you pick up groceries, and you get the kids. It becomes a tool. That’s where we need to get with video. It is a tool, not something that we need to be clever with. We don’t need to be cute with our video interactions. We need to get work done. That’s it. We’re here to get a result. Let’s get the work done and move on.

Understand your audience. Are they playful, then maybe playful is okay, but if you’re trying to do this in a professional environment, you need to keep it professional. That goes to how much of the work do you need to do to control your environment. I made specific choices about how I wanted the studio to come across on video because of the audience that I speak to. What does that look like for you and your audience? That’s what’s important and you need to keep it in mind. This isn’t the time to get obsessed with sharing parts of your authentic self with everybody that you do business with. This is not the time for that. If you want to do a blog or something else, that’s great. Go to town. When you’re representing your company and your message and your product, you need to represent it in a way that furthers the mission of your company and your product and the mission itself.

We're in business to create value and connect value. Don't make your environment more interesting than you are. Click To Tweet

Getting into what’s practical. Let’s talk about practical elements here. Use what you have. Go through the things, the four elements that we talked about, audio, lighting, the video itself, and the environment, and gather up your resources. You can gather up virtually on a piece of paper or whatever. You don’t have to necessarily put everything in a pile on the table, although that might be helpful. Get that list of resources available. Where are you going to sit? How are you going to control that environment and how are you going to light it? How’s the audio in that room? Step through what you can control. If you can’t control it, don’t obsess with it.

Let it go. Control what you can and let the other stuff go. If you have things that you go, “I realize now that I do have a problem with X.” Let’s say you don’t even have a decent microphone. You need to look at doing something, then okay. Maybe at that point when you’ve addressed everything else, do some test calls and people are giving you feedback, or you’re hearing it in a recording and you’re saying, “My audio isn’t that good,” then you can go back and say, “Maybe I need to do an investment in an inexpensive microphone.” The good news is a $50 microphone makes a huge difference in most people’s audio setup. That’s all it’s going to take. For less than $100, most people can solve that problem.

Go through and figure out what resources you have and fix the things you can. If there’s other things that you want to do, you can invest in those things. If you need to make a change, at least you’ll know what the key things are that aren’t working well for your setup and then tackle those. Keep it practical. I can almost guarantee that you don’t need a new camera or a new microphone or a new light. You probably have what you need to make it work to the first order and to make some significant improvements just knowing a little bit more about the effects of all of those four things on video.

I hope it was helpful. If it was helpful, like the video, subscribe, or comment. If you have questions or experience with video for small business or in a business environment, put a comment in and help other business owners. If you have a different experience than I do about something, engage in that conversation and say, “I have a disagreement about something.” My system and my solutions work in the way that I do business, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to work in every situation all the time. It would be great if there are different perspectives out there to also include those. I’d love to hear those.

Like it and subscribe to the Beyond 50 Percent YouTube channel. Hit that notification bell so you can get informed when we go live or when we upload new content. If you have questions or you have topic suggestions, please send them to [email protected]. On the next episode, I am going to be talking about trying to reconcile conflicting expertise. If you’ve been in business very long, or even if you haven’t and you’ve been trying to find new information about how to be a better businessperson, a better leader or better pretty much anything. If you read two books, you’re probably going to read two things that tell you to do the opposite of each other. How do you reconcile that information in a way that’s valuable to your business? That’s what we’re going to talk about next episode. In the meantime, I hope that everybody stays safe and work hard. For me, it’s time to get back to work. Thank you.

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