6 Apr 2020

How to come across well on camera

Working from home means more and more of us are communicating with colleagues and clients via video call.

But what if you have to give a presentation or deliver a webinar on camera? An already daunting prospect becomes even more so when you throw in technical challenges and distance from your audience.

Here, Debrett’s Academy director Rupert Wesson has some advice for maintaining your professionalism when presenting from home, while DOP Jonny Pollard provides guidance on lighting, sound and set-up.

Rupert says:

  • Look the part: If you’re presenting to prospective clients, wear something suitably formal for an office environment. You might be able to dress down for meetings, but keep it professional and avoid sportswear, loungewear or nightwear (at least as far as is visible).
  • Be prepared: give yourself an extra five minutes before the meeting or presentation to log on, test your camera and mic and resolve any glitches.
  • Pause: pausing will give you time to think, breathe and relax a little.  It will also give the audience a chance to reflect on what you are saying and to ask any questions.
  • Minimise distractions: if seeing your own image on screen makes you self-conscious, keep it out of your eyeline and concentrate on your audience instead. It might help to imagine that they are directly in front of you, rather than focusing on a screen full of faces.
  • Adapt your body language: remain animated but not manically so – it’s best to keep physical gestures subtle but confident, and hands relaxed. If you’re seated, sit up straight but don’t be too rigid.  Standing is arguably easier for feeling at ease – just don’t wander off camera.
  • Break it up: if you’re presenting slides, break up the presentation by cutting back to yourself. This might feel uncomfortable but will be more interesting than slide after slide of information read aloud to your audience.

 Jonny says:

From a visual point of view, it’s important to look as professional as you can. Clearly with a tiny in-built camera there is a limit to the quality – it’s never going to look like a studio broadcast – but here are some quick solutions that will vastly improve the on-camera experience:

  1. Lighting is everything.The single most common mistake I see on Zoom calls and presentations is people sitting or standing in front of a window. The camera on your computer is fully automatic, so it brings down its iris for the vast amount of light it is seeing and makes you look very dark. Instead, try facing the window so that natural light is on you and your face, or point a lamp towards you. Ideally, place the lamp above eyeline and behind the computer so it points towards your face.
  2. Angles are important. If your camera is below your eye line, it will not be flattering. Use a box or anything available to raise the screen so the webcam is level with your hair line. Centre yourself in the image, and distance yourself from the camera so you can see from the top of your head down to your chest. A shot with just your head can be too intense for your audience.
  3. Set the scene Keep your background simple and clear of mess, and make sure it’s quiet. Background noise is so disruptive to a call. If you can’t prevent any background noise, be sure to mute yourself when not talking.


Read more: Rupert Wesson reveals the golden rule of public speaking.


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