To be completely honest, most of my time with Maxie is spent while we’re across the country from each other. (Sometimes I have to check “Find My Friends” because you never really know where in the world Maxie might be on any given day.) And this is the same for a couple of my friends too! And I’ve had more meetings than I can count over video conferencing.
In some ways, it can feel totally “normal,” like we’re there in person. But it can be difficult, especially when it’s a more formal setting! Maxie is a total pro when it comes to on-camera work and it absolutely shows when you’re Skyping with her. She has presence off and online. Having personally experienced meetings with Maxie on Google Hangouts, trust me when I say, she knows what she’s talking about!!!
Back in the day it took a special person to be on camera and still feel comfortable communicating their message. Being on camera was a special privilege reserved for the likes of hosts, reporters and celebs. More likely than not, the talent had either grown up in front of a camera or studied the craft. That was so 1990.
Now, with a camera tied to every one of our phones and computers, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t use video as a part of their everyday life. It was an evolution: Skype got hot. Then Facetime got added to all of our phones. And then Google Hangouts (GHO) became a thing. And now we’re living in a time where livestream video is a part of our everyday lives and every one of us is the talent.
Being comfortable in your Instagram photo is one thing. Presenting yourself well in live stream video is an entire other. How many times do you catch yourself Facetiming with a friend and only the top right of your face is showing. Or realize two minutes into a Skype call that you’ve been yelling at your computer the entire time?
Mastering communication over Skype or Google Hangout takes intention. Giving it some thoughtful attention is completely worth your time. Soon enough, commanding a room via video will be just as important as public speaking. Mark my words.
Over the past few years I’ve had some of my most important conversations on GHO, my video technology of choice. I’ve collaborated on a book. I’ve fallen in love. I’ve asked for a raise. I’ve presented to a team of 20. I’ve hosted a workshop. I’ve planned a global journey with my galpals. Integral moments of my life have happened over GHO. I’ve had the good fortune of beginning my career on camera as a sports broadcaster, so this comes pretty naturally to me. But this art of commanding any conversation via technology can be learned. And should be.
Whether you have a Skype interview coming up, or just want to finally tell that guy half way around the world you’re coming to see him, these are my favorite video tips for commanding the room over video:
Quit Looking at Yourself and Make Love to the Camera
We all do it. We get on Facetime or Skype or GHO and we start staring at ourselves. We act like babies seeing our reflection for the first time and just can’t stop drooling over what we see. When you’re focused on your picture on the screen, you immediately go deep into your own head, rather than paying attention to the message you’re communicating. I know it feels weird, but you must actually look into the camera when you’re talking. It’s the closest thing to replicating eye contact, and it’ll keep you fully in the zone so that you’re heard loud and clear.
Dress the Same as You Would if it was IRL
I’ve been a remote worker the entire time I’ve been at my current job. So I live on GHO. And if you talk to any of my teammates they’ll tell you that I’m known to hop on a early meeting in my PJs. But when it comes to the important stuff: the negotiations, the interviews, the big meetings I’m leading… I always dress the same way as if I was there in real life. And I always wear lipstick. Having color and definition to my face on the screen becomes even more important on camera because it’s all they can really see. The spiffed up clothing merely makes me feel powerful. Rock your pumps, your power suit, or whatever it is that makes you feel dynamo, regardless if the people on the other side can see it.
Use Your Hands Below the Camera
Back when I used to host one of my sports segments, I was always critiqued on using my hands too much. So one of the best strategies they gave me was to do all my hand gestures below my waist, where the camera didn’t catch it. This is even more important when you’re on a computer screen versus a TV screen because you have even less room. If you use your hands too much, it’ll take up the entire screen and draw attention away from your message. But as we all know, we need our gestures to feel comfortable. So keep doing them, just take them below the camera line.
Grab a Lamp or a Window
The right lighting is your best friend. The worst is when someone comes on GHO and you can’t see their face. Not only is it creepy, it’s completely ineffective for communication. You’d be better off without the video. I have my office desk up against giant windows, so I always have natural light on my face. If that’s not an option, grab a lamp and put it behind your computer camera so it’s directly on your face. If the light is behind you (backlight) that’s when you’ll get the dark face issue.
These slight adjustment will really really help how easily you end up commanding the room. And just like anything else, this is all about practice. So if you have an important skype call or GHO coming up, get on video with some of your girlfriends and practice these techniques. Commanding a room is all about our presence. While some of that has to do with the outside factors (aka everything above) more than anything it comes with your level of comfort. It comes from the inside. It comes from you. Remember that and see you soon future Oprahs!
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