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  • Writer's picturepukkapresenting

Present on Zoom with confidence and clarity

I've spent lockdown staring at a green dot. My MacBook Pro inbuilt webcam has become my friend as I host meetings, coach, mentor and instruct clients/students how to talk to camera with confidence. This tiny green lens has seen my office develop into a home studio, domestic lights and inbuilt mic gradually being replaced with professional lamps, external mic and green screen.

Like many, I'd vaguely heard of Zoom before the pandemic, but never used it until March 2020. As soon as I realised I could use Zoom to teach almost everything that I'd taught face to face I jumped at the chance to embrace it fully for business. Clients became global, more self sufficient as I asked them to self-tape, students showed how capable they were of setting up industry style shooting at home, and my teaching methods adapted quickly to the new normal.

Talking to a green dot is different to talking to camera or phone - it's harder to focus when there's a gallery of faces staring back at you, especially when teaching. To reach your viewer you need to talk through the lens, if your eyeline is not to the lens you will not be looking to your audience. But, when coaching I want to look at people's faces, to see their reactions, are they 'getting it' or 'wandering off'. My attention is split, it's harder to read the room.

I get around this with various tricks, including not sitting too close to the lens so I can quickly scan people's reactions with my peripheral vision. Make them laugh - have a brief glance at the sea of faces to check they're all engaged.

No doubt about it, Zoom hosting is mentally and physically tiring, but it's made worse by struggling to see and hear participants clearly.

Important messages get lost because of poor connectivity, low lighting, shadows on the face, echoey mics, distracting backgrounds, incorrect eyeline, bad camera framing, and weak performance. As a former TV director I'm hyper aware of the things that prevent your presenting from being as strong as it could be, things that can be tweaked and fixed really easily which will vastly improve your Zoom presence.

Five months on I am still irritated by interviewees on mainstream TV news who look and sound terrible. Now, from home, you are not only the contributor but also responsible for lighting, sound and camera to try and get the best set up possible with a domestic rig. I'm on a mission to improve things so we can all enjoy the Zoom experience and get more out of it, a few people at a time!

The absolute basics include:

Raise your camera to eye level

Talk to the lens

Find a light, quiet location. Avoid sitting with a window behind you or you will appear in silhouette, use daylight to light your face, or if not, place some lights to illuminate your face without shadows.

Frame your head and shoulders in the centre of the shot, leaving a small space above your head so you do not touch the top of frame

Check the background of your shot!

If you'd like coaching in how to improve your home set up and your on-screen peformance I run open courses and private coaching - on Zoom of course! Please contact me for more information and prices regarding one2one, discounts available. There are links to courses that I teach for City Lit and The Actors Centre on my website, booking now for Autumn 2020.

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