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Remote Presentation Skills: Production Values

Technical elements matter.

Brandt Johnson

Typically associated with film, television, and theater, production values are the technical elements of a production, such as lighting and sound. When it comes to videoconferencing, carefully considered production values will help your audience stay focused on you and enjoy doing so.

Audio. Audio is perhaps the single most important technical element of a videoconference. Distorted or too-soft audio is distracting, unpleasant, and hard to understand. Make your audio as high-quality as possible. An external microphone will usually sound better than the one in your computer. In general, the closer your microphone is to your mouth, the clearer the sound. Also, limit background noise and mute yourself when you are not speaking.

Video. An external camera will typically provide a higher-quality image and more placement options than your computer camera. Position your camera roughly at your eye level, not pointing up at you from under your chin. A higher-speed internet connection will also give better results; if possible, connect with a wire instead of Wi-Fi.

Framing. Your head, shoulders, and some of your torso should be visible, and you should allow a bit of space between the top of your head and the top of the screen. If you are too far from the camera, you will look small, and your face will be more difficult to see. If you are too close and your face fills the screen, it may look weird.

Lighting. Good lighting is key to looking good. It brings energy to your presence and makes it easier for your audience to see you. Your face should be well lit on both sides and your background not too dark. Beware of bright light behind you; it can wash out your image.

Background. Avoid having just a blank wall as a background or having distracting clutter in view.  Allow some distance between you and your background.

Software. Learn your videoconferencing software. The less time you spend figuring out technology during a call, the more time you can spend focused on your ideas and your audience.

Preparation. Set up ahead of time and test things out.