Get Ready for Your Close-Up: Looking Your Best on Webcam

April 16, 2019

The ubiquitous webcam is now a key tool for communicating with colleagues, clients and customers. But, do we truly understand its power? Whether it’s as a presenter on a webinar or in a one-on-one Skype conversation, a strong webcam presence can build engagement and strengthen important relationships. But, too often, our use of the webcam makes us seem amateurish or even comical.

The webcam is one of our “smallest” communications formats. How often have you – as a viewer – suffered through a close-up of a speaker’s nostrils, or a perfect view of an ear as the speaker addresses the conference phone instead of the camera?

webcam presentation tips

You have a choice – look small and scattered or strong and professional! We need to harness the power of the webcam. It’s here to stay and demands a polished performance. Think of your desk and computer as a mini-studio. Here are some tips for looking your best and better engaging your virtual audience:

Shine a Light on It

If your webcam “studio” is too dark, you might end up looking like you’re broadcasting from an underground bunker. Make sure you are facing natural light. If you don’t have natural light, set up a small lamp slightly to the right or left of your computer. If these options aren’t available, do anything else you can to avoid the extremes of either being backlit and looking like a silhouette, or being too brightly lit and looking washed-out.

Frame Yourself and Look Up  

Don’t get in your audience’s face; an extreme close-up can unnerve your viewers. On the other hand, you don’t want to appear like you’re sitting a mile away from your camera. Choose an attractive background and set your camera at least a foot away as if you were talking to another individual. Use a computer stand, a box or several books to raise up your camera so you are looking slightly up. Everyone looks more flattering when the camera is placed higher. Wherever your camera is, tilt it so that there’s a minimum of empty space over your head; otherwise, you might look like you’re drowning in your shot.

Look Me in the Eye

It’s natural for your eye to be drawn to your own image on the computer screen, but your audience sees you looking away and breaking eye contact. It takes practice but train yourself to look directly at the webcam, so your audience will see you looking directly at them. If you need to use notes, keep them posted on your screen as close to the camera as possible—or with handwritten notes, tape them up.

Keep it Short and Sweet

When speaking on webcam, you are competing with a legion of multitaskers. If you run long or your story is unorganized, your audience may drift to email, Instagram or whatever sparks their interest. Keep your story short and to the point – outline your headline, offer three key points with evidence and descriptions, summarize your story and give your audience a call to action. In order to get to this point, don’t wing it—set aside time to speak and rehearse, so that you’re comfortable with your material but aren’t reading robotically from a script.

Boost Your Wattage 

A webcam has an uncanny ability to suck the energy out of a speaker. Make sure you are bright and energetic to keep your audience engaged. Your audience is looking at a video screen and – for better or worse – they are expecting a performance. Make your story worth their attention.

Tom Barritt is Partner and Managing Director of Ketchum’s Communications Training Network, a team of executive media coaches. He has helped executives shape stories that get noticed for more than three decades.