When Zoom is Your Stage: What You Need to Do to Stand Out
In March, I was in a position where I was required to switch from an in-person event to an online event in a couple of days. This was a networking event and to simulate the in-person event most closely, I knew I would need to use breakout rooms. This required some fast action. First, I needed to upgrade from the free Zoom platform I was using since the event would be a couple of hours with several attendees and my free Zoom package would not allow for this. Second, I had to do some quick education. I taught myself how to share my screen so I could use PowerPoint slides during the presentation. Third, I also needed to learn how to use breakout rooms. I called friends and practiced with them on Zoom to make sure I could at least in a clumsy way navigate through the meeting. Practice makes for a better presentation. I soon became an expert on all the different controls – chat, reactions, mute, video and how to use them to increase engagement and participation. I began a new relationship with Zoom where this was now my stage and is now also the stage I use to help others with online events.
Solve for Bad Location – Use a Virtual Background with a Green Screen
After my first online Zoom event was successfully completed, I did have other problems to solve for. In my particular “stay at home” situation, I was sharing a home with several other people. The place with the least distractions was my bedroom. A bedroom is NOT the ideal background for a Zoom call or event. I initially set up my computer so that the closet doors were my background. I decided to order a green screen so that I could use a virtual background. I decided that the best version for me was collapsible green screen so that I could put it away every day. I had the green screen delivered and when it arrived, I was so excited to get it set up before my next Zoom call that I quickly opened the packaging around the collapsible green screen and it sprung open and it was BIG! It ended up hitting the light in the ceiling of my room and glass shards went flying all over. To make matters worse, I could not figure out how to fold down the big green screen into its little package. I had to google how to do this to learn how. But now I can choose my virtual background that I want to use with having a green screen. I have also learned from others that having a taught green screen is preferable vs the others that hang loose so that you do not have wrinkles appearing in your virtual background.
Solve to stop the Zoom Freeze – Connect Directly to the Internet Router with Ethernet Cable/Get more Bandwidth
Another problem was my connectivity. I kept on freezing while on Zoom and I would never know when this would happen. I remember moving my mouse around to try not to freeze. I do not believe this does anything, but I thought I would give it a try. This does not bode well for someone that needs to both host and facilitate online events. I tried having the other people in the house not use the internet when I had an event, but this was not fair to them and it did not totally solve the problem. I remember freezing on interviews I was featured on for two different virtual summits and on another interview that was aired on TV! I found this really embarrassing and not professional. I ended up solving for this by tethering my computer directly to the internet with an ethernet cable. You can also investigate to see if you can get better internet service that includes more bandwidth to stop the Zoom freeze.
Solve to be Heard – Get a Quality Headset
Sound ended up being another problem. I was invited to be a guest on several podcast shows, and the sound was not good. I remember trying all sorts of different solutions with one podcast host and thankfully he ended up being able to do something on his end to make it sound better. Also, with sharing a house with others, having a dog that barks at everything and you never know when the lawn service will be mowing outside the window, I needed a better way to not only have good sound but to block outside noises. I ended up purchasing a headset which solved this problem. Zoom also now has controls to help block outside noises.
Solve to be Seen – Get a Web Cam
I noticed this myself and it was also brought to my attention by a friend of mine that I appeared fuzzy on the computer screen. My computer camera was just not good enough. I ordered a web cam that now sits on top of my computer that makes my appearance clear. However, with a wireless mouse, headset and Ethernet cable plugged into my computer there was no place left on my computer to plug in the web cam. I had to purchase a multiple USB port so that all my new attachments can plug in. I now have a clear image.
Solve for The Right Lighting – Avoid Windows and Possibly Use a Ring Light
I enjoy sitting by a window when working, but the light coming through the window washed out my image. A window behind you will make you appear dark on the screen. You need to position the computer to be away from the window with lighting being ideally both above and behind the computer. Thankfully when I did position my computer away from the window, my bedroom light was positioned perfectly behind and above the computer. Some people need to purchase and use light rings to get the correct lighting. Zoom also now has better controls for low light situations and filters you can use to “boost” your image.
Zoom Meetings are Here to Stay
We will have in-person events again, but most likely having at least some Zoom meetings will be here to stay. Most of us now use it regularly. In-person events will always be my favorite way of connecting but there are some benefits that all of us are enjoying with Zoom. It saves time from driving or traveling to and from meetings and events, it makes the world a smaller place by being able to connect with people around the globe and it is overall a less costly way of having an event or meeting. Since Zoom is here to stay, those that extensively use Zoom, especially speakers and online coaches, should up level what they are doing and prepare to be on zoom like it is there stage by making sure their connectivity is good, they have a nice background, they can be heard and seen correctly. Plus, there are some other tips to help you stand out on the Zoom stage.
Some Additional Tips to Make Zoom Your Stage
- Use a computer if possible, to host or attend zoom events and try not to zoom on a phone or iPad. A computer is larger, and you will be able to see your audience better. You will also have better and easier access to controls.
- Put the computer at the correct height. The camera should be positioned above eye level. You may need to get a stand or find a creative way to lift your computer. I use a decorative box that I set my laptop on that lifts it to the correct level.
- Look into the camera and try not to watch yourself or the other people while talking. This is hard to do but will make you appear to be talking more directly to your audience. This is especially important if you are a speaker and giving your talk.
- Choose a virtual background that is professional and that fits you and your brand. You do not have to use the virtual backgrounds given by Zoom. You can choose your own virtual background. You just need to upload the photo of your choice. I hunted for a while for my virtual background. I was looking for a room that fit my brand colors and made me enjoy seeing myself in it. I did a search for blue rooms and found my virtual backgrounds. I have a few. Some for day, some for night and some for more relaxed Zoom meetings.
- Dress for success – well at least for what can be seen on Zoom which is your top half. I now sport nice blouses, jewelry, scarves while wearing shorts, yoga pants and jeans on the bottom half.
- Make yourself look good. Just because you are at home does not mean that you should not appear how you would look if you were out in public especially if you are doing a presentation. Fix your hair, men should shave, women should put on makeup and not be afraid of using more color which appears better on screen. Use and adjust the level of the “fix your appearance” controls on Zoom. I move mine all the way to the right and it covers a lot of sins.
- Use correct posture. Sit up straight. Position your head on the screen so that it is fully visible and fills the screen. I am seeing a lot of half faces on Zoom. You want people to be able to see you smile.
- Turn off other devices like your phone while on Zoom and try to remain engaged in the event or the meeting. Others on Zoom will be able to see if you are distracted.
- Bring energy to your Zoom event or meeting just like you were in front of a room presenting to many people. This will help people stay interested in what you have to say. Encourage interaction by asking questions, inviting people to use chat, show reactions…Keeping people engaged and interacting with the Zoom event/meeting will make you more memorable. If you are a speaker or a presenter, having someone help to facilitate the Zoom meeting will help to keep your energy level up. You can focus more on what you want to say vs worrying about navigating the Zoom event.
To check out how you come across on the zoom screen, record yourself talking and play this back for yourself to review how you come across to others and see if you can improve your Zoom stage presence and stand out.