Got a new virtual event coming up? You’re definitely not alone. But have you ever attended a video call or a virtual event where things just… maybe didn’t go so great?
Murphy’s Law is an inevitable part of life (and technology), but there are some great tips that you as an attendee or even a guest speaker can remember, so as to get the most out of every event.
1. DON’T BE SCARED… JUST BE PREPARED.
Just like any live event, it’s prudent to register or RSVP beforehand, and to block off your calendar accordingly. If the event is virtual, you should also plan where you’ll spend it in advance because you will need to choose a location with reliable internet access.
Even if you did plan ahead, we also recommend that you log on about 30 minutes early on the day of the event. Why? Because, as we already mentioned… technical difficulties happen. You’ll want to ensure that you can access and hear the livestream while there’s time to troubleshoot any errors without too much urgency.
Also, unless it’s a virtual brunch kind of thing… you should probably eat beforehand. A small snack is okay, but your coworkers didn’t log on to see you slurping noodles for half an hour.
On the other hand, if your company is sending you a meeting kit with some cool swag or a meal voucher inside, make sure to take advantage of it! If the voucher is for a meal you might eat in a virtual lunch room, then be sure to order your food in advance so that it’s ready on time and you can join everyone to chow down together.
But whether or not food is present, consider: when was the last time you showed up to an in-person trade show or meeting with no business cards, or no clean shave?
If you suspect you might need to take notes, have pencil and paper ready by your laptop before the event begins. And if there’s even the slightest chance that you’ll have to turn on that webcam, you should probably run a comb through your hair and make yourself look presentable.
2. BE DRESSED ALL ALONG, IN CASE SOMETHING GOES WRONG.
Part of the appeal of working from home and attending events virtually is that, in theory, you can wear whatever you want. To an extent, that’s true.
However, remember Murphy’s Law again. Could your clothing be a disaster waiting to happen–– like boxer shorts that start off hidden, but could get revealed at a bump of the camera? Or what if you’re wearing a strapless top and the webcam only films you from the shoulders up, which makes you appear like you’re not wearing anything at all?
Besides, you never know when a tech malfunction or unexpected event may throw you in full view of your peers–– which is why you also shouldn’t take the meeting into the restroom with you, even if you did turn your microphone and camera off.
As far as dressing the part, you don’t have to put on a three-piece suit if you don’t feel like it. But at the very least, put on an outfit that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to wear on a stroll through your neighborhood. If you wouldn’t even walk out to your mailbox in that ensemble, then maybe add some sweatpants or a pair of jeans.
If you’re in doubt, then default to the sorts of clothes you wore to the office before the pandemic hit. Wear items that your company would deem appropriate. They’ll be very unlikely to object.
And here are some bonus tips for you from a group of video professionals: red fabric can make your face seem inflamed, and tiny patterns like pinstripes or houndstooth tend to blur and look poor on-camera. This applies to everyday photos and in-person video interviews, too!
3. WHEN IN DOUBT… MUTE IT OUT.
I think every single one of us can think of at least one Zoom meeting where we could hear somebody’s dog barking, a landscaping team with leaf blowers, passing by, or–– worst of all–– some random echo coming from an unknown source.
Even if you feel that you chose a quiet spot for yourself, it’s best practice to always keep yourself on mute until it’s time for you to speak.
You never know if your AC unit might actually be picking up on your microphone–– or if your jingling keychains and earrings keep switching the video’s “speaker” identity over to your camera by accident.
There are also some occasions when microphones and computer speakers don’t sync up properly, which could lead to a feedback loop: the audio from the event feeds into your mic, which feeds into the event, and on and on. One good way to eliminate this issue, besides just staying muted, is to plug in earbuds or headphones for yourself.
And hey–– mute doesn’t just apply to your microphone here, either. It also applies to cutting off other distractions around you. That means you shouldn’t be multitasking. Absolutely do not drive while a meeting is happening on your phone, and don’t try to cook or iron while you’re watching, either.
A lot of events like to invite audience participation–– including chats where you can comment, post pictures, ask questions, or answer polls. So you need to be in an environment where you can do that easily… and safely.
4. FRAME A NICE SHOT; DON’T FAKE WHAT YOU’RE NOT.
Have you ever been the one to take a close-up picture of somebody else? Maybe a passing photo at a dinner party, or a snapshot of your dog making the cutest face on the entire planet?
How many of those close-up photos in your life include two feet of empty space above the subject’s head? Probably next to none.
When attending a video chat, treat the arrangement of yourself onscreen as you would a sort of picture frame. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you should try to set the camera at equal height with your eyeline, and arrange your face to sit in the upper center of the frame.
Don’t sit ten feet away where nobody can see you–– and likewise, don’t get so close that your face fills the entirety of the screen and familiarizes everyone real quick with your nose hair problem.
To light yourself well, try to select a place where you have at least two light sources (such as lamps or windows), preferably more in front of you than behind you. Lights that are behind you will not only overexpose your camera lens, but they may also turn you into a silhouette like one of those dark anonymous police interviews.
Lastly, if it comes down to showing people your messy workspace or some brightly-colored background filter… we can almost guarantee that the workspace is somehow still going to give off more of a professional vibe.
We know you’re not sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower. We know you’re not scuba diving in front of a coral reef. So maybe just spend the few minutes it takes to tidy up a ten-foot area around your desk instead of trying to cover everything up with a filter.
IN OTHER WORDS… TREAT IT JUST LIKE ANY IN-PERSON EVENT.
Virtual events… are still real events. So let’s all try to make them enjoyable together.
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