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Looking Good At Your Next Video Chat

Whether you’re using Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime or some other Video Chat Application, you want to look your best. Whether you’re chatting your grade school pal, you college buddy, your committee, your collaborative work group or a client, it’s important to look good. I don’t mean that you need to get Botox, but you can’t Photoshop yourself either!  So what should you do for your desktop or on the go chats?

Clearly, bandwidth is the most important. After that are sound and lighting. There are more, but I’ll go into that later.

Be sure that you have, if possible several indirect light sources to avoid dark shadows. The light should be bright, too. Set a lamp where you think it would work and test it. If you are in doubt, ,move it and try again.  In the world of big live events, the lighting team “focuses” the lighting on stage to be sure that everyone is seen clearly and without shadows.

There are several headsets with good microphones available. It’s best not to use the built-in microphone and speaker as that usually causes feedback (screeching sound) or echoing. This can be very unpleasant. I use a Dynex headset with built-in microphone. It’s inexpensive and quite decent.  Remember that background noise will be heard. Not only is that distracting, but it’s unprofessional, especially if you’re chatting with a client. Therefore, it’s preferable to video chat in a quiet space where you’re alone if possible.

Next, think about your background. Are you sitting in front of a window? That’s fine, but be aware of shifting of light as the day progresses. You could end up in shadows and not realize it. You might also think about appearance. This is not meant to be snobby, but it is meant to be professional. If you are chatting from your home office, and there’s a closet behind you make sure that the closet door is closed! Make sure that the curtains or blinds behind you are even. Simple things like that can make a big difference in how you appear to others. I’m quite sure that you don’t want to be looking into someone’s messy closet or possibly into their bathroom! Think about that big live event, once again. There’s always some sort of background, whether a simple pipe and drape or a complex set design. Whatever, is selected, that is part of the look.

Being a “fashionista” is not required, but looking neat and tidy and appropriately dressed is required. Dress according to your own style, but stay away from bold patterns. Most striped ties and hounds tooth fabric look terrible on video. Do try to wear something bright. It need not be red, but a good clear color and simple style. Men don’t necessarily need to wear a tie and jacket. That of course depends upon the video chat. Women can wear jewelry that’s interesting, but be wary of shiny jewelry as it could reflect light and be distracting. If your background is busy or patterned don’t wear a busy or patterned dress or blouse.

A couple of other simple things are to look at the camera so you appear to be talking to your chat friends or client. Then there’s something your mother always told you. Sit up straight. Honestly, slouching, looking down or up looks pretty bad. Lastly, don’t eat while you’re chatting. Remember that the camera is always on you.

My suggestions are based on my experience with video chats as well as the production of live staged productions. Clearly, there are other considerations and would love your feedback.