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Tag: Working from home

How to Permanently Elevate your Laptop to Create a Better Zoom Shot

Do you suffer from ‘ceiling shot syndrome’ when using your laptop for video conference meetings? This solution will fix the problem.

If you’re Zooming all day from your laptop on your desk, your computer’s little webcam is probably looking up at you during your video conference meetings. That’s not good, because it’s an unflattering shot. The telltale sign of your up-angle live stream is when your viewers can see your ceiling behind your head instead of a wall.

I like to refer to that unfortunate webcam positioning as ‘ceiling shot syndrome.’

One way to fix the problem is to pile some books under your laptop to help elevate your webcam. Then, it will be able to point at you more horizontally. But that unstable solution is hardly a permanent fix.

It may be time to create a consistent and steady platform for your laptop’s webcam to see you at eye level.

Levitate your Laptop with a Desk Stand
Of course, a standing desk can do the trick. But if your laptop is stuck on a standard desktop, you need another way to bring your laptop up a foot or so.

The solution is to add an adjustable-height laptop desk stand to your home office equation.

It’s important to find a stand that will reposition your laptop’s webcam high enough to meet your face. So, get a ruler and measure from your desk’s surface up.

In my own research, I found three choices that provide more height than most stands out there:

The Right Design
All three have a similar Z-frame design with a relatively compact base, a tilt-forward surface and an expandable mid-section. I like this design, because it gives you flexibility on how high you can position your laptop. And it doesn’t make a massive footprint on your desk.

Plus, it’s nice that they all can fold up for portability and storage.

They all have received really good reviews. So how do you choose? Well, I simply went with the lowest price.

It’s the Nulaxy.

Click.

Say Goodbye to Ceiling Shot Syndrome
Over the past fifteen months, I’ve been using an old printer stand that I’ve had for years. Its sturdy but clunky design appears inspired by 1940s technology. The bigger problem was that it was only able to elevate my laptop a mere six inches.

So, my printer stand was never quite able to succeed in its new mission. And though it gave my laptop some height, I still suffered from ceiling shot syndrome. (Yes, I admit it.)

My Nulaxy will be a big improvement, as the stand will more than double my laptop’s elevation.

It’s always important to be able to look at someone eye to eye… and on a level plane. With the right stand for your laptop, it’s much easier to do that during your Zoom meetings.

Why Zoom Meetings will be a Permanent Part of Home Life

It’s probably time to give your imperfect Zoom background another look, because you’re probably going to be using it… forever.

During one of my recent Zoom meetings, I received a comment about the old iMac in my home office. The white computer was sitting sidelined in the background on top of a short bookcase. I retired this 2004 iMac long ago.

But like some of my old tech, I never threw it away. Now, it sits like a museum piece, available for anyone to appreciate (or question) whose wandering eye might be checking out the details of my home office.

What’s That?
Don’t think for a moment that your Zoom-fatigued viewers aren’t looking around your Zoom box. They crave any opportunity to thaw their pandemic-frozen eyes, locked to their computer screen all day.

Anything of interest is an immediate target. And so was my ancient iMac.

It’s actually hard for people not to notice the details of the space you’re in. It’s natural.

Virtual isn’t Real
So, if you feel your room isn’t ready for prime time, should you simply activate a virtual background?

Easy, right?

That’s what many people have been doing during their Zoom meetings. But even though the functionality is there for that exact reason, I think it’s a bad trade-off.

The Value of Authenticity
Sure, it’s a one-click solution to hide your environment that could otherwise use a little more art direction. But it also erases any opportunity for your authentic living space to support your personal brand.

You can only work with what you’ve got. And I think your viewers will understand that. In fact, they’ll appreciate it.

Yes, you should remove any unnecessary clutter in your background. But if there’s an unusual object like an old Mac perched on a shelf, so be it. If you’re lucky, it may become a conversation piece during your next Zoom.

And that can really help to provide some context to your identity, especially when you’re meeting someone for the first time on a two-dimensional computer screen.

It’s Time to Build an Official Zoom Zone
Yes, thanks to Covid-19, our lives have become televised (well… streamed).

And when we eventually return to a post-pandemic existence, I think that new normal will still contain a healthy dose of Zoom meetings. Sorry to break it to you, but that’s not going away… ever.

Sure, you may be free to move about the cabin of life again, but video conferencing from home is an established norm that has taken off.

And this will bring up proactive decorating opportunities for spaces that you’ve designated as your Zoom zones. Perhaps you’ll consider a new framed print or painting on the wall behind you. A different piece of furniture? An arrangement of fresh flowers? A total redesign?

The same way that the family room became the next generation of the living room, I feel it’s inevitable that a Zoom zone or even a ‘Zoom Room’ will become a natural addition to our future homes.

Yes, people can always use a virtual background. But eventually, they’ll move out of their temporary Zoom mindset.

Sharing a more permanent reality is usually a much better long-term solution.

Let your Hands Do the Talking on your Next Zoom

Now’s the ideal time to add your hands into your Zoom conversations. Here’s why.

If you like using your hands when you talk, communicating on Zoom and other video conferencing platforms is the perfect place to apply your style. In fact, this digital ecosystem is an ideal space to apply your non-verbal communications techniques.

I’ve talked before about the importance of using non-verbal face cues during Zoom meetings to generate maximum engagement, but your hands can also play a powerful role in effective Zoom communications.

Unleash the Power of your Hands
Any number of gestures that might feel forced or unnatural during an in-person meeting can work really nicely in the Zoom universe.

  • Giving a thumbs up
  • Raising your index finger to make a point
  • Using one hand to represent an idea or thing
  • Holding up both hands to punctuate an “either/or” explanation
  • Moving a stretched hand diagonally upward to demonstrate success
  • Waving goodbye to make a solid Zoom exit instead of just disappearing

Welcome to the Stage
Your hand gestures can either stand alone or join your spoken words to provide emphasis. You’re essentially following the same rule book as when presenting on a stage.

You may not feel like you’re walking on stage every time you join a Zoom, and many people don’t. But you shouldn’t make the same mistake.

If all the world’s a stage, then so is every Zoom.

And Zoom can be such a hands-friendly place because the medium effectively makes you a presenter every time you talk.

We are Children of TV News
This may seem counterintuitive. You’re probably more focused on Zoom draining your mojo, because you’re feeling unnaturally cramped into a tiny on-screen box.

But that box is a not-so-distant cousin to the all-mighty television screen. And for decades, we’ve been conditioned to apply significance to a singular face that’s talking at you based on the norms of TV news.

Sure, today the market is clearly oversaturated with countless YouTubers in little boxes. And your own circle of contacts might curate an additional few dozen mini faces to regularly stare at.

Open Hailing Frequencies
You may end up feeling like an anonymous face projecting yourself to an often faceless audience. How much of an impact can you really have on a pandemic-numbed and Zoom-fatigued population?

It may be difficult to believe, but for every second that you’re visible on a Zoom, you have the power to move the needle.

Using your hands properly will make you even more effective.

Amplify your Moment
To take advantage of this opportunity, you don’t need to be the official ‘presenter’ who owns the digital floor for an extended period. If you say just one sentence, your viewers will see you as the presenter in that particular moment.

The floor is yours. Use it!

And it doesn’t matter if you’re a little thumbnail image in Gallery View. Then, the movement of your hands can carry even more weight. That’s because your small image makes you more difficult to read. Your non-verbal face cues might be invisible. But a solid hand gesture is hard to miss.

Get your Hands in the Shot
I’m sure you know the importance of setting up your webcam shot to properly display your face. Now you’ve got to make sure there’s room in your Zoom box for your hands to show up.

The trick here is to reduce all of the extra headroom space you probably have in your shot. (That’s the extra area between the top of your head and the top of your shot.) Instead, you want your webcam to show off more of your midsection. That’s the area where your hands live as they rest on your desk.

This technical adjustment is usually easy to make by simply tilting your webcam. That redirects your shot down to just above your desk. Just be sure your shot is wide enough. You don’t want your webcam to cut off your head!

Practice Assertive Communications
After spending so much time on Zoom meetings, everyone should feel like they’re able to successfully contribute to the conversation. And as in any environment, you’ve got to effectively assert yourself.

Yes, that can be especially difficult to do when restricted to a Zoom box. So it’s important to use every technique at your disposal.

Sometimes the answer is to just let your hands do the talking!

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