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Tag: Zoom tips

The Struggle Between Good and Good Enough on Zoom

Showing up properly for your next meeting requires a different set of tools and attitude in this Zoom-centric reality. Here’s why it matters.

Over the past year, the Zoom revolution has put the spotlight on home video production to handle content creation for any number of needs including work, web and broadcast.

If you want to create a quality video feed using something less than professional video gear, it’s been demonstrated that you can do that. It takes some cash, though not a boatload of money, compared to what professional gear costs.

You may need to invest in:

  • A good webcam
  • A desktop tripod
  • Lighting that’s soft on your face
  • A decent microphone

Then, make sure you’ve got a real background that’s interesting, but not cluttered. (I’m less excited these days about virtual backgrounds.) And now you’re probably ready to create some decent looking video content.

No, it’s not going to be the same quality as what thousands of dollars of gear can do for you, but it’s not terrible either.

Unnecessary Effort?
But to generate a video and audio feed that’s good, you’ve also got to put in some effort. It’s not only about the gear you’re using. And there’s the rub.

It takes time to set it all up and maximize your shot.

It’s clearly a different level of commitment than opening your laptop and clicking on Zoom (or other video conference apps).

A simple click is still going to get a video and audio signal out to your viewers. And I bet a lot of people would say that’s good enough.

Good enough.

If good enough works for you, why spend money and unnecessary time to make it better?

The Allure of a One-Click Solution
I think that everyone should always try to look their best, both in person and in a virtual environment. Presenting yourself to your world is a life-long task. But I think when using Zoom, that can be a difficult sell.

Sure, if you’re hosting a webinar or doing a live shot for a media company, you probably understand that your video and audio feed should be the best possible.

But I imagine there are countless Zoom moments when people feel it’s not particularly important to do anything more than the bare minimum. Why not just open your laptop and simply click and start your video stream?

It’s good enough.

Why Deal with the Mess?
Whether using your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, technology has given us the ability to do the impossible. Generating a live video feed once took lots of people and expensive production gear to accomplish the same feat through a TV station’s full resources.

Professional video production often looks like a mad scientist’s lab with cables and power cords running askew and bright lights dangling from the ceiling.

You can also create a mess if you’re trying to improve your Zoom game at home when adding in your extra gear. Simple isn’t exactly the way to describe the experience.

On the other hand, simplicity, speed and dare I say… elegance is what comes to mind when you just lift up your laptop screen without any additional video prep, and you’re instantly ready to activate your next Zoom.

That’s hard to beat and a great reason for good enough.

Zoom is Now a Part of Life
In most Zoom situations, why should anyone feel the need to do more? (Heck, even activating your video feed is an step that so many opt out of.)

I like to say you’ve got to show up for your close up. But it’s really more about simply showing up.

This is your life. Like it or not, Zoom is now a necessary part of it.

We are a social species. To be most effective when communicating, people really need to see you. And a terrible representation of your image that barely looks like you isn’t enough. It can say you’re dialing it in. Or worse… You don’t care.

That’s why good enough isn’t good enough.

It’s Time to Shine
Face it. Your life is being televised now.

So put on your Zoom shirt. Set up your Zoom shot. And do your best to fully inhabit your little Zoom box.

Then reach out and connect.

Good.

How to Fix your Ceiling Shot Problem during Zoom Meetings

Using a tabletop tripod to elevate your webcam shot is a great way to help your Zoom viewers experience you eye to eye.

It’s been over a year since the Zoom revolution took over so many parts of our lives. The good news is many of us have mastered the basics of video production while video conferencing from home. But there’s one mistake I see plenty of people still struggling with. To be fair, it’s not entirely their fault. Some blame has to be shared with laptop manufacturers who insist on putting webcams down at the bottom of the laptop screen.

The Evil Ceiling Shot
The resulting problem is your webcam pointing up at your face with the ceiling as the background. The shot is incredibly unflattering. Who wants their viewers staring at their chin or peering up their nostrils?

The fix is not an easy one. You’ve got to find a way to bring your webcam up to a more level position with your eyes. That will create the balanced visual you need.

Stacking a few hardcover books under your laptop can help. If you’ve got a standing desk, it’s time to raise it up all the way. Anything you can do to elevate your webcam will reduce the evil ceiling shot.

You also might want to consider investing in a little more gear to improve the Zoom experience for both you and your viewers.

Time to Buy a Tabletop Tripod
To move your shot high enough to make your webcam parallel with your eyes, you may need to invest in a standalone webcam. And then, most critically, you absolutely have to perch that webcam on a tabletop tripod.

A good tripod that can fit on your desk will be your unsung hero to help create a great video shot for your next Zoom.

The trick is making sure the mini tripod is tall enough to meet your eyes.

There are plenty of inexpensive tabletop tripods out there for webcams and portable LED lights. The problem is many of them are too short, only coming up a few inches. You really need a mini tripod that telescopes up 15 inches or more.

And you should also make sure you don’t choose a model that will take over your desk. It needs to be compact.

In looking to improve my own desk setup with a new tabletop tripod, I found these options to consider:

  • Lume Cube Desktop Light Stand
    30” max height
    $34.95 on Amazon
    The tallest option if you need it, but it’s also more expensive.
  • OrangeMonkie Tripod50
    19.7” max height
    $44.99 on Amazon Prime
    I love this little tripod. Even though it’s the most expensive of the group, it’s a great value. Unfortunately it’s overkill, made for heavier gear. The design will also take up more space on your desk.
  • Neewer Photography Mini Table Top Stands (2)
    20” max height
    $19.99 on Amazon Prime
    The price is right, but you can’t tilt the mount.
  • Ulanzi MT-16 Tripod
    15” max height
    $22.95 on Amazon Prime
    Just tall enough. Comes with a standard 1/4” screw mount and a GoPro mount.

Ulanzi MT-16
So, I ended up going with the Ulanzi MT-16 tripod. It’s great to support my portable Genaray Powerbank 96 Pocket LED light. It’s also a perfect choice to hold up my GoPro when using it as a webcam.

Yes, GoPros can be repurposed as webcams. To do that trick, you just need an HDMI-out to USB 3.0-in adapter. That interface will connect your GoPro’s video feed to your computer. (I use the Elgato Cam Link 4K.) Once attached, your GoPro is ready to live stream.

Elevate your Zoom Game
Remember, to create your best video shot for your next Zoom, you have to bring your webcam up high enough to meet your eyes. And stacking books under your laptop can only take you so far.

A separate webcam on a desktop tripod can really elevate your Zoom game. (The same goes for portable LED lights. You want your soft light source hitting your face at eye level.)

Using a little tripod will make a big difference!

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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