Learner Reflection & Practice
Communicating virtually through a screen or device is now a normal practice whether socially, for business, or in our educational experiences. Unless you have been a part of a film class you probably have not been given the tools that will support effective communication through a camera lens.
The tools you have practiced here all apply to the virtual environment. The modifications you need to make in using those tools are based upon the boundaries of the frame that captures you and the size of your projected image that is on the screen.
A key consideration is your audience. Because you are not in the presence of one another, there is an absence of an immediate sensory response and feedback loop between you and the audience. To be more than simply a head shot on someone else’s screen you must first arrange your set to capture your image and voice clearly. You then must plan for how to be more active in your engagement during a call or presentation. The flat screen and separation means that you must strategize in order to make an impression. You can strategically employ your tools for drawing or directing focus and for appearing engaged.
In addition to adapting for the camera, it takes concentration to sustain a singular focal point directed toward our devices for extended periods of time. Keep in mind that the camera picks up engagement immediately and magnifies disengagement.
It is critical that you take the time to plan for communicating and presenting in front of a device camera.
You can begin practicing in everyday virtual communications.
Setting up your device to capture you and your voice is the first step. Set your device so that the lens of the camera is at eye level whether you are sitting or standing. Make sure that your lighting is illuminating your face and torso. The light source needs to be set up toward you. Prepare your background so that you are the main point of focus. Minimize distractions. Avoid whirling ceiling fans, blinding window light, or dim lighting. Remember to wear solid colors that are in contrast to your background so that you take focus against the background. Position your hair, or adjust your glasses, so that your face can be seen and you can maintain a neutral or dropped cranial posture.
Adjust your seated or standing position on a Plane in front of your device that gives you room to use your gesture. In a torso or mid shot, on a plane that is a bit further back from your device, your gesture can begin and return to the waist line and can extend forward more naturally. Gesture into the horizontal space available to the right and left of your image as you appear in the frame.
If you are seated or standing on a plane that is closer to the camera, keep your gesture close to your body, limiting the forward plane extension to 6 to 10 inches in front of you. Rather than forward extension of gesture, extend your gesture into the horizontal space available in the frame that is to either side of your head above your shoulders.
Maintaining the focus relationship through the camera lens means that you will have to look at the lens and imagine that your audience is on the other end of the screen rather than focusing your eyes on their screen presence. This way, when they see you on their screen, the image projected will be you looking at them, not you gazing down at your screen. This is perhaps the most difficult part of effectively communicating in the virtual environment. You want to create a connection through the lens. Practicing looking at the lens as you speak or listen means that when someone is looking at your image on their own screen it feels like you are looking at them and talking to them. If you want or need to look at your audience, step or sit back in Plane so that your eye focus can scan the screen without it feeling like you are disengaging your eye focus. On camera, sharing eye focus with the lens is very impactful.
An important part of maintaining the focus relationship in a virtual presentation is the verbal/visual connection. Whenever you are screen sharing your content, practice verbally directing your audience’s visual focus. You can simply say “Look on the upper right side of your screen”, or “Do you see that yellow dot on the bottom center of the screen?”. Once you begin to practice telling people where to focus their attention, you may also find that you are more engaged.
Your virtual presentation will benefit from preparing your Physical Composition, Vocal Production, and Breath Thought Connection in the same manner that you would if you were presenting in-person.
It is critical that you take the time to think about outcomes and intentions.