Follow the TEA method to set yourself up for success.
When we met new people in person, we’d connect through things like a handshake, a smile, and enthusiastic energy. When video calls became the norm, everything that once felt natural in person had to be translated to the virtual world and it felt, well, unnatural.
For some, there wasn’t even time to think about how we would establish connections with others because we first had to figure out how to connect with our video conferencing platform of choice.
After almost two years, we’re plenty familiar with the basics, leaving us time to focus on improving our video presence and video communications.
Before any call, I turn to what I call the “TEA” method — Tech, Energy, and Aesthetics. It’s what you’ll need to equip yourself for what would normally be a first meeting over coffee (or in this case, a virtual “tea”).
Follow the tips below to ensure you’re set up to make a memorable, professional first impression on camera with colleagues, prospects, and customers.
The tech aspect of virtual calls can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. Ensure you’re equipped with a few key pieces of hardware and software and then you can forget about the rest.
- Microphone — People can forgive bad video quality, but when they listen to someone whose sound cuts in and out or who doesn’t sound clear, you can bet the other side is quickly going to tune out. Blue Yeti is the recommended standard, but I purchased a similar brand for a much cheaper price on Amazon, and I’ve never had any issues. PRO TIP: Invest in a subscription to krisp, which does an amazing job of blocking out any sound that’s not your voice. As to be expected, it seems like any time I’m on an important call or doing a virtual keynote, loud sounds appear all around me. With krisp, that’s no longer a concern. Construction? Gone. Air purifier? Gone. A loud sneeze from someone in the other room? Also gone.
- External camera — An external camera is going to make you look better than any camera that’s built into your computer. I personally went with the Logitech Brio. Aim to get a camera that has 4K capabilities. PRO TIP: Connect your camera to Prezi Video to create a more engaging meeting experience by bringing your content into your video feed.
- Clicker (optional) — I use the Logitech Clicker for my presentations for a more professional look and feel. It’s also easier to use than a mouse or keyboard when I’m standing to present (more on that below).
The way you carry yourself on camera will still impact how others see you. Just because you’re on video doesn’t mean you can get away with slacking off; you still need to show up, even if the tactics are a bit different.
- “Can you hear me?” — Do not start off a call with these three words. Add, “Hi, can you see my screen?” to your list while you’re at it. You have as little as a few milliseconds and as much as a few seconds to make a good first impression.
Instead of starting off with a question of uncertainty or phrases we’re all too tired of hearing, trust that your setup is correct and start off with a confident intro: “Hi [name], great to see you today. Where are you calling in from?” is an easy icebreaker and a friendly way to start the conversation. If you want to step it up a notch and be even more memorable, break the mold and spike dopamine in the other person by moving past the typical “How are you’s.” Instead, ask unique questions like, “What are you most excited to be working on right now?” “What was the highlight of your weekend?” and “What’s your latest TV binge?”
- Smile — Before you get on the call, think of a memory that makes you smile. When you jump on that call, that energy combined with your smile will set the tone of the meeting off on a positive note.
- Eye contact — This will be one of the most important ways you establish trust with someone on a video call. One of the benefits of shaking hands was that it would release oxytocin, the feel-good connection hormone that also can decrease cortisol, our stress hormone. Lucky for us, eye contact can do the same thing, even on video. Avoid looking at the other person on the screen when you speak. Instead, look at your webcam (or right below it depending on its placement) to make the person on the other side feel like you’re looking at them. It may feel a bit strange at first, but it’s one technique worth getting used to.
- Ring lights or a softbox — Investing in a nice external webcam won’t do much if you don’t have good lighting. Invest in a few ring lights or a softbox if you have the space and need that extra burst of light. Even better, place your desk in front of a window so that the light hits your face (if it faces your back, you’ll become backlit). I have two ring lights and a softbox light surrounding my desk.
- Curate your background — If you want to come across well on camera, your background is going to be one of the first ways someone judges you. As a first step, I like to recommend making sure your background is clear of clutter and distracting items. As a second step, you should go above and beyond and curate your background. Add plants, a few photos, or other elements you think add a bit of personality to your space while staying professional. Don’t have a dedicated workspace in your home? No problem. Use a room divider or hang a curtain behind you.
Learning how to stand out on video takes a little bit of work, but it’s work that’s worth it. Once you get the basics down, you’ll impress your audience in no time.
Image and Video Credit: Provided by the author; Thank you!