These last few months have been challenging in more ways than I could ever imagine. My outdoor work has dried up, but speaking goes on – virtually. COVID-19 may be preventing us from meeting, but not from speaking. I’ve covered subjects from Science to Space, Jungles to Mountains, Resilience to Mental health and even the 1924 Mt. Everest Expedition.
Speaking to a computer screen is nothing like the experience of being onstage, but the principles remain the same – professionalism, message, timing and quality. Just because you’re not there, doesn’t mean you can get away with not planning and execution an excellent session. On the contrary, you have to pick up your game.
Like outdoor kit, people collect reams of gear to work with, show off or just pile up, which in my view is going over the top. Virtual speaking is here to stay, so here’s a few thoughts about what has worked for me. The whole set up has cost less than £500.
Sound – You don’t need to buy an expensive microphone, but I do choose to use a separate mic to my desktop as it is directional and gives a crisper sound. I also use discrete earbuds as I don’t find headphones or headsets great online. Also note the room you’re in. Is there background noise (I love chiming clocks), a nearby road etc..? I have fitted simple sound matting into my office which works a treat.
Vision – For most work the webcam fitted your computer is fine, but remember to position it well. No-one want to look up your nose..! Get it at eye height and remember to look into the camera. Also look at your lighting. I have white hair which is awful if back lit. I use a simple free standing LED lamp which has a selection of colours and works really well.
Backdrop – Beware what’s behind you as you speak. There have been some real clangers lately..! Some speakers use blinds with can easily be pulled down at a moment’s notice. I use a map of the world with pin badges from all my travels. Don’t use virtual or tech driven backgrounds as they look awful. Simple and effective is so much better.
Do Not Disturb – A vital skill, particularly if you have a houseful or are speaking across the world in the middle of the night (a great advantage of virtual speaking). This is where a good mic and sound system help as your computer will pick up every sound. Just tell everyone in the house you’re online.
Dress – Don’t let it slip..! There have been plenty of videos where folk are in pyjamas, half dressed, hair everywhere etc. Imagine you were the client on the other end of the call you’d paid for. What would you think..?
So there you have it. Theres no need for five screens, ten mics or flashing lights in your office, just as there no need for a wardrobe full of waterproof coats, 20 pairs of boots and 10 rucksacks the you don’t use.
Be efficient, be online, be on time and keep it simple…