I think you’ll all agree that the quick move into remote working when the pandemic took hold last year took a lot of us by surprise. It was a struggle for many to get the appropriate bandwidth for home working, let alone kitting ourselves out with the right equipment to not only make working from home a vaguely comfortable experience but also to ensure that we could operate at our best.
Fast forward a year, and virtual meetings are now old hat for most of us, and whether it’s Zoom, Teams or Skype that we’re using to get together online, we are now all quite adept at logging in, getting our videos and sound switched on and making sure our background isn’t a tropical beach, or that we’re not actually a cat (oh, perhaps not all of us then!).
I still think however that when it comes to those bigger meetings and presentations where we want to ‘command the stage’, operate with a level of gravitas and have maximum impact, we are still not always set up to do this. It takes no effort to take the easy - and comfortable – option and sit glued to our chair whilst we talk - and in some instances not even have our camera turned on. We might not have considered the lighting in the room, the angle of the camera or which presenting position we are most comfortable in. Personally, I don’t think this sets us up for success, or enables us to get the best out of the audience that we are presenting to.
Investing in equipment might sound daunting and expensive, but there are a few key, relatively low cost items that can really help you operate productively, feel confident in doing so, and really help lift the energy levels and interaction in the virtual room.
I’m going to run through some of the most useful items below – there’s no pressure to get any of them, let alone all of them, but when making your choices consider:
- your existing work space and it’s pros and cons
- the nature of the majority of the meetings and presentations that you attend and the impact and contribution you have now and want to have going forward
- from a really personal perspective, what will help you physically and mentally feel that you are setting yourself for optimum comfort and productivity
- your budget and where you want to focus your efforts
I’ve included one example for each item of equipment just to give you an idea, but it’s worth taking a few minutes to do a little bit of research to ensure that what you are buying fits your needs.
These are really useful to enable you to operate your laptop at eye level. Not only does this help you minimise hunched up shoulders and a stiff neck, but sitting tall enables you to breath more deeply and feel more confident. They are inexpensive, and offer a much more ergonomic solution to desk working.
Whilst most laptops have a camera built in, screens used with a PC don’t, and an independent webcam often provides a better image and functionality, including being able to move it around to suit the situation you are in. A webcam can be fixed to the top of your laptop, enabling better eye level connection with your audience, and they are usually quite adaptable pieces of kit that can flex and adapt depending on the nature of your call.
Getting the lighting right in your room is really important. Too dark and everything looks ghostly and sinister! Too bright and everything glows, with reflections being distracting and making things hard to see. A ring light positioned behind your camera/laptop provides a subtle light to your face creating a clear picture and ensuring that you can see and be seen – body language makes up approximately 55% of our how our message communication is interpreted, so it’s important that people can see you clearly.
Standing desks are becoming increasing popular for their perceived health benefits, but they are also very useful for positioning your camera at eye line if you want to stand and present – it saves the precarious balancing of your laptop on a big pile of books! Standing up to present not only allows you to own the space and elevate your level of impact, but it can also help you feel more confident and in control. Most standing desks are height adjustable so you can also use them for sitting down and some, like the example below, are pretty stream-lined.
There are lots of options available for adjustable desks, with a broad range of price tags too. They are really great for quick and easy switching between a sitting desk and standing desk. You might not want to stand up all the time, but being able to have the flexibility to alternate between standing up and sitting down is really useful. They are also very handy for being able to quickly set your desk up for standing up to present or host meetings – preparation time is minimal and pretty hassle-free.
Not only can you pretend that you’re a DJ in a recording booth when you’ve got one of these on your desk, but they do really improve sound quality – and sound reach. A lot of laptop microphones can be quite one dimensional in their reach so unless you are sitting right in front of them, they don’t pick up the sound. An independent microphone will pick up sound from further away and also ensure your audience can hear you clearly and at the right volume.
This is the most expensive additional item so not top of the priority list for everyone. However, if you do a lot of virtual presentations – and presentations that use slides – then this additional screen can become invaluable as it allows you to use Presenter View when presenting with PowerPoint Slides on video calls. That way your audience get to enjoy the slide show but you will also be able to see both your powerpoint notes and the upcoming slide. This makes presenting much slicker, and gets rid of the need for printed out notes and the distracting shuffling of paper. Personally, I find this set up provides a big boost to my confidence levels.
This article was written by Natalie Forkin, Love Public Speaking