Today's guest post is from David Maldow, Founder & CEO of Let's Do Video. He has been covering the visual collaboration industry, and related technologies, for over a decade. His background includes 5 years at Wainhouse Research, where he managed the Video Test Lab and evaluated many of the leading solutions at the time.
When the pandemic hit, video was finally put to the ultimate test, and it scored well by all measures. Video meetings again and again demonstrated the reliability, consistency, quality, and easy of use needed to support moving an entire workforce to video. While we are now returning to the office in some form or another, we will remain a video culture, with hybrid being the new norm.
One thing that many of us have learned over the last year is that it matters how we present ourselves on video. When the pandemic first hit, we had a lot of people connecting on their phones, sharing the “up the nose” view, or extreme close ups, otherwise unflattering angles, and even messy bedrooms. This is understandable as we had much bigger concerns than looking good, we just wanted to connect to our teams to figure out to keep working together.
It didn’t take long before we noticed how certain people stood out in video meetings. The few of us who framed ourselves properly in the screen, had decent lighting, and cleaned up our backgrounds, just simply looked great. We looked like newscasters. More importantly, human nature being what it is, we could get our message across more effectively. It can be hard to take a pair of zoomed in nostrils seriously. People are more likely to get your message when you look like you should be on TV.
At this point, a lot of people are getting the basics right. You no longer stand out just by having decent lighting and the rest. Now you need to take it to the next level if you really want to get your message across and be remembered. One way is by adding a little production value to your video setup. Third party (and often free) software can be used to add elements (such as custom lower title bars, virtual backgrounds, popup graphics, etc) to your video feed.
Software offerings such as OBS, XSplit, ManyCam, YouCam Bandicam Wirecast, and others allow you to create “scenes” including your webcam image, and just about any kinds of graphics, images, videos, and effects that you can imagine. The image above is a screenshot of my “Office” scene in OBS. The software then pushes this “scene” to your video conferencing service. Whatever you create in your streaming software is what people in your meeting will see.
While many video services have added their own support for title bars, virtual backgrounds, and some other features, these third-party offerings allow you complete customizability. You can not only put yourself in a library (or wherever) but zoom it in to exactly where you want it, as you can see in the two screenshots above.
You can really get creative and have dozens of fun popups and graphics flying across the screen at any moment, or put yourself in ridiculous places, but for most business meetings you want to keep things subtle. Even so, these techniques can be used to greatly enhance your everyday meetings. Something as simple as making your website, or presentation, as your background, while moving yourself to one side or the other (as I have in the screenshot above), is far more effective, immersive, and engaging than a typical screenshare.
Also, the ability to pre-create multiple scenes allows you have a different presence and impact depending on what type of meeting you are attending. You could have a scene with your scrum board behind you for when you meet with your development team, and another scene with a simple office background for when you are meeting with clients, and another scene with a fancy boardroom for when you meet with partners.
We’ve learned over the last year how effective video can be, and we’ve also learned that we can be more effective on video when we stand out (in a good way). By using video production software, you can really brand your virtual presence and literally define how people see you. Be sure not to overdo it and have the video effects distract from your message but be sure to have fun with it!