The pandemic forced many professionals to conduct business on video — and Dr. Laura Sicola has advice that can make you look like a pro
COVID-19 took video meetings mainstream — but many people don’t have the skillset to shine in virtual conferences. For startup founders, the stakes are incredibly high. You’re pitching venture capitalists, closing client deals, or presenting to global audiences through video. Those who look professional and sound polished will have a significant head start.
“Video-based communication is the new normal. You’re now expected to do everything you were able to do in person with a screen in front of you — and you’re expected to do it as effectively, confidently, persuasively, and inspiringly as you do in real life,” said Dr. Laura Sicola, leadership communication and influence expert, speaker, and author of Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your Leadership Voice. “Even when we can go back to seeing each other in person, video is here to stay.”
During a recent LIFT Labs Female Founders and Funders event, Sicola e shared these practical tips for presenting your best self on video.
1) Focus on what others can see
In video meetings, you know exactly how you are presenting yourself to the world. If your camera is too high, for example, you may appear small, or like you’re hiding something. Too far away, and you’ll seem distant. Sicola recommends pointing the camera directly at your forehead. That makes it feel like you’re sitting across the table from the viewer.
2) Avoid the black hole
Staring into a small laptop camera lens (what Sciola calls the “black hole”) can make you appear stiff and uninviting. Staring at the people on your screen can give you an awkward head angle. So find an image you like and place it directly behind your camera. Maybe it’s a picture of your family, friends, or pets.
“Anybody who makes you smile or takes you to a happy place,” she said. “Talk to them.”
3) Test tech in advance
Presenting online could require tech tools you rarely use alone — like audience polls or breakout rooms. Make sure you test the tech before using it. That dress rehearsal will pay big dividends.
4) Have a behind-the-scenes helper if possible
If you’re presenting to a larger audience, consider having someone help you run your presentation. They can mute people who forget to mute themselves, run the breakout sessions, or handle unsuspecting issues.
“If they’re doing all the tech, monitoring the chatbox, troubleshooting, and tech support — then all you need to do is deliver your content and be your best.”