If you're among the many organizations who are transforming your live events to virtual, you understand the importance of identifying opportunities to maintain a smooth, dynamic, emotional, and impactful user experience for your attendees and partners. In order to ease the transition, the 360 Live Media creative team has created a series of posts laying out advice and best practices for virtual event speakers to deliver the best experience for your virtual conference.
Consider your virtual event background
Location, location, location. It’s a huge part of business, real estate, and, as it turns out, videography. When filming interviews, location is one of the primary considerations. But now, instead of having a video team, studios, and bright modern offices to work with, many meeting planners are having to regularly coach their speakers through filming themselves from their homes. And frankly, not everyone has a room that looks like it belongs in Better Homes & Gardens. But photographers and videographers are used to working in less than ideal settings. Here are a couple tips, tricks, and considerations related to your virtual speakers' backgrounds to help ensure that they are putting their best foot forward.
The background should be less illuminated than the subject
Light objects draw our attention. Probably because we can see them better. If the speaker were on stage and everything around them was illuminated and they were in shadow, that would be weird. The same is true for a video presentation. By making sure the speaker is well illuminated, you ensure that they are the hero of the video, not their background.
Consider the camera angle.
No one wants to see your speaker’s ceiling. Unless your speaker is unusually tall, this is not the natural way they would have a conversation. The speaker should put their camera at eye level. This will make the background more similar to that of a face-to-face conversation, and make the speaker more relatable to the audience.
Show a moderately sized receding space—in other words, an open room.
This gives your video depth and helps the speaker stand out from the background. Plus, setting up in an open room makes the presenter feel more open and approachable—not like they have their back up against a wall.
Avoid setting up against a blank wall.
Most people don’t look good in mugshots, and standing next to a blank wall definitely gives off that felon vibe—especially in those long tedious presentations that inevitably cause a deadpan expression. Maybe you’re thinking, “my speaker just has a boring face!” Sure, I get that! It’s tough to always look interested. But do your speaker’s face a favor and don’t pair an uninterested expression with an uninteresting backdrop.
If setting up your speaker near a wall is your only option, having them hang some photography or artwork on the wall can make your background much more interesting and inviting.
Don’t use a bookshelf as a background by default.
Your speakers are smart; we get it. A bookshelf is a good safe option, but it’s also kind of boring and not the right background for everyone. A bookshelf background is erudite, traditional, sophisticated. Is that the look you’re going for? If so, great. But it’s probably worth considering if there is a different backdrop that would be more expressive and less stiff and traditional.
Show some personality. Consider a dash of vulnerability
As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” A talking two-dimensional head on a screen doesn’t care about anything. Use your speakers’ backgrounds as a tool to humanize them and give them dimensionality for the benefit of their viewers. The more human your speakers are, the more relatable they are, and the more impactful and memorable they’re going to be. So help your speakers lighten up and express themselves a little.
What are the speaker’s hobbies? Is there a way to incorporate some objects associated with their personal interests into your background? They should consider their background as a tool that humanizes them.
Invest in a better camera.
A laptop’s built-in webcam is generally pretty awful, but they’re the only option, right? Wrong. By purchasing a better webcam, using an iPhone as a webcam, or setting up a DSLR camera as a webcam, a speaker can significantly improve their image quality, decrease unflattering image distortion, minimize background distractions by narrowing the depth of field, and increase dynamic range (we’ll talk more about dynamic range in a future post). This solution isn’t for everyone, but if their job requires regularly presenting on camera, it might be worth looking into.
How to successfully use a virtual background
I generally wouldn’t recommend using virtual backgrounds. They don’t always work perfectly, and it’s not a great look when half a presenters’ face suddenly vanishes into the background. If, however, a conference is mandating a virtual background, I’d recommend trying to match the color and brightness of the speaker’s setting with the virtual wallpaper as much as possible. This is a photo manipulation technique. The more similar the real and virtual backgrounds, the more it will look like the speaker belongs in the virtual scene.
Stay tuned next week for tips on lighting.