Now we’re on day 27915 of lockdown, we’re into our stride. We feel we’ll never need to go back to the office; online conferencing is where it’s at.

The problem is that the more used we get to something, the more casual we tend to get. I’m noticing standards are slipping! Some of us are starting to get so informal, we aren’t presenting ourselves (or our ideas) in the best, most inspiring way we can.

So, let’s have a little top-up session on video rules!

  • GET DRESSED! If you have a big meeting or presentation you’re nervous about, give yourself a fighting chance by feeling good about your appearance. Dress as though you’re meeting in person. When we feel that we’ve made an effort, we naturally walk taller and display a more confident side of ourselves.
  • Reassess your set up. Remember: raise your camera to eye level so you’re looking directly down the camera, at your audience.
  • How’s your mic situation? If you’re in this for the long haul, it’s worth getting a microphone rather than relying on your computer audio to pick your voice up. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, expensive piece of kit – even the one on the earphones you got with your iPhone will work – it just helps with clarity and sound quality.
  • Raising your camera also helps with point one: you’ll look better! You know when you open the camera on your phone and have inadvertently switched it to selfie mode? That horror you feel is because you’re filming from below, which is never a good look. Straight-on is much more flattering, so pop some books under your laptop to bring the camera up to eye level.
  • Lighting can be your friend in this regard, too. When we started lockdown in March, the sun will have been hitting you through a different window or from a different angle. Check that you have some natural light on your face, boosted by some artificial lights if need be. Never sit with the light coming from behind you.
  • STAND UP. If you were presenting in person, you would almost certainly be standing. Standing gives you energy and enables you to….BREEEEEEATHE. Are you breathing down into your belly, or are you shoulder breathing? You should be taking slow, deep breaths to relax you (and, in turn, putting your audience at ease too).
  • Be prepared. A few people have said to me that they haven’t performed at their best because, when the camera went on, they realised that they weren’t as well-practised as they would have been in a face to face scenario. You need to have a clear, planned presentation, just as you would in “real” life.
  • Imagine your friends are on the other side of your camera. They enjoy hearing you talk; they want to hear what you’ve got to say. This will help you feel less nervous, and will put a friendly smile on your face to get rid of that serious grimace we often display when we’re tense.
  • Check your voice. Record yourself for a minute or two and listen back. Is it energised? Natural? How’s the inflection? Are you making statements, or asking questions – you need to avoid the current trend for going up at the end of your sentences if you want to sound authoritative. Also, make sure you are enunciating clearly: video calls are a nightmare for people with a tendency to mumble.
  • Learn how to leave! Three months in, I’m still amused by the end-of-call ritual many of us go through when trying to exit the group. Practice: smile, relax your face, eyes bright, “Please email me with any questions you may have, have a good day, goodbye!” and click LEAVE!

The more of my clients I talk to, the more I’m convinced that we will go back to the office in some capacity, despite our insistence at the beginning of all this that office culture was dead. The 9-5 commuter-driven working life may have changed, but I think we still value the human interaction we are missing and will strive to get back to face-to-face meetings. In the meantime, we must make the best of our opportunities to meet virtually. But if we have to do it this way, please, let’s do it well!

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