Look Sharp On Your Video Chat



By Susan Tomai 

With Skype video, Google Hangouts and a dozen other video chat formats so commonplace these days, why can’t we make an effort to look better in these on-camera situations? Take a look at this clip from CNN this week:


The old up-the-nose, camera-pointed-at-the-ceiling shot strikes again.  On one side we have Chris Cuomo in the studio, looking great as he always does; on the other side Mark Cuban, presumably working from home and using his computer, and not looking so great.

Cuban commits several video chat sins: his computer is positioned below his eye level (thereby giving us the front-row view of his olfactory infrastructure and the ceiling), there’s harsh light coming in from the window, and he seems to have misplaced his hairbrush.  Maybe Mark Cuban doesn’t care – he’s richer than several small nations – but here’s how you can avoid this amateurish fate:

  • Elevate your laptop. Put it on a stack of books, papers, whatever – I use an antique humidor that’s the perfect height for me – just be sure you’re looking slightly up, rather than down.
  • Look at your background. We don’t want to see pictures of your cat. Also, don’t sit in front of an open window – backlight will put your face in shadow. Better options for backgrounds are an office wall with artwork, a plain wall with some color, a bookshelf, or better still: your logo on the wall.
  • No one looks good in direct overhead lighting.  Bring a lamp to the rescue and illuminate your face straight-on. Experiment with a colleague before you go live.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.
  • Comb your hair.
In the last two days I’ve had 5 Skype conversations and each of them was visually terrible on the other end. Don’t underserve your audience or undermine your messages by looking less than your best on camera.

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