Haydn Rushworth is a screenwriter, director, filmmaker, and social campaigner who currently works in political messaging at the National Assembly for Wales in the UK. A natural-born analyst and student of human behavior, he’s spent the bulk of his life quietly studying the secrets of national peace, prosperity and happiness and recently launched a YouTube channel, Haydn’s BIG Ideas to serve as an outlet for the huge number of big ideas that have resulted from years of research.
In this conversation, Haydn talks about the use of video for communication.
Geetesh: The way we do business or communicate with others is changing so much. Everything seems to be moving from meeting in person to meeting online. So how can we make sure that we look our best while we are on video, but also inspire others and build trust?
Haydn: Here are some ideas.
1. Look into the camera and not at your own picture, especially when you’re speaking.
The importance of direct eye contact with your audience should be a given, but most people end up watching their own picture on the screen, or even the picture of the other person, but you lose that really bonding eye contact when you do. If it helps, print out a photo of somebody’s face, cut a little hole for the webcam right between the eyes, and then tape the photo to your laptop screen (with the webcam peeking through the hole) just to really remind you where to look.
2. Tidy the background.
When you go on a date, you tidy yourself up to look like you’re making an effort, right? This tells the other person that they’re important enough to us that we wanted to look impressive. Do the same with your on-camera image. Tidy the background so that it’s not a distraction or find a blank wall or, if necessary, neatly hang a clean, ironed sheet, blanket or curtain behind you.
3. This should go without saying, but dress to impress.
If I have to explain why then your skills in presenting probably need to go back to training from square one… “How to communicate with humans”.
Clean audio is so important. Find a quiet place and make it as quiet a you can by closing windows and doors, and then ideally use a microphone. The one on your smartphone headphones will probably do a great job.
5. Bonus audio tip.
If you want to make your headphone microphone sound wayyyy more professional than it really is, hang towels out of sight on either side of you whilst you’re on camera and it will cut down lots of room echo. The more soft surfaces there are in your room, the more it will cut down the kind of echo that sounds amateur.
6. Bonus audio tip #2
If you’re ever recording audio only on your smartphone, stick your head, shoulders, and phone inside a wardrobe full of clothes (right between the clothes) and you’ll sound like you’re in a bona fide, dedicated podcast studio.
Fill the middle third of the frame with your head and upper body. Not too close, and not too far away.
8. Elevate your laptop/webcam to eye level so that you’re looking straight at the camera rather than down.
When we look downwards towards a lens, two things happen: we get a double chin (not so good) and we also look more domineering. This is great if you’re filming a movie and want your character to look strong and powerful, but if you’re wanting to connect with your audience, you don’t want to come across subliminally as arrogant and condescending.
9. Lighting Tip #1
Don’t have a window behind you or you’ll end up just being a silhouette. It’s better to have the window facing you to light your face.
10. Lighting Tip #2 – LED Lights.
LED Lights. To light your face evenly and clean, first, darken the room with some kind of blackout curtains, then have two lights facing you diagonally on each side of your face at roughly 45 degrees. There’s a host of budget video lights on Amazon and eBay, so find one that fits your budget and have fun. Ideally, find lights that can be powered by mains as well as battery. Battery is incredibly convenient, but you don’t want the batteries to run out in the middle of a meeting/video shoot. I’ve discovered that LED light strips meant for domestic use in wardrobes, stairways, under-counters, etc, are really good for lighting webcam videos as you really don’t need them to be incredibly powerful.
11. Lighting Tip #3 – PRO level tip.
If you really want to look impressive and you have a tidy background, then consider lighting the background as well but with soft, subtle mood lighting and accent lighting. There are loads of videos on YouTube about this, but as long as the background is still just a little darker than your face (background lighting shouldn’t be too bright or dominant), you can really use lighting to create/enhance a mood and image. If you want to take it to the next level, light and decorate using your own brand/corporate colors.
Geetesh: Can you share some ideas about how we can transition best between slides and webcam video, or make both vide streams coexist better together?
Haydn: Just two, important pieces of advice here.
First, since each person’s setup is different, learn your own software/hardware inside out. YouTube is great for tutorials, specifically using YOUR software and hardware, whatever it is. If a dedicated video doesn’t exist, then turn to the rest of the internet and read/experiment until you work it out… then make the YouTube video that you WISH somebody else had made about it so you can help others on their way.
Second, practice, practice, practice. Whatever your presentation setup is, practice your presentation in a one-to-one Zoom meeting with a friend until you’ve figured it out.
We’re all in a brave new world here, and remote working is likely to become a key skillset of success as we enter the dawn of a new era. This probably won’t be the last global pandemic, so the idea of remote working is going to grow and grow, and along with that, any tech that helps teams to work together whilst also being remote will also be the winners in the post-pandemic 20s. I actually made a video recently about a piece of software that nobody has developed yet that I believe will become the next Facebook when somebody does it right. It’s a cross between social media, business productivity software, and a video game. A virtual workspace where we go to work each day and spend our working time with our team wherever in the world they are. In the real world, we’d sit at our desk with another monitor next to us showing our avatar in the virtual office and we’d have the audio of the office conversations as a constant background so that we can both pick up on and contribute towards casual conversations with our team members. It’ll allow a feeling of social connection as long as the audio remains switched on. Anyway, that’s for another article.