Lights, Camera, Action! VRI Tips for a Better Webcam Presence

First impressions are everything. We have heard this repeatedly. As cliché as it sounds, it is true. We immediately begin to form our opinions by what we see and hear. This is of great importance for individuals who work from home. So, while I wrote this with our Video Remote Interpreting colleagues in mind, this is very relevant for anyone who works from home.

With many of us working remotely, we must take control of our surroundings, or at least as much as we can (with the pandemic, sharing space is a challenge, so do what you can). Remember, our video camera not only picks up your face, but it also shows your environment, and this provides viewers with more than you may have bargained for. 

Be mindful and ensure your set-up is ready prior to answering incoming video calls so you don’t scramble last minute while your audience has visual. Many VRI platforms allow you to look at a preview of what is in camera view.

Here is a list of tips to improve your video remote presence.

Equipment. Your camera, headphones, microphone, and lighting are crucial. If possible, invest in external equipment. This equipment will dramatically improve your web presence and provide a clear and clean video and audio experience. I would also recommend a background, especially if you are a Video Remote Interpreter. This is one way you can continually differentiate yourself as a professional interpreter. 

Check out “The best gear… in 2021 for :Webcams, Lights, Mics…” and more

Set Up. Adjust the camera to your eye level and ensure your head and shoulders show on the frame. Think of your passport picture. You'd be surprised at how many times, during testing and QA, interpreters answered, and all I could see was their nose, or eyes and forehead. They quickly readjusted, but the client experience is much better if you are properly framed from the get-go.

For your headphones and microphone, you may use a headset which can provide you with incoming and outbound audio, or you can choose to separate your outbound microphone feed. I personally prefer to use a noise cancelling headset. These generally filter out any background noise. Sometimes individuals may opt for other choices due to aesthetics, or if they are unable to control their surrounding noise.

Finally, test the lighting in your set-up. Video is supposed to provide us with an opportunity to engage with each other remotely, and lighting can make or break the meeting. After all, you could have easily just engaged in a phone call, if you didn’t need the video, right?

Be mindful of how the lighting in your space affects your video calls. If you have your back against a window the result may be a black silhouette, which reminds me of those black shadows shots which protect the identity of the person during TV interviews, not the look you are going for. Instead reposition your webcam, to take advantage of the window so you light your face with natural light. In case that is not an option, opt for artificial lighting by using a light ring or other lighting source. This will remove any hard or undesired shadows across your face. 

Ready to take calls. Maintaining visual contact is key here. Try to set up your camera and your webcam window as close as possible to create the effect of natural eye contact. It is difficult but try to look directly into the camera as you converse and avoid looking at your own video feed. These minor eye shifts are noticeable, and the audience can tell when you are distracted, or it may seem you are, based on where your gaze wonders. Be mindful of any environment sounds that can interfere with the communication. Especially if you are working as an interpreter, these distractions can really hurt the interpreting session. Try to keep pets away, work with your household to keep any noise to a minimum. I think with the pandemic many have become more understanding, but a quiet background is still of great importance now and can help deliver a great interpreting experience. And don’t forget to smile!

I hope that this information has been helpful in making you more aware of your web presence and provided you with information to control and get the most of your home office. Please feel free to share your favorite tools for making the most of web conferencing.