I did a webcast with IVT today (yesterday by the time you read this). In the presentation, I gave tips for improving your appearance and professional image in public business webcasts. We had a good turnout and lots of interesting and interested questions from the audience. I thought I would try to list a few brief lessons from my own experience.
1) People loved the prerecorded segment, shot in a nice setting with a professional camera, sound, lighting, and cameraman. One person wrote “This is the best webcast I have ever seen!” Then I switched over to my computer webcam for a live Q&A session. Comments included: “Why is the sound so bad?” “Why did the quality go down so much?” “Are you purposely trying to make the webcam section look bad?”
I readily and cheerfully admit that my work desk and office are terrible for video. I have poor lighting and an awful setting. But I can’t move it for a video webcast. I need to be near my hardwired connection (never try to do video over wireless) and my telephone (to talk to my webcast production team). I tried to set up ambient lighting and did a pretty good job of making sure I was clearly visible without severe glare or shadows. But the contrast between the professional setup and my desk was night and day. My sound was not the greatest either. I started with a lavaliere microphone hooked into my computer microphone port. But my producer told me that the sound was out of synch with my webcam image. So I had to switch back to the webcam’s internal shotgun microphone. That is never a recipe for high quality audio, especially when compared to the professional setup the audience had just seen. Lesson? You get what you pay for. If you want a professional appearance on camera, you need the specialized equipment and expertise that has been developed for that purpose. Get thee to a studio or have a crew come to your location with the right equipment.
2) We shot the prerecorded segment twice – once in long shot and once in closeup. IVT did a nice job editing between the two for the playback. My cameraman was great about keeping me framed, in focus, and with good sound. But he didn’t tell me that in the second take, my hair was out of place. It wasn’t a big deal, but it affected the illusion of zooming back and forth between shots as if I were talking in one unbroken recitation. Lesson? Never trust a cameraman to check your personal appearance details. That’s not their job, their training, or their interest. Your best bet is to have someone assisting you to check all appearance items. If you can’t do that, keep a mirror at your shooting position so you can check everything immediately before a take.
3) I tried out a new piece of software for this production. Called Script-Q, it is a teleprompter program that lets you scroll your script on a computer screen. I could control the speed and direction of the scrolling, change the font size, etc. I just used a wireless mouse held below the camera frame. I set up my laptop screen immediately below the camera lens and nobody could tell I was reading. It worked like a charm. The software gets my recommendation. But if you are going to use a teleprompter script, practice, practice, practice! You want to sound like you are talking, not reading. That means you need to go through the entire speech, out loud. Probably three times. That’s boring. But it lets you learn what is coming next. Then you have to practice using the teleprompter. Reading scrolling text correctly is tricky. You want to keep your eyes focused in one spot and let the text flow into that narrow vision field. It’s hard to fight the urge to scan the entire screen and let your eyes flow down to the bottom of the page.
4) We did two complete runthrough rehearsals before the live webcast. And we needed them. It gave us a chance to check all the technical inputs and connections, practice using the webcasting software and template, rehearse handoffs between the host and the guest speaker, etc. Then there were the usual glitches and unexplained behaviors to iron out. The live webcast went smoothly and professionally. It wouldn’t have if we had “winged it” and just assumed everything would come together.
IVT recorded the session and is working on post-production now. It should be posted soon on their website: www.ivtweb.com