Cisco created a cute little marketing piece designed to build awareness of video conferencing. It focuses on "5 video conferencing characters everyone knows."
It is fine as a conversation starter, but is strangely lacking in delivering helpful tips or even having a consistent viewpoint. For instance, character type 2 is described as "The Interloper" who lets animals and kids make inappropriate noises, jump on their laps, or ask a question. That sounds bad. Then in italics they say "Maybe a different species or age group can give your meeting some new energy." So is it good?
"The Hoarder" is described as having too many jumbled objects behind them, requiring use of a backdrop or close-up to hide the mess. Then the italics say "Though some may find it embarrassing, it allows you to get to know people on a more personal level."
And "The Cruncher" snacks or eats a meal during the conversation. In italics Cisco says "If you're comfortable taking bites between comments, go for it."
It's possible the italic comments are sarcastically humorous. I really can't tell. But honestly, it doesn't matter. My viewpoint is that a private videoconference between two consenting adults is like sex. Whatever both parties are comfortable with is fine and it's nobody else's business how they interact with each other.
But web conferencing companies keep confusing video conferencing with video presentation… And that can get you in a world of trouble.
A presentation is designed to accomplish an objective. To inspire, educate, persuade, or drive audience members to action. The presentation is often the audience's first contact or impression of the speaker and the business.
Training programs have existed for decades in how to use body language, gestures, facial expressions, and other techniques for being effective in person as a speaker in front of an audience. But translating those techniques to video (especially close-up webcam video) is tricky. The camera focuses a viewer's eye more closely on small details that can be overlooked in a physical setting. And things that feel natural to the presenter or look natural to an audience in a full-frame stage context can look wrong in a tightly framed camera shot. TV professionals learn specialized techniques for appearing in close framing, but they are not commonly taught to the general business population.
If you are giving a public presentation while using video, you can't be as cavalier about your video environment. Clothing, lighting, head and eye movement, facial expressions, gestures, and background all affect attendee impressions of you and your business.
If you are not completely comfortable with the added setup and performance aspects of presenting a good video image, you are probably best off avoiding it. Remember, just because the technology allows a capability doesn't mean you have to use it. If you are willing to put in the time and effort to use video effectively, that's great. It can be a wonderful tool when used correctly.
If you want some very fast "quick tips" for appearing on webcam, my old guest post on the Mr. Media Training blog is still valid. It's a very fast checklist of some of the most important items to control. You can find it by clicking this title: "13 Ways To Improve Your Next Video Or Web Conference"
Oh, getting back to that Cisco piece… If you are a Cruncher, stop it. Don't eat on camera. Ever. Close-ups of chewing are never flattering.