Can public speaking be fun? How can you conquer public speaking fear? Should you use a green screen when presenting on Zoom? What role does storytelling play in public speaking? What are common mistakes to avoid? These and other questions are answered in the lively podcast interview I did with Book Marketing Mentors recently.
Book Marketing Mentors is a first-rate podcast and I am very thankful that Susan Friedman, CSP, asked me to join as this week’s guest expert. I’ve been a huge fan of Susan and her podcast since it began about four years ago. I always get a few actionable tips off of every episode. So, this time, I was was the one giving tips.
Lights, camera, action! If you’re going to present frequently in a virtual world, you need to look and sound your best to be an engaging speaker. That may require an equipment upgrade to get the right look and sound.
When the COVID-19 virus hit and the lockdowns began, like most everyone, I had to pivot quickly. I had been a public speaking coach on the move. With my rolling computer bag and MacBook Pro laptop, I went from client to client, from Starbucks to Starbucks. When my home office suddenly became my sole place of business, I tried several “do it yourself” solutions to look and sound professional. I experimented with lighting, green screens, and the built-in equipment, but I just couldn’t get the quality I needed to be an effective presenter.
Eventually, I decided to make the investment to upgrade my equipment. I wanted high-quality but budget-friendly equipment. And once I made the switch, it became one of those decisions where I thought, “Why didn’t I do this before?”
The following are the equipment choices I made for a total of $347. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no one is compensating me in any way for these endorsements.
> Lighting: After consulting with my professional photographer friend, Patrick Rapps, I chose the Neewer Ring Light. It has a dimmer control that adjusts from 1% to 100% and it puts off very little heat. It does not come with a stand, but as a speaker and musician, I had an extra mic stand. It is now mounted so that it is shining head-on at me. My Neewer also has come in handy for casual family photos elsewhere in the house. Cost: $66.
> Camera: The built-in FaceTime HD camera on my iMac just wasn’t cutting it. I chose the highly recommended C922x Pro Stream Webcam, a full 1080p HR camera. It clips on top of my iMac and also can be mounted in a wide variety of places. It has built-in light correction and a 5-foot cable, so it’s versatile. It also has built-in microphones that are better than the iMac built-in microphones, but not as good as my next choice. Cost: $151.
> Microphone: The webcam mic was better than the iMac built-in, but not nearly as good as my Blue Yeti. You can hear the difference between the built-in mic and the Blue Yeti. The Blue Yeti has settings for cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, and stereo. That makes it good for Zoom meetings, podcasts, and even recording my guitar for those random “public speaking blues” songs I post on my Instagram occasionally. The Blue Yeti also has a volume control, a mute button, and zero-latency headphone output. Cost: $130.
So, those are the equipment choices I made. I encourage you to shop around and discover what works best for you. And when you find the right fit, you’ll be well on your way to being a virtual business presenter that can turn heads, win hearts, and get results.
The great Zoom meeting debate is on – green screen vs. real background. What say you? Which do you prefer? If you’re not sure, here are some things to consider that will lead you to the answer that’s best suited for your presentation.
Green Screen Do’s and Don’ts
My $7 “green screen”
Green screens can provide a layer of privacy if you don’t have an attractive home office and they can be professional looking when done correctly. But if you want to look professional, ditch the unrealistic and distracting views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the fun but silly palm trees blowing in the wind. Instead, go with a simple background, such as a solid color with your company logo or an uncluttered photo.
I know some folks who painted an entire wall green or purchased green screen backdrops. These solutions work well and are a good choices if you’re using them enough to warrant the time and expense. However, there are less expensive options. I set up a simple green screen in my home office using an appropriately colored green blanket I bought at Walmart for $7. Then I created a solid-colored Zoom background with my company logo for meetings I was hosting and a solid colored non-logo background for meetings where I was a participant.
Although I was able to get my green screen to look good, I prefer my actual bookshelf background for most business situations.
Actual Background Do’s and Don’ts
Note empty space for head
A natural background allows you to show your audience a bit of your personality. And, of course, it’s also more authentic and less pretentious.
If you go with a real background, make sure it is framed correctly on your webcam, free from clutter, and lit properly. A well-placed book and a houseplant can add a nice touch to the ambiance of your presentation. However, make sure the area behind your head is empty so you don’t have knickknacks or plants appearing to grow out of your head.
In addition to my bookshelf, I also had a large foam board logo printed at OfficeMax and hung it on a blank wall for presentations that I deliver from a standing position. This is what I use to record my online courses and marketing videos.
The Bottom Line on Zoom Backgrounds
As Zoom meetings continue to be the way we do business meetings, conferences and even networking events, we’ll continue to weigh the pros and cons of virtual backgrounds and the actual backgrounds. Whichever option you choose, make sure your background isn’t distracting. As always, you are the star of your presentation, not your background or technology.
The bottom line is this: Choose the background option that will best connect with your audience. A virtual conference audience with hundreds of participants may respond best to a presenter that stands out with a professional-looking green screen background. However, a 1-on-1 coaching client or a small group may engage more with a presenter that has a more personal background.
As with all effective communication strategies, let the audience guide you to success.