Photo credit: © Can Stock Photo / lucidwaters
Zoom presentations and other forms of video enabled conference calling can feel a bit intimidating when you’re the one on camera trying to present yourself professionally. So how do you make yourself camera ready? Today’s guest, media expert and former TV producer Jess Todtfeld offers timely Zoom presentation tips to help you put your best foot forward.
What You’ll Discover About Zoom Presentations (highlights & transcript):
- How to select a background that conveys a professional image. [3:14]
- Why the standard selfie camera angle is not ideal. [7:24]
- The 3 factors to focus on when doing a Zoom presentation. [10:03]
- The one factor that turns people off more than any other. [8:33]
- When it’s worth investing in additional lighting for a Zoom presentation. [13:22]
- When the magic of makeup makes sense for Zoom. [15:20]
- How body language can impact your Zoom presentation. [19:20]
- The biggest mistakes people make on video conferencing calls. [21:23]
- And much more.
Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:01] Zoom presentations, and other forms of video enabled conference calling, they can feel a bit intimidating when you’re the one on camera trying to present yourself professionally. So how do you make yourself camera ready? Today’s guest, media expert and former TV producer, Jess Todtfeld has some timely advice for how to crush it on Zoom.
Announcer: [00:00:26] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner giving you the inside scoop on how to we ignite more business success by doing the right things in the right way.
Hanna: [00:00:43] Welcome to Business Confidential Now. I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, and today’s guest is Jess Todtfeld. He’s one of the leading communications and media training authorities in the United States. With more than 15 years as a media trainer and consultant, Jess helps CEOs, business executives, spokespersons, public relations representatives, experts and authors become more confident, more in control, and to create the results from their speaking engagements and media appearances that they want. He brings with him 13 years of experience as a TV producer for NBC, ABC and Fox, having booked and produced more than 5000 segments. He also has some time in front of the camera, including as feature reporter and guest spots on national and international news programs. He’s been featured on just about every major network you can think of. And he’s trained clients in all size companies from large corporations like IBM, Land Rover and JPMorgan, to individuals in small companies and even non-governmental organizations like the United Nations and even governmental agencies such as the Social Security Administration. Now, at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter if you’re a solopreneur or chairman of the board of a huge conglomerate. We all want to make a good impression and get our message across effectively when we’re on camera. So let’s find out the best way to do that and crush it on Zoom. Welcome to Business Confidential Now, Jess.
Jess Todtfeld: [00:02:14] Thanks for having me, Hannah. Let’s do this.
Hanna: [00:02:18] Yeah, definitely. Let’s do this. You know, this Covid pandemic it’s brought video enabled conferencing applications like Zoom, WebEx and Skype into the mainstream like nothing ever before. I mean, they existed, but suddenly everybody’s working from home and they had no choice but to use technology to stay connected with the office. So, I mean, even TV programs, you know, Saturday Night Live and different late-night shows, they all started cobbling their shows together with video conferencing directly from their homes. So, you know, it’s so it’s definitely mainstream. It’s not going away regardless of what happens with the pandemic. So what I’d like to explore with you is how those of us who don’t have production crews to give us advice and help us out, what can we do to put our best foot forward? And let’s start with how do we select a location in our home for these zoom calls where people are seeing the background and trying to read the titles on your books?
Jess: [00:03:14] That is true. That’s true. And it’s funny you mention books because everybody figures maybe I should be up against the book or be sitting next to one plant. You know, what should we do? And we’ve seen some goofy attempts, meaning people to try something doesn’t work.
Jess: [00:03:32] And we’ve seen some where people sit on a blank in front of a blank wall. So what should we do? We should, in our best-case scenario, have some depth behind us. So and something that shows off something about our personality or what we do. So if you and you and you should be well, I know we’re going to talk about lighting, but you could have a special backdrop that you go on Amazon you painted and it’s a curtain and all that stuff. But my take is I’d rather see maybe a picture of your family, some items that represent something in your life and some depth. So that means some space between you and the background.
Jess: [00:04:16] And the opposite would be sitting up against a wall or a blank wall, which has no personality. And it’s kind of like you’re in a lineup and the wrong message.
Hanna: [00:04:28] Right. Profile sharing and then hold up a number. Yeah, exactly.
Jess: [00:04:32] Yeah. So it’s kind of interesting behind me, since I’m a media guy, I have an on-air side and I have a few other interesting things and some awards and newspaper clippings. So it goes along with who I am. And so that’s what people want to do. That’s a best-case scenario, especially better than a virtual background.
WHEN YOU HAVE LIMITED SPACE
Hanna: [00:04:56] But what about people that are in a small apartment? I mean, I’ve seen people take calls from their bedroom and it’s: “Really?”
Jess: [00:05:03] Yes, I talked to somebody today who had their bed in their background, and we’re not used to seeing somebody’s bed or, you know, their private space while we’re talking about business. So, yeah, I would even if we didn’t . . . if that person doesn’t have enough room. I would say to pick a little corner or a little nook and at least dress up that area as much as you can and add some personality. And, you know, I mentioned that the virtual backgrounds aren’t as great, but if you have no other choice, it’s certainly a choice. The reason why I don’t like it is sometimes they look a bit wonky or like you’re trying to convince people that your background is better than it really is. If I had big mahogany bookcase behind me and I’m really sitting in front of a blank wall, it feels not truthful. But if there is nothing else, then certainly it’s not the end of the world.
BEST CAMERA ANGLE
Hanna: [00:06:07] Gotcha. Now, let’s talk about camera angle, because a lot of people are using a laptop or a pad. And I mean, I’ve seen some crazy stuff. I mean, upside down. It’s almost like the dog got a hold of it for a second. What is the proper camera angle? Because you got this beady little lens staring at you. AND where should that be? And relationship to you.
Jess: [00:06:34] I always say not just at eye level, which is usually about perfect, but a hair, just a hair under eye level, so we don’t want it too low because then it’s looking up our nose. And we can practice with our computer or phone or iPad or any of these things. And we can see before a video chat what works and what doesn’t. So looking up our nose, I don’t know how that’s putting our best foot forward or our best nose forward.
Jess: [00:07:05] And then the opposite would be when there’s a webcam way up on top of the computer screen looking down at us, we look like we are kindergartener. So it makes us look small. So the whole idea of the camera being just a hair under eye level is that it looks normal, but it builds us up slightly.
Jess: [00:07:24] Now, just a quick little piece to add in. There are a lot of people listening right now who heard, you know, if I take pictures of myself, I should hold the camera or my phone went way up in the air, stretched my arm up. And it’s more flattering because our necks are stretched out and all that stuff. Maybe. Often for photos. Yes, sometimes, but not for video calls. It looks weird and looks strange.
Hanna: [00:07:51] Ok, so we’re not in selfie world. This is video world. We’re that’s it.
Jess: [00:07:55] That’s it. It’s video world. And really, we want it to be as real as possible, both on all the technical sides and aspects, as well as what we say, because people buy people. And, you know, once something seems a little bit off, then we’ve lost them.
Hanna: [00:08:14] Speaking of off. When it comes to sound quality, I mean, I even saw this on American Idol, somebody was doing their little spiel in a stairwell and it had this fishbowl effect. What should we be focusing on with sound quality?
Jess: [00:08:33] Well, it’s interesting because people are more apt to let go of the video not being perfect, if it was grainy or the lighting wasn’t just perfect, but the second the audio is off and we can’t even hear what it is that the other person saying, we start to tune out. So you’re right. A stairwell would be the worst choice for, I guess second to being underwater, for doing a Zoom or video broadcast. Right?
Hanna: [00:09:04] Right.
Jess: [00:09:04] And what we should really do is experiment with either the headphones that came with your phone or a little microphone. They sell all sorts of external microphones, whether it’s your computer or your iPad or your phone, that really can make it sound much warmer or richer. I’m staring across the room. I have a fancy microphone that looks like a Johnny Carson type microphone, you know, with a little angle. And I have a little clip on the lavalier microphone, which I often use. And right now I’m using air pods, which I put into my ear. And even before we started, I said to you, which . . . you know, does this sound good? Does it sound better this way or that way? And we go with what works best. So, yeah, audio sound quality is very, very important. If you lose that, you lose people altogether.
Hanna: [00:09:59] So you’d actually put that is number one.
Jess: [00:10:01] Number one or the top three.
Hanna: [00:10:03] All right. So audio, is in the top three. The video is in the top three. What’s . . .
Jess: [00:10:10] Yes.
Hanna: [00:10:11] . . . What’s the third one.
Jess: [00:10:13] I am glad that you asked because I have a perfect answer for that. And here it is. Let go. And here’s what I mean by that. So, you know what everybody expected to hear and they tuned in to this today is us talking about all the technical aspects in the video and maybe some of what you say. But the other piece is just the human piece, which is we’re not used to seeing ourselves in real time on a business call and seeing our faces that have aged. And we don’t see there are certain things that we don’t realize every day. You know, we’re looking up into our scalp or we see something else that we don’t necessarily like. So we need to let go of some of that. In fact, we need to embrace a lot of that because people are just fine interacting with other real people. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t look have to look like fashion models. Not everybody can look like you and me Hanna. They can’t always look like fashion models.
Hanna: [00:11:18] Aren’t you sweet.
Jess: [00:11:18] But I didn’t say I’m taking a poll. I’m just saying that they don’t have to. So the thing is, the more real we are, the better it is for other people. I think we get to like, know and trust a little bit faster. So let go.
[00:11:33] Let go. Yeah. Because the thing is on the screen, unlike when you’re in person, you’ve got a whole lot more body language to work with. And you’re just seeing this little itty-bitty snapshot, especially depending on how somebody close somebody is to the camera. You only see face. You only see their forehead. Is it up to the neck, shoulders, waist? I mean, how much are you seeing?
Jess: [00:11:58] Right?
Hanna: [00:11:59] It just really magnifies that more than if you were in person. So people focus on that more because that’s all they have to focus on. But let’s talk about how . . .
Jess: [00:12:10] We should experiment.
Hanna: [00:12:11] Yeah?
Jess: [00:12:11] We should very quickly experiment with the right camera angle. I talked to a woman today who’s a client of mine who’s she’s just wonderful, likable person. And her face was so close to the camera, there’s nothing wrong with her face. Just imagine, it’s like if I’m a close talker, as Seinfeld would say, and I’m like right up against your face. So I said to her, we were talking about this very topic. I said, let’s see what TV people would call a mid-shot, which would be right in the middle of your chest or torso. And she backed up slightly and then tilted the camera and all that. And then it felt like we were having regular conversation, like she was sitting across the table from me. So it was a much more flattering shot, no matter who she is or who the other person is, just because we don’t need people right up in our face.
Hanna: [00:13:04] Yeah, exactly. So I like your idea and suggestion of experimenting with the distance you are from the camera because it’s like this beady little eye staring at you. I mean, it’s so tiny.
Jess: [00:13:18] Right.
Hanna: [00:13:19] And the distance. The angle and the distance.
Hanna: [00:13:22] Let’s talk about lighting. Do we really need to invest in a ring light?
Jess: [00:13:30] You need to invest in some lighting. Yes, but the good news is, and I’m staring across the room at my computer with a little tiny laptop ring like that, I bought for $15 on Amazon. People can search for that. It’s enough most of the time, depending how I have the rest of the lights in the room, which are just standard lights as long as I have them on and going. So you need to experiment. If you really want it to be perfect, perfect. Then one of those ring lights will really make your eyes twinkle. And your little cheeks are glowing in the right way. But you can really experiment with other lights that you have around your home. And if you don’t like them, all of the video lights that people go on, say, Amazon and search for video light, you’re going to see lots of choices that will at least let people see your actual face as opposed to a gentleman I talked to a couple of days ago who looked like he was in the witness protection program because you couldn’t see him.
Hanna: [00:14:35] Really?
Jess: [00:14:37] His face was the darkest part.
Hanna: [00:14:39] Oh, really? Was it, was he back lit? Was he up against a window?
Jess: [00:14:43] You know, he had a virtual background that was white and then he had just very little lighting. So it just magnified that sense that we couldn’t see him. So he had to do exactly what we just said a short time. He went around his home. He found different lights that he could bring in. And I think he found a clip-on light that people usually put next to a desk and threw some light on him. But he’s going to order off the Internet some sort of video light that he can clip near his computer, at least give him a little bit of better lighting.
Hanna: [00:15:17] Ok, well, that’s a really helpful tip.
HAIR & MAKE-UP FACTORS
Hanna: [00:15:20] Now, you mentioned earlier that not everybody can look like a runway model or like they came off a cover of GQ magazine. But what about things like hair and makeup? I mean, do we just let it roll? I mean, how naturally you want people to be or should they be anymore? After all, we’re talking about people that are presenting.
Jess: [00:15:41] Right. Well, it’s funny, I when I worked in television as a producer first and then doing some on air stuff and occasionally they would wave me over as a producer and I’d be on and I’d be on against or up against some of the male hosts who had makeup on. And it was very obvious that I looked washed out or it looked like I was exhausted. Certainly as a male, you could see five o’clock shadow at seven o’clock in the morning. All those things. Women, whether they wear makeup or not, a little bit more clued in to the magic of makeup. So here’s what I would say.
Jess: [00:16:19] If you have something really important where you feel like maybe you’re giving a presentation on Zoom, or any of the other choices that are out there, you may want to put it on. I teach this for people who say go on television to buy some basic foundation that just matches your skin tone, go to the local drugstore and bring somebody who knows a little bit more about it than you and then buy a sponge or something that you can apply it with. You’d be shocked at how much better you look.
Jess: [00:16:50] I mean, I’ve done this with male CEOs that would never — you just wouldn’t expect –they’re like, “why would I need makeup?” And then as soon as I would put it on myself on camera to show them the difference, where I kind of looked a little tired or too shiny in some spots or dark circles under my eyes, just because the camera and the lighting sometimes accentuated it — when I put just a little bit on, it was like magic.
Jess: [00:17:16] It was like Photoshopping my face in real time. So it’s a nice thing to have. And having said that and having been somebody who has worked in television for years, I now help people in other ways. I don’t put it on every day when I talk on Zoom. I really only put it on if I’m giving a big presentation and I’m the main speaker and I just want to have that that little slight edge. So as far as hair and makeup, yes, people will see us and we should get dressed and ready, kind of like we would if we were seeing them in person. It’s actually an opportunity.
BENEFIT OF ZOOM
Jess: [00:17:56] And I just add this last piece, which is, before this recent time that we’re in, we probably would talk to prospects and clients on the phone and that’s all fine. But now we have this opportunity where more people will say yes to a Zoom call and you have a chance for face to face. And it’s almost like going and having a cup of coffee with somebody. And I’ve found for my business that it’s almost like I’ve leapfrogged over what would have been a couple extra months because now we met, we know each other there. Little nuances of you smiling while you talk or you have to relate a little side story, and even after a first chat, even when it’s only 15 minutes, people feel like they really know you and you feel like you know them. So there are some benefits to this whole thing as well.
Hanna: [00:18:49] Yeah, speaking of benefits, you don’t want to be just a wooden talking head, and that brings me to the point of body language and how much should you use your hands? We talked about is it a midrange shot or how close you are to the camera, but your hands may or may not be caught by the camera. What are your thoughts about that? With the body language? How do we connect? We can’t shake hands. So what are some things we can do?
BODY LANGUAGE FACTORS
Jess: [00:19:20] So we have to realize that the goal is to look natural. And if we’re a talking head, like you just said, which the idea of a talking head on TV is that the person’s head is just bouncing around like just lips moving and it’s not as interesting and something’s weird about it. So what I would share with clients of mine is that it’s really three things head, hands and body. So we want to allow our head, you know, to move around naturally and look to the side for a second and look back. And we want our body or at least our upper half before sitting down to move around, which, by the way, it’s OK to stand when you’re giving a presentation on Zoom. Then you’d have to set everything up so that, you know, it’s all higher, and the camera’s still at eye level. But hands, as you were asking about, yes, we should move our hands. We should let them be seen a little bit at the bottom of the screen. So just at the bottom of the frame, and this is something else for video conferencing.
Jess: [00:20:27] If our hands get too close to the camera, because often where maybe two feet away, our hands will look enormous. And that is weird. It is very weird. But we can move them real close to our body. Should people have special hand gestures they should practice? The answer to that. No. You should just try to act and talk and be like you really are in real life. Even Zoom calls are real life. We understand. In our head we’re thinking, oh, I’m on camera. But the more it can get to being real, as if we were in front of people, our hands, just to move a little bit at the bottom of the screen, head, hands, body, as I said, be a little charismatic, even in our voice. Then we come off as real and authentic.
BIGGEST ZOOM PRESENTATION MISTAKES
Hanna: [00:21:23] Marvelous. Well, we’ve covered a lot of dos. Do this. Do that. I’m curious, because you have a lot of Zoom calls that you deal with and just your general experience with people on camera and so forth. What are some mistakes you’ve seen people make?
Jess: [00:21:42] So the biggest mistakes I see is something we mentioned just a little bit earlier, which is the camera positioning or not paying attention to what is behind them. So I mentioned this one person I talked to. She was way, way too close to the camera and actually her head was all the way to one side. So there’s all this empty space with nothing really there. There’s somebody else I talked to yesterday, in fact. And this person had just moved. So I don’t fault them. But there were all sorts of moving boxes behind them. I didn’t know they moved. I suspected they did because they were moving boxes. And it was it wasn’t the most flattering shot that was there. So it’s given us all this extra information that gets in the way. And actually right in the beginning of the same conversation she had her computer turned slightly to the side so I didn’t see the back and the other things that were there. I did do a zoom call with somebody right as this whole new world started and they had laundry on the bed behind them. So not only was I staring at their bed and I’m in their bedroom having a business call and be virtually, but there was laundry that needed to be folded. So that was different.
Jess: [00:23:03] So I would say, “Right?” You know, “Oh!”
Jess: [00:23:07] I can’t tell what laundry is there, but I probably shouldn’t see it. So, yeah. So I would say the biggest ones would be not paying attention to what’s behind you, what’s next to you really just taking a little extra time for the shot.
Jess: [00:23:22] The one thing that I do notice, I mean, I always think about two things, style and substance. So that’s really more on the style side. And I would say this is probably encouraging. Once people get rolling, the substance side does come out. I’ve noticed most people do try to get value. They try to be relatable and tell stories. And stories, as I always say, stories are the currency of life. That’s how we communicate with each other. So your stories, everybody.
Hanna: [00:23:53] Excellent advice.
BEHINDS THE SCENES
Hanna: [00:23:56] We have a few minutes left here and you’ve had an amazing journey here in broadcast and entertainment. I’m just wondering, are there any stories that stand out for you that have influenced you in your career?
Jess: [00:24:10] Well, I have seen a lot and seen people do a wonderful job and celebrities and all that. But I’ve seen people, you know, people ask me, have you ever seen somebody freeze on TV? And this is kind of similar for all of us. In the 15 years that I was a TV producer, I saw it once or twice. But the thing that I think is a little bit more encouraging is that we all really do have it in us to go out there and be interesting even it’s just one-to-one. People get wrapped up in, you know, this is public speaking or who’s seeing me, or how is this being received? And ultimately, if we focus all of our energies on the other person. I’m trying to come up with something encouraging here at the end. But the truth is, yeah, if we focus on the other person, we give them lots and lots of value. If we help them the most, then people are happy.
Jess: [00:25:16] And having said that, I’m trying to think, is there a good celebrity story? You know, I got to meet the Fonz. I’ve met bigger deal people and Britney Spears and other people. But I’m trying to say, who did I love the most? Like the Fonz, I know is Henry Winkler, who were just, you know, super, super nice people. The I’m trying to think if there was something that that ever went really, really wrong, I most people are pretty nice to me.
Jess: [00:25:44] I think I was surprised that some of these people, when they weren’t on camera, were low energy. And that’s also something else for everybody to think about, which is TV or video can sometimes be a cooling medium, which means it takes out some energy. So we actually have to throw back a little bit more energy when we’re speaking on camera. But behind the scenes, some of the celebrities that are maybe big comedians over time in the green room where we would have them wait, they would just be sitting there with the lowest amount of energy. And I remember thinking, well, we are going to see how this plays out in a matter of moments, and of course, they would turn it on when they would go out there. So it’s something to think about, too, for the rest of us, which is, you know, during our normal day, sometimes I sit quietly on top of my computer and the energy that you hear right now is actually a little bit more aligned with my actual personality. When I talk and I enjoy talking to people, I get fired up and helping them and doing what we’re doing today. But for other people, sometimes we have to add a little bit. So it looks like we actually like what we do.
Hanna: [00:26:57] There you go. There you go. But I like your point that we all have a little star inside us and we just need to let it shine.
Jess: [00:27:05] Yeah, that’s exactly right. Shine, everybody!
Hanna: [00:27:08] There you go. Thank you so much Jess. This has been really helpful. And it’s always good to hear your voice and your tips. Great. Thank you.
Jess: [00:27:18] Thank you.
[00:27:18] That’s our show for today. Thank you for joining me. If you’d like to learn more about today’s guest, you can go to our Web site at BusinessConfidentialRadio.com. It’s got a lot of other powerful information and resources available to help your business grow. So be sure to check that out. The Web site again is BusinessConfidentialRadio.com.
[00:27:40] I’m Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. And you’ve been listening to Business Confidential Now. Have a great rest of the day and an even better tomorrow.
Guest: Jess Todtfeld
Jess Todtfeld is one of the leading communications and media training authorities in the U.S. With more than 15 years as a media trainer and consultant, Jess helps CEOs, business executives, spokespersons, public relations representatives, experts, and authors to become more confident, more in control, and to create more results from their speaking engagements and media appearances.
He brings with him 13 years of experience as a TV producer for NBC, ABC, and FOX, having booked and produced over 5,000 segments. Jess’ time in front of the camera includes features reporting, guest spots on national / international news programs. He’s been featured on just about every major network and trained clients in large corporations, like IBM, Land Rover USA, and JP Morgan to individuals in small business to non-governmental organizations such as the United Nations to actual government agencies such as The Social Security Administration.
You might also enjoy Jess’ other interview How to Attract More Power and Influence with Better Communication Skills.
Subscribe, Rate and Review:
Subscribing is easy and lets you have instant acces to the latest tactics, strategies and tips.
Rating and reviewing the show helps us grow our audience ad allows us to bring you more of the rich information you need to succeed from our high powered guests.
Download ♥ Subscribe ♥ Listen ♥ Learn ♥ Share ♥ Review ♥ Enjoy
Ask Questions or Recommend a Topic/ Guest:
- Use our convenient Get in Touch form
- OR e-mail feedback(at)BusinessConfidentialRadio.com
This post may contain links to products to products on Amazon.com with which I have an affiliate relationship. I may receive commissions or bonuses from your actions on such links, AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU.