5 Tips for Video Chatting

By March 19, 2020April 14th, 2021Communication
Now that some of us are stuck at home, video chatting is essential. Here are some practical tips I’ve picked up along the way while video chatting with co-workers, students, and other youth pastors over the last few years to help make the best experience.

1. Good framing

You know how it is — you see the eyes dart as you’re on stage speaking! With streaming, keeping student’s attention can be harder, since you don’t know what it happening on the other side of _their_ screen or even in the next tab!
In film school I learned that to connect with an audience they need to be able to see the “whites of your eyes”. This is why IMAG (Image MAGnification — cameras and projectors) in large churches is so popular. It’s about developing and maintaining a connection with your audience, as the eyes are the “windows to your soul”. During your stream, position yourself close enough to the camera so that your students can see your eyes.
Second, try to look directly into the lens of the camera, or as close as possible. When you’re eyes are darting around your own screen it will look like you’re distracted even when you’re engaged! If you need notes or if you’re dialoging with someone, move that window closer to your camera.
Finally, position the camera as close to eye level as you can. Psychologically, this places you on the same level as them. You don’t want to be looking up at them, or down to them. We’re all in this together.

2. Good lighting

Another trick I learned in film school is to use decent lighting. You don’t need studio lights. Use what you have.
Make sure that you are brighter than your background. The eye naturally travels towards brightness on a screen and you want your students to focus on you, not what is behind you. Move a desk lamp a little closer, turn off lights behind you if you can. A common mistake is folks will sit in front of a window. The iris of a human eye can handle the difference in light, but webcams do a poor job. Light coming in from a window will turn you into a silhouette on the screen. Again, we want our students to be able to see us. Turn your chair 90°, pull the blinds, choose a different room. If you see your webcam shifting dark/light/dark/light, it’s because it’s fighting the lighting behind you.

3. Good Audio Input

Try to sit where it is as quiet as possible. You don’t have to be on a sound stage, but if there is a motor, airport, or screaming kids around it can be hard for both you and your students to focus.
I find it better to _not use_ your internal mic. With microphones, proximity is key. The mic is going to hear any sound vibrations between your mouth and your mic. If the mic is on your laptop, your students will hear you tapping keys, foot tapping, swivel chair noises, etc. If you have a pair of headphones with a microphone (even the pair that came with your phone) give them a try!

4. Good Speakers

If you’re doing a video chat, I would highly recommend wearing headphones. Like I mentioned above, your microphone will capture everything between your mic and your mouth and this includes sound coming out of your speakers. You may not notice it, but your students will hear _themselves_ repeated over _your speakers_, which will be distracting or even painful. In most cases, this can be solve by you using headphones. Not to mention, it will help you focus on your students and not the TV!

5. Muting

With the above two points, make sure you mute when you’re not talking. Encourage your students to mute when they are not talking as well. In a lot of video chat apps you can see when members are muted. Some apps will focus the camera on the person who’s talking (determined by an audio level from their computer). Muting is a respect piece that will help conversations because fluid, and coherent!
In every app on the computer, there’s a keyboard shortcut for muting/unmuting. You can usually find it by hovering over the “mute” button with your mouse or in the File menu on Mac and Window there are keyboard shortcuts listed. When I’m video chatting I memorize these so I can quickly engage and disengage my mic to carry the conversation forward.
Do you have any tips you’ve picked up along the way? Add a comment below!
Steve Stone


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