The Video Producers Guide to Zoom Etiquette
From out of nowhere the way we all do business has been turned upside down. Shopfronts are shut, networking events on hold and face to face meetings are but a distant memory. And while business owners are physically removed from customers and clients, the lockdown is actually a perfect excuse to stay in touch with stakeholders.
And even technophobes have adapted quickly to new ways of doing business through teleconferencing and video chats.
But it’s not always perfect.
Who hasn’t sat squirming during a poorly run meeting and questioned its’ real value?
It may have escaped you, but there are more similarities between a video shoot and a Zoom meeting than you might think. And like a video shoot, a zoom meeting needs rules and a framework to make it easier for people to participate and get results.
So whilst everyone’s still coming to terms with the new video conferencing normal, we wanted to share our video nowse to better your Zoom experience. And you never know, this could all be an opportune dress rehearsal for your future presenting career.
As with a video shoot, the minute your meeting’s arranged, put the location (eg link), date and time in your calendar and treat it as you would a face to face meeting: set an alarm, turn up on time and don’t leave people hanging.
It’s poor form to join meeting and then nip off to get your coffee. It’s not like the traffic on the way slowed you down; bed to screen is no more than a couple of minutes travel time so make yourself some toast before the meeting starts damn you.
Just as you wouldn’t expect to wait an hour on set for your camera guy to fiddle around with his lights and camera, neither should you do the same virtually on Zoom.
Avoid wasting other folk’s time while you try work out the tech. Instead teach yourself the intricacies of the mute button, camera, chat and different views BEFORE you enter a meeting. You can easily start your own zoom meeting of one at any time to practice yourself.
Respect that even though life is more laid back than before, everyone still has other demands on their time – kids, gardening, work – and they haven’t come to another zoom meeting to wait for you to work out how to work it out.
The Director’s in Charge
On a video set, if everyone decided to tell everyone else what to do it would be chaos and nothing would be achieved. It’s why there’s one person – the Director – who calls the shots; literally. From timing, the schedule, people’s roles and how everyone acts on set.
In a Zoom Meeting, that person is he or she who has convened the meeting : so accept that they’re in charge. If that’s you, politely explain to attendees how you want the meeting to run and how they should – or shouldn’t – interact with each other.
Aside from a few minutes of intros and chat, once the meeting’s on mute them all; you have the power and no one wants to hear Scotty from Marketing chomping loudly through his sandwich throughout the entire meeting.
During a shoot there will be times when the camera drive or disc gets “full” and you’ll need to change cards. With Zoom that “card” is the combined nightmare of Zoom’s US Data centres and the NBN. No matter how prepared you are, invariably it will fall over at some stage and make entering, rejoining or continuing a meeting frustratingly impossible. Join a meeting without video can sometimes make this more bearable, but beyond that, there is hope!
From 18th April, Zoom are enabling account holders with a paid account to opt out of a specific data centre (eg the States) for real time meeting data in a specific region, eg Australia. In other words our meetings will be less affected by huge volumes of traffic in the States.
And as for the NBN, we’re buggered. It was all Malcolm’s fault, we told him years ago it wouldn’t work.
A video call sheet gives all the pertinent details about a shoot’s the crew, even before they turn up on location. With Zoom that’s your background image.
Where possible choose an image that’s vaguely professional or shows you at work, and even incorporates your logo. This way, even if you’re participating in a meeting and not able to join, your and your business are still “visually” represented.
And if all fails, text someone and ask for help.
Times have changed, but even so turning up a video shoot in thongs and a bikini just ‘aint a good look at work.
For a WFH meeting, by all means wear what you want from the pants down. But it’s business from the waist up, so wear work appropriate clothes; whatever that is for you. Suits may be out, but smart casual will help you retain some reputation with your customers and clients even whilst the kids are running riot around you.
As a soundie on set will insist – correctly as it happens – if you can’t be heard, then your input into the project will be a waste of time.
Consider investing in a decent headset or microphone for your Zooms. Rode is an Aussie brand with awesome mics for all budgets and devices.
There’s no need to bring in a lighting truck for your Zoom, but if your colleagues or clients can see you, then you’re missing a trick. That’s because we communicate as much with our faces as we do with our voices.
The easiest way to make sure your face can be seen is to use natural light from a window directly in front of you to light up your face. Kill any overheads. And if you want to up the professionalism and quality consider buying a ring light or soft lighting kit y.
Mobile vs Computer
Just like a video can be created with a myriad of different pieces of gear, likewise there are many devices you can use to jump on on a virtual get together.
The viewing and participating experience on a computer or laptop as opposed to a smartphone is far superior, with regards to user experience and the amount of people you can view on screen.
If you have to join from a mobile or tablet, at least stabilise your device on something sturdy or use a tripod to keep your shot steady.
A cameraman will always aim for a fuss free and clean background for a video shoot, whether it’s a plain or relevant backdrop.
Zoom is no different. Clutter, mess, children and a bright window are not the ideal background, even for a casual work meeting. Setting up a professional space to conduct work will show your cohort that you’re serious about their business and your work.
For those with more modern computers, avoid the actual mess by selecting a virtual photo or video background – plain or styled. But remember more than one person against a virtual backdrop can inadvertently “disappear”.
Conventional video framing is a mid shot of your head and upper chest and this is what you should aim for in front of your computer or mobile device. It’s a bit of a goldilocks balance: avoid the too far back and too close scenario and go for’ just right”. You want to ensure a better visual – and ultimately relationship – connection with your audience.
Whether it’s you or your device both can be moved forward or backwards to achieve your centre framing.
No one will thank you either for an extreme close up of your nostrils, so put the camera be at eye height.
Script and storyboard
As with a video shoot, a video conference “presentation” should be prepared, practiced and perfected before the big day. So whether it’s a webinar, pitch or a meeting, have a plan and an agenda.
A “script” should be succinct and punchy, use less flowery or descriptive language and be jargon free. Unless you are an absolute presentation pro, avoid teleprompters or reading verbatim from a script: it will be a challenge to look natural and relaxed and you will come across as a fake.
If necessary use visuals to help better communicate your message – slideshow or video – and be confident with screen sharing to make the final “experience” as pleasant for the audience as possible.
What you want your audience to do after the meeting? What’s its’ purpose and the call to action?
As part of any pre production for a shoot, a presenter or interviewee will be briefed and prepared before the red button time.
Presenting on Zoom is a no brainer. Yes the atmosphere is more casual, yes you may be in PJs from the waist down but you’re still “at work” representing your organisation.
Just as you deliver words to camera during filming, on Zoom your posture and body language should be confident and open. Sit up straight (or stand if you can) and when talking, be measured and don’t be afraid of using your hands and body to get your message across. Smiling will trigger mirror neutrons in the brains of your audience, who are more likely to return the smile and enjoy your delivery. If you’re bored, they will also struggle to get through what you have to say.
Neither do you need it to be word perfect; making mistakes is human and fronting up to your audience – on camera or in the Zoomiverse – is about being real and relatable. Remember, you’re good at being you. And that’s why people drop by one line to see you.
As part of the video production process, there’s usually some editing to polish what’s been shot. Whether that’s to choose different takes, add music or graphics or alter the duration and final format.
With Zoom you do have the option to record meetings or webinars – as a whole or as parts – so you can keep a record of what was discussed or as a resource to share with attendees who couldn’t make it. There are options to record manually for each meeting or if – like me – you’re prone to forget, then change your settings to do this automatically for every meeting.
As we all become more comfortable with virtual communication, upping your Zoom game to a video quality, will be better not only for you and your audience, but become a valuable resource for your business marketing. Plus the more polished you can be on Zoom, then it becomes an easier step for you to start going beyond the laptop and creating your own business videos.