For the last 7 years I have been speaking and facilitating at webinars and online events. Since the pandemic began, I’ve continued to lead from the webcam, but this time from my home office.

Sound familiar?

Now that we are several months into the work from home life, it is a great time to assess how your set up is working for you and experiment with new formats to get more engagement from your meetings or workshops.

First – are you happy with where you have your laptop and web cam set up?

An ideal location is to sit in front of a north facing window or to sit in front of a window or light source. But then mute that lighting with a thin white/light piece of fabric. You can also purchase a ring light or light box if you want a professional set up. You are looking for flat light rather than direct light so that your face is well lit without harsh shadows. Keep in mind that as we go into the shorter days, you may be presenting at night time and may need to test alternative light sources if you are used to using natural light.

Below is a behind the scenes video I created to show you how I have my camera set up and what type of lighting and background I use.

When I am presenting a workshop with visuals, I don’t like to use slides. On Zoom and other platforms, when you share slides it changes the format of the screen and for most participants they will see the slides first and then your video will be very small. On mobile devices or small tablets they may only be able to see the slides. When your audience can’t see you anymore you lose an important connection with them. The attention span of the audience drops immediately once you switch over to slides and they can’t see you.

Instead of slides, I often choose to use an easel and large colorful sticky notes. I find it to be more dynamic and relatable than using powerpoint / slides. Especially now when we do not get to see one another in real life, I have received strong positive feedback when I use an Easel Pad and sticky notes. My audience finds it nostalgic and relatable. They like the fact that I am doing something real and live, rather than just a presentation that may have been pre-recorded.

I’m surprised just how excited people have been when I pull out my easel, sticky notes and colorful markers.

Here is a clip from one of my webinars so that you can see how I use the easel as a visual aid:

Equipment and Materials

Here is what I use:

  • The easel is the standard “heavy-duty presentation easel” from Office Depot. This one is pricey ($158), but you can get a cheap easel for as little as $40 online. You may also be able to borrow one from a school or university or business that is not doing in-person sessions right now.
  • I use the Post-It Easel Pads because they are higher quality and don’t bleed through, but I tape over the logo with painters tape or washi tape at the top of the easel pad because I find it distracting. ($37.50, but again there are cheaper options)
  • The colored sticky notes are also Post-It brand and I got them from Office Depot. ($13.29 for pack of 5 multicolored 3×5)
  • I use MrSketch markers because they have the right chisel tip, vibrant colors, and seem to last longer than other brands.  ($13)

My tech set up is based on equipment I already had:

  • I have a Logitech HD external webcam which appears to be out of stock right now. ($28)
  • And I put that onto a GorillaPod tripod.  ($25)
  • I also have a lightbox which I have had for years to use in the winter for light therapy, but I put it behind a white piece of fabric in order to create a similar effect to a lightbox used by professional photographers. Most people using something like a Ring Light

If you do a lot of training or meetings from home and are looking to put together a professional set up, I recommend looking at Gina Carr’s recommendations for content creators and speakers.

Looking for even more suggestions of how to prepare for a video call or virtual facilitation session…

Below are the checklists and quick reminders I use to make sure I am ready to present from home:

Checklist for Preparing for an Online Workshop or Video Call

  • Prepare a Run of Show if delivering a workshop or presentation.
  • Select a moderator and run a tech test with them.
  • Practice with the technology that will be used.
  • Select an outfit and make sure it is ready.
  • Prepare the space you will be using, paying close attention to lighting, sound, and minimizing distractions.
  • Dance, shake it out, power pose, whatever it takes to loosen up and wake up.

Day of Logistics

  • Appropriate outfit. 
  • Set up without a mirror or fan or other distraction in the background.
  • Have pen and notebook pages nearby for taking notes.
  • Set up webcam, ideally an external webcam that has higher quality video and sound. Can use Facebook live to test the look of your set up before joining the video call.
  • Glass of water nearby, but ideally away from the laptop so it is not in danger of being knocked over on to it. Quick tips for water, pets and other distraction concerns

Day of Routine

  • “What is my hope for my audience” writing prompt.
  • Get fully dressed early – cover your outfit with a button-up shirt to protect from stains if necessary.
  • Drink water.
  • Limit caffeine. 
  • Vocal warm up.
  • Physical warm up.
  • Use restroom in advance.

What to Wear?

  • What is the background?
  • What will stay in place and not be distracting from either movement or sound?
  • What color will be a good contrast for your background and help highlight your features?
  • Choose jewelry that does not reflect light or move too easily.
  • High quality fabrics such as silk, wool, and a thicker cotton show up well on camera. Use a scarf over a simple fabric if you don’t have an appropriate top.
  • Get fully dressed with a professional outfit even though you will only be partially on screen.