5 basic rules to make a more powerful impression on a Skype video call

Published in category: Journal, English News

The smartphone has a camera. All of us are comfortable with video calls in the 2020s. In the 50ies, the futuristic sci-fi magazine imagined that we had devices that made it possible to see each other on distances on small devices. This was still unrealistic until 2003 when the 3G network started to arrive and new phones like the NEC e606 arrived in the market. It was also the same year Skype was introduced. Back in those days, the social hesitation in society a large made video calls technical possible yet not comfortable. Few used the video calls back then of habit and of social resistance

As always, the early adopters used the technics available and the early followers and the big majority followed later. In 2011 Apple introduced Facetime and that technology was following the same pattern. It took some time for the majority to feel comfortable with the video calls. 

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Today society at large has been used to the video telephony and the technical flaws have been adjusted and accepted and use video calls is not just a natural part of everyday life, its a necessity for all humans that are connected online. If the reverse thing would occur and no one would be able to call someone without a video option, there would be an outcry.

As of 2020, being isolated at home for the Coronavirus epidemic has been much easier with the fact that video calls allow us to join in to chat with friends, family, colleagues, and customers. Just imagine if this technology did not exist! 

And yet; very few people have a strategic view of how to use the camera, light, sound, studio settings and appearance in front of the camera when they do video calls. In comparison, it would be like going out with friends at a restaurant without not even take a shower or dress up. Since there are so few basic things you can do to look much better and make a stronger impression on video in front of the camera, this article will cover some of this. 

Klick Data has made over 500 video tutorials productions. Since 1992. With teachers on the screen explaining and teaching computer software skills. This knowledge on how to do this has brought us to the conclusion that not all people are meant to be in front of the camera in Hollywood, Nollywood or Bollywood as professional actors, but all people can learn the basics of how to act and behave in front of a camera.   

5 basic steps to think of when you are making Skype Video Calls. 

1. Sound

First of all, make sure you can be heard. The noise from the surroundings will make any call less good than a call from a place where the microphone is getting to record your voice without interruption. 

If the settings are new: Test a call with a friend before you make an important call to a customer. Make preparation. A short rehearse. If wifi is used and its weak and video go down, perhaps turn the 3G/4G/5G network on to make the quality of sound better. 

A simple approach is to use a microphone from the computer or mobile smartphone device. The second step is to use the microphone from the headset. Using a headset makes it easier for you to hear the other part, but it will make you look less good, so it comes with a cost. The level to use an external microphone is to be considered. If you are dealing with a customer that would buy products or services for 100000 USD; Would you consider thinking of the appearance? Very well known professionals are missing this when it comes to video calls or recorded videos that are posted on Social Media. 

You need to focus on the lowest acceptable level in general. Your competitors will. 

1. No budget: Use the headphone microphone that came along your smartphone.

1b. Tiny budget: Buy an external microphone with a Bluetooth connection.  Or a microphone with a cord that you can put on your clothes without the visual impact of having earphones when you speak. 

2. Low budget (USD 150-200): Buy a microphone that is Bluetooth and can get great sound even when you are outside like  https://www.sabinetek.com/products/smartmikeplus

3. High budget: (600): Buy a really good high-end professional microphone 

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Browsing on Wish or around the web gives you a chance for a great value offer and improve the quality of your video skills. 

2 Camera position 

Secondly, the camera position is important. When you call from a computer, the most common is to use the camera from the computer. This is, however, the great error many people do. The camera position is way more important than accepting the angle from the laptop being put on a desk. You rarely look good from below. Sorry. But this is the truth. The camera position shall be on the same level as the face. You either make sure the laptop is put in a position that you look good or you will not look good. It is as simple as that. 

1. No budget: Stack up the phone on a shelf on the same level as your eyes

2. Low budget: 20-40 USD on Wish for a tripod to 

3. High budget: Professional tripods from 500 USD and up. 

A tripod with light and a holder for smartphone is a 3-in-one solution for stepping up your video presentation that is an absolute no brainer to buy. The link can be outdated, but you easily browse and find similar products.

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The camera position in line with the eye is the basic position we recommend. Note: All Laptop cameras from a desk gives you the Low Angle. 

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If you have a smartphone: By a phone Stand. The low angle is not solved, but better than nothing.  By a couple for home and office use. You will discover that it's great when you charge and when you view and when you record. 

3. Look into the lens as much as possible. 

Looking into the lens seems to be a really tricky one. We believe 90% of the selfies are taken with people looking into the screen and not into the lens. This makes people look less smart. And it's the same for celebrities as for all of us. 

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When taking selfies (in the mirror or without a mirror) or at any recording of a video or on a Skype/ Zoom /Hangouts call, it is our strongest suggestion to always look into the camera lens and not the screen. 

When on Skype: The window of the person you talk to shall be as close to the camera on top when you use a desktop computer. When you listen to someone: Try to spend as much time as possible to look into the camera lens and not on the person on the screen. It will make you look better and make it seems you listen more to this person than the 99% other people this person talks to. And this will get you a huge advantage in negotiations! Of course, it is natural to look at the other person on your screen when on Skype, but make it a habit to look much more at the lens since you will look much smarter and more curious about what the other person is saying. Especially when this person speaks. VLR can also be read as Video Lens Rule. 

4. Hold camera steady

Walking and talking is not advisable in most cases. Yet, you see lots of shaky calls and people who combine weak angles, weak sound, and shaky videos. 

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Mikael Ardnt is one of the great gurus in the art of selling in Sweden. He loves to take video scenes to post in the mornings on the way to work and inspire his followers on Linkedin to sell more. He is passionate and has great things to say in his inspirations. In our view: He uses shaky videos, almost always a low angle and has no external microphone. In our humble opinion; the result would improve 10-fold in impact if he followed the rules in this article. An external microphone with a cat, stand still, raise the camera higher, most likely a simple Steadicam solution. like a Good & Affordable Steadicam (Yelangu s60t for 50 USD) would still make him move but would make the quality go up. But: The power of a great presentation and presentation skills can override many flaws in setup technics as we discuss here. If you need inspiration for your sales effort and speak Swedish: listen to him! Despite the shaky feel! Listen how to handle objections from sales during Corona: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/mikaelarndt_closersonly-thecommunity-ugcPost-6647846021802016768-8Z-Y 

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A wireless microphone gives you the freedom to move. With surrounding noise cancellation. See the Sound section above.

5. Lighting is crucial 

A lamp for 20 USD is making a great difference. If you have a serious approach to the video calls; you get a set of lamps or at least one lamp that will make your face come out of the dark. The room lighting is also of importance. 
Low budget: 20-50 USD 
High budget: Studio lightning from 200-3000 USD

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Kerstin Hessius in the kitchen

Kerstin Hessius is one of the most powerful women in Sweden taking care of billions of Kronor for the Swedes. In a webinar that was widely seen about the Corona crisis in March 2020, she chose to sit in her kitchen. (Surroundings as the background is also to be chosen with care, see below). She uses a low angle from her laptop, she has no external microphone and has no thoughts about light. A few thoughts and lessons from this article would have made a great difference in the impact.

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Angela Merkel speaks to the German public on National television. She and her staff are in no need to read this article. 
Great light. Great Sound. Looking into the lens. Eye Angle. (Or shall we call it "Eye Angela") 
A Wish budget without the ZDF would make this an investment of approx. 200-400 USD, see above. 
What would it means in terms of the impact if you considered an investment of your Skype Video Strategy set to a low level that is much higher then today? The message she had was very clear and no one had to think about her flaws because there where none in the technical sense: "Two is a Company. Three is a crowd. No groups to be seen in Germany to flatten the curve!"

Using a prompter is better than using none, but putting it beside the camera lens is not making a good impression. 

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Sheik Maktoum is the ruler of Dubai. His system for video conferences is seen above. He uses a lower angle since the camera is on his laptop. Still, a bit raised from the desk. Note: he also has a camera on the wall that will give him a possibility of a higher angle. To choose from. The lightning is missing you can see the poor result on the wall where you see his face. Compare this to Angela Merkel. It might display his level of power, but it is not optimal for Skype or other video conferencing. In our humble view of course. The Sheik Maktoum might think otherwise. So might you.

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The external microphone is not visible for the viewer and is placed in front of the Tablet computer Sheik Maktoum uses: See the link 

6. Dressing up (Bonus !)

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Henrik Jönsson is making video presentations every Saturday morning on YouTube and other social media in Sweden and educates the Swedes in things that are on the current agenda. The camera is at Eye level. The sound is great. the lightning is great (sometimes to shadow on the left cheek): And he is always very keen on dressing up as if he would go on a first date or Christmas Dinner with family. 

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The Daily Show host Trevor Noah is working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. He thinks it's no need for a suit or getting a shave for some reason! Just because he sends his message from home. And suggest us all to stay home. Go to the wardrobe, Trevor! Learn from Henrik Jönsson! 

7. The background (Extra bonus)

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Göran Greider is a person who has been a self-appointed expert in the Public Service / Swedish Television in basically all subjects. For a long time. The professional studio managers at Sveriges Television succeed in getting him to look great by the perfect lightning and sophisticated well thought background. So he can make his message across. Without having his choice of clothes be in the way. The challenges for lightning when you have a bold forehead and black clothes are not the easiest part and the studio guys have done an excellent job here.

The background is to be carefully made and shall reflect the sound. Something on the wall? No window that makes the lightning tricky. This is part of your planning when you think of making a video call. Look at the composition of details. You need to stage like Göran Greider. 

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If Angela Merkel could speak to her fellow Germans about the need to stay home and flatten the curve, with the assistance of professionals at the ZDF Public television who understand how to get light right: the former Swedish Prime Minister spoke to the Swedes a couple of days later. Weak lightning made him look sick. Beginners reading this article would have done a better job. 

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The side angle was partially used which made the attention span automatically go to his forehead. We are more concerned about the studio light from the amateurs working that day. They could read this article and learn the basics. The point is: You need skills and can do great with a low budget. The message will not get through even for a Prime Minister if you don't get the Settings right.

So: Summarize the basics you learned from reading this article: :
A. Get good Sound,
B. Camera Angle from the eye level,
C. Looking into the lens,
D. Have a Steady Camera and a tripod, 
E. Think of the Background
F. Dressing up as a first date. 


Thanks for reading so far! Good luck with improving your Skype, Zom and Hangouts calls. 

/ Erik Bolinder 

The author is the Founder of Klick Data. He has been a producer of 500 video tutorials and has been in front of the camera in 37 of them. 

Is the blog writer Erik Bolinder any good at following his own set of rules? Is he always on Angela Merkel's high level? No. In this video, Erik Bolinder tries to explain the advantage of a tripod. Fair enough; It releases the hands for the body language instead of filming with one hand with your smartphone. Good advice for sure. This video also gives you feedback on the importance of a more sophisticated solution for the microphone and the lighting solution. This is an example of advice on how you can learn from other mistakes while watching now that you know the rules. 

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This simple solution of a tripod on your desk helps you far on a very tiny budget. 

PS. We will explain in further articles about the video strategy. For a more in-depth history of video conferences and the future of this communication platform, see the below link. 

In the article, https://blog.dropbox.com/topics/work-culture/future-of-video-conferencing?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=ts-dcs-mid&utm_content=video-conf , you can read why the video conference failed for over 50 years. 

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