Putting your best foot forward!
Here are a few tips to ensure you are a true online professional.
If you're new to the world of online consultations, or if you've been doing it for a while and think, "This doesn't look as good as it should", here are a few tips to ensure you are an online professional.
The Medium is the Message
The oft-quoted utterance of Marshall McLuhan sums it up very nicely. In short, no matter how knowledgeable you are in your field, if your presentation (the Medium) doesn’t cut it, the Message will be lost. You’ve got to maximize the effectiveness of the Medium to deliver the optimum Message to your clients.
This effort can really be divided into three parts:
- Personal Preparation
You’re going to be working online, in real time. That means a fast, reliable internet connection is an absolute must. Do not skimp on this. Excuses will count for exactly nothing if your client’s expensive time is being wasted by your cheap internet connection.
Most laptop cameras these days are good enough for the work you'll be doing, but you might not want to rely on their microphones. The reason is background noise. A headset microphone will zero in on your voice, instead of neighbourhood noises like car alarms and barking dogs. Plus, it gives you that cool, "professor" look.
Last but not least, consider buying a laptop stand. This puts the student at eye level with you, without you having to push the screen back too far. This way, it’s easier to read anything you need to access on your screen, and the student doesn’t feel you’re looking down at him or her.
Choosing the right environment for your sessions is crucial. Ideally, your environment should possess good lighting and minimal background noise and visual distraction.
The best lighting is natural, from a window. Shooting outside is not recommended due to the potential for noise and distraction. If you have to have night sessions, then you'll need to rely on artificial light. It's crucial that this light be indirect, that is, not in the frame, otherwise, it causes glare. Experiment before going live.
You need privacy and quiet for your sessions. This can be hard to achieve but do your best. If you have a home office with a locking door, or better yet, a private suite in an office building, this is ideal. Failing that, make arrangements to have prime distractors like small children out of the way during your shoot. Their interruptions might be cute, but you aren't the one paying for them. Close windows to minimize street noise.
A good idea for background is to have it relate to the subject matter, without being too distracting. If you’re teaching geography or history, a map. Or, if it’s chemistry, the periodic table. Some online personalities use a nice solid bookcase, which is good for conveying a learned look.
Keep your background clean, professional looking (no dirty dishes or laundry, please), and free of anything that might distract your clients.
Last but not least: you. You need to present a professional appearance. You don't need to wear a tie, but a button-up shirt is probably a good idea or a suitable "business casual" equivalent for women. Brush your hair. Remember, that camera gets nice and close!
Have all your materials ready from the get-go. Remember, time is valuable. Your client is paying for your lack of preparation, so have everything you think you’re going to need ready in advance.
Don't forget to look after yourself. All that talking can make your mouth dry, so have water on standby. Go to the bathroom before your session starts. Set all phone ringers in the environment to "silent".
One last thing: Relax, will you? If you've followed all the above suggestions, your presentation should be virtually stress-free. Any remaining stress will be that you've brought on yourself. Remember, that client wants to be there, listening to you. So, keep them relaxed, and try and enjoy the interaction. Deal with glitches and interruptions with humor and grace.
Ready for Launch?
Hopefully, the time and expense invested in equipment, environment, and personal preparation, should pay off handsomely when your sessions go live. Minimizing problems in your Medium is key to ensuring your Message hits home.