Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators

On-Camera Performance

As we have all transitioned to working online at some point during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating an engaging on-camera experience is more important than ever before.


When thinking about on-camera performance you need to plan for both the video and the sound.

On-Camera Performance

Avary: Welcome to Build Back Better, our section on virtual facilitation. This video will cover on-camera performance.

Hello everyone, I am Michael Kass, the founder of Story and Spirit

Michael: And I'm Avary Kent, the Chief Innovation Officer and co-founder of Just checking to see if you are listening.

Avary: Yeah we're going to switch that background. But this time we're going to be talking about our fourth video in the convening facilitation series called on-camera performance. Michael this is all you, go for it.

Michael: This is all me. So there's...

Avary: I really have things to add but...

Michael: No, I know you do. It's all me. So one of the things is that there's this, you know, term "executive presence" or "facilitator presence" and in-person presence is so different than having presence on-camera.

And part of it is body language works a little bit differently. Facial expressions work differently like that. So your face is highlighted, so if somebody says something and you disagree, yeah right, it could be even just a little flinch like that. Everybody has just seen you do that and they know exactly what you think. So you can't hide the way you can in person.

I find it really, really useful before I'm doing an online group to take extra time to ground myself. Because every emotion that you feel, everything that you're bringing in translates through your eyes. And so if you are full screen for someone, just being aware that it magnifies facial expressions. Not to make you self-conscious, but just being aware that it's very readable to people.

Avary: It also makes your multitasking super obvious.

Michael: So obvious.

Avary: It happened to me on a team meeting today where somebody said something and Sarah Joy's like, "Really you were that upset by that?" I was like, "Oh no, sorry I just read an email that was not awesome."

So you want to be careful that people aren't reading you and being like, "Oh, she's actually really upset with what I said" when it's actually x, y or z thing over here.

Michael: Right. Or the dog is crying five feet away or you know whatever, the baby. Yeah exactly.

Avary: Another part of presence is using your whole body right? So you generally want your camera to be at least shoulder and above. If it's just your face it's super up close and personal and they know the last time you got a facial.

If you're sitting way too far away they can't actually even make you out. And so finding that sweet spot where that camera is about shoulder width and above is going to be really helpful on that front. And then that means your gestures have to be brought up on your body.

Michael: And within the frame. So like this is not useful. I'm gesturing but you can't see it. So if I'm creating spaces, like this is point one and this is point two. Now I'm giving you geographic anchors the way I would in person. And then they come together. It's just being conscious of where your framing is.

Avary: But you also don't want to do that all the time or it's going to be super distracting. Unless you're actually using ASL and you want people to be accessing it that way. So it is all about balance and just finding a way. But we do find gesturing just helps your presence come across as a little bit more human.

Sound, sound is super important. There is construction right above me. I'm sorry if you can hear the hammering.

Michael: Yeah well and being in a somewhat sound isolated place and also generally being aware of echoes in the space. So if you're in a big empty room put a rug down or something to just absorb some of the sound.

And Avary you're using an earbud mic which is great and helps so much to just keep the sound focused.

Avary: Now you gotta show your super fancy mic.

Michael: I'll show my super fancy mic.

Avary: Stop sharing for a second so you can really see the fancy mic.

Michael: Really so this is the Yeti, something. It's like, it's not that expensive. It's maybe a hundred bucks. It's a USB powered microphone and it actually allows you to do room tone. If you're doing more kind of intimate things where you're doing recordings.

Avary: What is room tone?

Michael: So room tone. Right now it's set to record everything that's happening in the room. So I could be across the room and it would pick me up. Not as well. Right now it's maybe a foot away from me. Yeah so it creates a sense of space.

Avary: What's that fancy little diffuser you got on it?

Michael: The fancy diffuser is a pea popper. It's so if I'm, this is going to get. I'm going to just talk to.. So if you're up here, here I'll do this. I'm going to switch it and I'm going to go here.

So, right. If i'm leading meditation VR.

Avary: Oh that's your NPR adapter.

Michael: It's my NPR adapter. So if I pop my p's it catches it a little bit and makes it less annoying. Thanks for listening to NPR everybody.

Avary: So sound. And I think just once again the power of naming. If you have a dog, if you have a child who's in the background, just name, "Hey, I'm going to be going on mute a lot."

Also coaching your community on sound etiquette. So, as the facilitator, especially in a tool like zoom, you have the power to mute other people. So haha, Michael I just muted you. See he's not actually talking because I unmuted him and he's just going for the facial expressions.

Michael: I'm not talking.

Avary: But definitely like leverage that power don't rely on people to mute themselves. If they're creating a bunch of background noise, mute them for them so that you're protecting the rest of the group.

Be very cautious of when you do this with anybody who is joining by cell phone. One funny zoom quirk. Your tap to mute on your phone doesn't actually work on zoom. People can still hear you so you have to hit star six to mute and unmute when you're calling in by phone. And so if you as the facilitator mute someone on phone and they do not know about star 6, they actually are incapable of unmuting themselves. So be very careful when you're doing that and make sure folks on the phone are really aware of how they can mute and unmute themselves when you want them to engage.

Final piece here: lighting and background.

Michael: Yes, have lighting and background that's all for me. It's about being aware of what's behind you. Like right now I have a white wall so and so do you. So it's not very interesting. But I've seen people have stuff that they probably weren't aware was there. And just being aware that part of presence is the entire - the film term would be mise en scene - but it's like the setting that you're in creates a very definite vibe.

Avary: You just have to be fancy.

Michael: I just wanted to be a little fancy.

Avary: So the power of lighting. Mine sucks right now because it's the end of the afternoon and now the sun is being dappled through the trees. And generally if I'm gonna film something I'm gonna make sure it's full daylight.

When you have lights that are right behind you get that awful halo effect. Not awesome. When you have a window behind you, you get backlit and people can't see you. If you have lights that are low to the ground, that's actually ideal. I know folks who bought just those little cute lightboxes and they point them at themselves from both directions and then they don't have this whole shadow situation.

Where if you have just an overhead light in your room basically you're like, permanently tired because you're going to be getting those bags under your eyes just from shadow. And so being also mindful of lopsided light. So whenever possible having a light on both sides out of the frame will help to balance that.

This is also just a stupid silly thing that my friend taught me that was important. When you're fair and your eyebrows don't really show up. Eyebrow pencil - really helpful.

Michael: Yeah the other thing to add: another resource that's super cheap that I use is a ring light that I attached to my laptop for - I got it for 20 bucks - and it just creates even lighting on my face.

Avary: Oh because you want to be an Instagram model.

Michael: That's exactly right. In my other life I am an influencer. I'll let you know when that takes off for me.

Avary: Yeah so on that wonderful note we want to share with you the most important final baby animal photo. Drum roll please. It's a baby sloth!

Michael: Sloth!

Avary: That one's not photoshopped I don't think that one's just super, super cute.

Michael: No, that's just real sweet.

Avary: Anyway on that most adorable fantastic note. A huge thank you Michael for being willing to pull this together. And thank you everybody for listening. And we will see you on Wednesday, April 1st.

Michael: See you soon. Thank you.


So that you don’t appear either too close or too far away, frame your camera to include your shoulders and a little bit of space above your head. This means that you need to bring any hand gestures that you are using up around your shoulders. Although this can feel awkward to do, it helps other people to better understand you and what you are trying to say, and can have a strong, positive impact on how you are perceived.


When your face is full screen for participants, they can read all of your facial expressions so it is important to be mindful of how you are presenting.

It’s important to create a polished environment with your lighting and background. Be aware of what can be seen in the frame and remove anything that looks unprofessional or could be distracting. Also, be aware of your lighting – having light boxes below you or a ring light in front of you can help to create a more polished and professional look.

Practical Tip

Most video conference platforms now have virtual background or blurring options that can be useful if your environment is messy or difficult to light. 


Microphones are one of the best tools you can use.

A mic attached to your ear-buds works great as it is near your mouth and generally doesn’t catch too much background noise. Depending on how often you are facilitating (and to which audiences), it may make sense to invest in a USB external microphone with a diffuser.

Practical Tip

Being aware of the sound quality of the room you are in is also important. A rug on the ground can help to dampen any echoes.

It is important to coach your community on sound etiquette.

Muting when not speaking is essential in any virtual environment with a large number of people.


As the host, you should not be afraid to mute people if they are making too much background noise – everyone else on the call will thank you.


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