How to Choose Your Online Video Background

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Choosing your Video Background

A great way to communicate important messages to your target audience is the tried and true “talking head” video – where you speak directly to a camera. Simple and versatile – you can be humorous or serious, informative or promotional.

However, there are several elements that will make or break a talking head video. The purpose of our “making you look good online” series of articles is to teach you how to present yourself effectively on camera.

In my last article, I spoke about choosing the right equipment for making online videos. In this article I will talk about choosing the right location to set up your equipment. This should not be taken lightly or treated as an afterthought. A poor background choice will detract from you and your key messages.

Think “first impressions” and how you want to be perceived by your target audience.”

In “movie speak” everything done before filming is called Pre-production. I’m a big believer in the 6 P approach. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

If you have followed our online personal branding series to date, you will have already identified your target audience. Ask yourself, how you want to be perceived by your target audience? What is the visual impression you want to make on them?

With this in mind…

Many people make the mistake of using the webcam on their computers (see my previous article for why this is a no-no for quality reasons alone). But what I find most unprofessional about webcams – is that the background is by default the room the computer is located in. Maybe it is the presenter’s living room or kitchen in the background (which may be ok if you are presenting about interior design or cooking) – but alarmingly, some people have their computer set up in the bedroom. Unless you are in the adult entertainment industry – this is not the approach I recommend! Messy, cluttered rooms should also be avoided too.

Yes, you can certainly film your online video presentations in your home (I do) – but use a camera on a tripod and choose a background that ties in with your key messages. For most people a simple wall is best.

A thought leader may choose to…

  • Film themselves in front of their library of books to reinforce the “I’m an expert” perception
  • Some product placement in the background may be appropriate – for example, if you are a rising artist you might feature your art in the background
  • Or if you are a jeweler you might wear your pieces while presenting to camera – but be careful that your products don’t distract from your key messages (unless you deliberately intend to refer to them in your presentation)
  • Your company logo or your brand colors may also be appropriate for a background – but again – make sure they don’t distract your audience.

If in doubt, go for a simple, blank wall about 7 feet x 7 feet. It should have a matt finish (to reduce glare) and be free of marks and shadows. White walls are ok, but you will need good lighting to reduce shadows (more on that in future articles).

Please avoid…

TV’s or computer monitors in the background (again dependent on who your target audience is). Flashing images and pop ups catch the viewer’s eye and can seriously detract from your presentation. Don’t do what this banker did in the background of a live cross-over!

Also, try to find a place to film where you can reduce any background noises and hums can that interfere with your audio recording.

  • Air conditioning, fluorescent lights and fridges should be turned off – just make sure to turn them back on when you are done!

In my next article I will talk about how to frame your shot correctly–and the psychological effect this can have on your audience.

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4 thoughts on “How to Choose Your Online Video Background

  1. Thanks for sharing these tips.  They give me a place to start from, I’ve recently bought a camera, but have been thinking about the practical issues about recording in an appropriate setting.  Great Stuff!

    1. Thank you Davida

      Another point to keep in mind is that the viewer has nothing else to look at
      except what you have framed in your camera shot. So whatever you have framed
      takes on a greater significance. One advantage is that you now control your
      audience’s gaze – you are telling them where to look, and what to pay attention
      to. This is exactly what film directors do, they control all the visual
      elements on camera to “influence” and “shape” the “audience’s attention”, “experience” and “emotion”. Remember to have lots of fun with your production too!

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