7 Things to Remember for Effectively Using Video for Your Webinar - dummies

7 Things to Remember for Effectively Using Video for Your Webinar

By Sharat Sharan, John Carucci

As the webinar creeps closer to becoming a television production, it’s important to understand how to effectively use video in your presentation. Studies show that video continues to grow in popularity for the webinar, and that means more people are logging on. But as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben would say: “With great power comes great responsibility.” That means the point-and-shoot approach will not add value to your webinar.

Like anything else, if the video looks amateurish or has too many technical flaws, it just creates another reason for viewers to log off of your webinar.

Knowing how to use the camera

Whether you’re using the built-in web cam on your MacBook Air, mounting a small HD camcorder on a tripod, or planning a broadcast-quality camera, be sure you’re familiar with the equipment. It sounds ridiculous, but sometimes it’s overlooked and leads to you fumbling around to get the camera started.

Make you sure you know how to do the following:

  • Turn it on: Not all cameras have an easily visible means of powering them on. Take some time to find it so you can act fast.

  • Make adjustments: Exposure, white balance, and focus are automatic on most cameras, and can also be adjusted if the standard setting is less than flattering. Understand how to manually adjust the camera, when applicable.

  • Properly connect your video: Nothing’s worse than going through the trouble of adding video, only to find out you can’t see it in the console.

Keeping the camera steady

When you’re using your built-in webcam, the camera is naturally stable (or as steady as your computer or laptop), but when you get to the next step, you need to keep your camera steady. That makes the tripod your three-legged friend. Camera steadiness is often the difference between a crisply shot movie and a blurry mess.

Remember the following:

  • Set tripod height so the camera is at eye level: Nobody wants to look up the presenter’s nose.

  • Compose the shot: Chances are that you’re not going to alter the framing of the shot after the webinar begins, at least for the single-camera shoots, so make sure that you properly frame the shot. The viewer should not see part of a doorframe, especially when you can slightly move the camera.

  • Plant the tripod on a steady surface: Although there’s no rocky terrain in your office, there are air conditioning vents, high traffic areas, or vibrations from other equipment that can shake the shot.

Getting by with a small tripod

Not every situation requires a large and expensive piece of equipment to keep the camera steady. Sometimes a small tripod can get the job done. Just make sure it’s at eye-level, which often means propping it on top of something.

Here are some suggestions:

  • An inexpensive tripod: If you’re using a small camcorder, there’s no reason to run out and buy an expensive tripod if all you have is a small, cheaper one. Those can work wonders, especially when you don’t extend it. Just open the legs and place it on a desk, cabinet, or anything else that puts the presenter at eye-level.

  • Gorilla Pod: Although it’s not a traditional tripod, this flexible, segmented leg accessory is one of the most unique stabilization devices on the market. Its bendability allows you to shape it around just about anything. It has magnets on its feet, so it even sticks to metal surfaces.

  • Tabletop: Several manufacturers make a small, sturdy camera stand that you can place on an elevated surface, like a desk or table to mount your camera. This works especially well for situations where space is limited, or when you don’t want to bother with an elaborate setup.

Finding out whether the webinar host is game

As video becomes more widely used in webinars, the audience can actually see the presenter now instead of just hearing a voice. That introduces another variable to the equation: the speaker on camera. Although it’s not quite as drastic as the move from radio programs to television shows, or silent films to the talkies, it nonetheless changes the game.

Not every host is going to comfortable in this role, so it’s important to carefully decide if the presenter will work out. Here are your options:

  • Don’t show the speaker: Not all webinars show the host, so here’s an option for a speaker who doesn’t work out as on onscreen presence for one reason or another.

  • Use a gun for hire: If you want to show the host, it’s perfectly acceptable to find a polished speaker to deliver the webinar. Remember, it’s all about audience engagement. As long as the speaker drives engagement, it doesn’t matter who’s doing the talking.

  • Have a former speaker as an expert: Just because your former host was right for hosting on camera doesn’t mean that she won’t work out as an expert speaker too.

Capturing clear audio

Just about every recording device today includes a microphone, but not all of them can provide the pristine audio quality that you’ll require for the audience to clearly understand what you have to say.

Although the quality of a built-in microphone pales in comparison to using a separate microphone, it’s not always possible to use a separate mike when using a webcam. Whether you’re using a “shotgun” microphone for a group, a stick mike for conducting a stand-up interview, or a microphone clipped to the lapel of the speaker, there are clear advantages to using a separate microphone held away from the camera.

Here are some choices:

  • Lavaliere: It’s the clip-on microphone often associated with television interviews. Also called a lapel mike, it attaches to the subjects’ clothing about 6-9 inches from the mouth.

  • Stick microphone: Used in for a variety of situations ranging from speaking on a stage to conducting a stand-up interview.

  • Shotgun: Mounted on a stand or on a pole with a technician holding it over the speaker, this type of microphone can pick up sound from longer distances. Works well with a moderated panel or interview format.


When it comes to video, let there be light. Because if there’s no light, you’ll either have an audio presentation and a black rectangular box on the screen, or a really unflattering talking head addressing the audience. Light is a necessity, but great lighting is an asset.

To look our best, humans require soft, directional illumination. Unfortunately, the only way that can happen naturally in an office situation is if you were to lie on your back looking up while conducting your webinar. Avant-garde delivery aside, it’s not a very good idea. Don’t fret — there are some simple solutions:

  • On-camera light: If you’re using a video camera on a tripod, you can mount a light on the camera. The illumination is less than perfect, but with the proper diffusion, it can work.

  • Portable softbox: A better solution is to use a portable softbox to provide nice even illumination.

  • Large shaded lamp: You can fake the softbox look by using a translucent lampshade on your desk out of camera range.

  • Umbrella: Soften illumination from the light head by turning it away from the subject and bouncing into a reflective umbrella. This softens and diffuses the light and produces a flattering illumination for the subject. Umbrellas come in various size and reflective surfaces.

  • Soft box: A softbox is a large box-like enclosure that goes over the light head. When the light reflects off the interior surface and comes through the diffusion material, it creates a soft, pleasing illumination.

Watching your own webinar

See what the audience sees and make sure that the visual aspect is engaging from start to finish. Taking the viewer’s perspective helps you make modifications the next time around.

Consider whether the use of video was effective. Besides showing the speaker, you can also show clips to support your topics, either from your hard drive, or a video site like YouTube or Vimeo. Also consider if you want participants to use webcams, and so on. All these things factor in.