Video podcasts and v-logs are soaring in popularity. Whether it's Skype, Google + Hangouts, You Tube, or other more sophisticated (or unsophisticated) platforms, they are a great way to gather and connect around a popular subject. In order for your homemade webinars, video chats, or video blogs to look and sound inviting, there are three essential podcast tools you should invest in. Thankfully, none of them are very expensive, but will add a professional look and feel to your webcam productions. In the same way you build and guard your brand (personal or company) online, a poorly produced podcast can make you look unprofessional and disinterested in your audience. Worse, it can just plain turn people off. Just like running across something very annoying on television, people won't stick around to hear all the good things you have to say.
There is no reason to spend a ton of money on lighting, but you need to pay attention to what kind of lighting you use. Filtered light is the best, but even regular lamps will work in a pinch. The lights go in front of you to brighten your face and avoid that dark cave effect you see on so many Google+ hangouts. This is the first of the big three turn-offs: caveman lighting.
I took a class from Emmy Award winning director David Gumpel and his wife Catherine on how to put together a professional video with very little budget. It was one of the best online education investments I ever made. This first tip comes from that class from their company Films About Me. They suggested a lamp from Ikea (see picture below). I'm sure you can find a similar lamp elsewhere, but I happened to have access to an Ikea. The lamps have white paper shades, which according to David, gives off the most natural light. Believe it or not, the lamps were only $14.99 each. I set mine on my desk next to my computer monitor. I also use the same lamps for shooting video. Ikea seems to have a lot of lamps with white paper shades. Score!
Headset or earpiece microphone
Using a headset or earpiece microphone takes care of the second biggest turnoff: sounding like you're in a cave. This doesn't have to be expensive either, but do invest in one. Find one that is comfortable. If you don't like the intrusive look of a headset, get one that hooks over your ear. I have a desk mike on a short stand that gives an old-timey feel to the picture, but I usually use a headset (see picture below). Here are a few recommendation for VOIP technology mikes that plug in a USB port.
Eye contact-level webcam or device
The third big turn off in webcam events is lack of eye contact. Look your fans in the eye. Well known fact: eye contact is the number one engagement behavior in face-to-face conversations. Remember your tenth grade speech class?
This was another great tool takeaway from the Films About Me class. There are a number of eye-level webcams but I haven't test driven any so I can't recommend any. Maybe you can put your suggestions in the comments?
I use the SeeEye2Eye Webcam Teleprompter, which also can function as a teleprompter when doing video. They have two models - one for $50 and other for $60 depending on the type of computer you're using. It's a mirrored device that fits over your webcam and hangs on your computer monitor (see picture below). All you need to do is get your broadcast screen in the mirror's view (towards the top of your page), and you can look directly at your webcam and still see the picture. Gone are the tortuous webcasts of people looking down at the monitor to see the picture. You can see what the mirror image looks like in the picture below. That's me with my phone camera.
One last suggestion: People are watching you on camera. Be mindful of how you are dressed, what and where you are scratching, what is in the background on camera, and engage the audience with your eyes and face. If you look engaged, your audience will be engaged.
So there you have it. Three essential podcast tools to fix the three biggest turn offs in webcasting. Feel free to add your tips in the comments.