Michael Schrage on Looking Sharp in Cyberspace

by Steve O'Keefe on October 7, 2010

The Big Think Interview with Michael Schrage

One of my favorite technology bloggers is Sloan School of Management fellow, Michael Schrage, who does a weekly post at the Harvard Business Review. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the great things about being a futurist is being able to see into the future. I have seen, for example, that Michael Schrage will have a new book on “rapid innovation” out next April.

Schrage is cited as a source of inspiration in the section of MINITRENDS dealing with “New Approaches to Giving and Receiving Advice.” Technology has made it possible for remote consulting services to be delivered in ever-improving packages. In a blog post in April, Michael Schrage imagines a new service that makes you look better in video chat. He writes:

Telecommuters might quite happily pay good money out of their own pockets for software that lets them look terrific on broadband without having to shave or put on makeup. Apple could do quite well with branded  ‘iLookBetter’ apps to improve one’s videoconference aesthetic.

I have noticed recently that the NBC Nightly News has started to use Skype interviews in its telecasts. With Skype, any executive can conduct a videochat with any news organization from any hotspot with a laptop or a G3 phone with a Skype app.

Just because you can chat this way doesn’t mean you should. In a recent post on the SixEstate blog, I spotted a TV interview with a Silicon Valley CEO who was Skyping from his hotel room in bad light with an unmade bed in the background. Very unprofessional.

Schrage pleads with videochat makers to at least let people see themselves before they go live, so they can see how bad they look and take appropriate action. Until the instant digital makeover is invented, here are some tips for giving better presentations using videochat:

  1. Use a video camera instead of your computer’s built-in camera. Even small, hand-held cameras can be put on a mini-tripod and hooked into your laptop for far superior image quality.
  2. The cool fluorescent lights often found in offices make people look blue and ashen in video chat. Consider replacing those with warm fluorescent lightbulbs for a more natural glow.
  3. Get a cheap clamp-lamp and a spendy “true light” lightbulb, such as the Reveal lightbulb made by GE, and keep them in your travel bag. Clamp the light onto your laptop and turn it on before video chatting. You’ll be amazed by how much better you look.
  4. Create a good backdrop for your video chats. Book cases are classic. I keep a stylish curtain nearby that I can quickly drape behind me for a solid background.
  5. Preview yourself before you go live. In Skype, you can preview yourself in the Preferences under Video Preferences.

Take these simple precautions, and you’ll look better than all of the other folks using built-in cameras and available light. For the entrepreneurs out there, how about some help building better office or home studio setups for those of us dispensing advice remotely? If you know of any tips, tricks, or apps for better videoconferencing, we invite you to share them in the comments.

News Editor, Minitrends Blog

Source and Image: “The Big Think Interview with Michael Schrage,” BigThink, 04/05/10
Source: “Why Your Looks Will Matter More, Thanks to the Internet,” Harvard Business Review Blogs, 04/22/10

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