According to one of my favorite quotes (available on a T-shirt near you), “If all the world’s a stage, I want better lighting!”
When staging a production in the theater, the typically long and drawn-out “tech rehearsal” allows lighting technicians to determine where the actors (think: speakers) will stand for each part of the performance (think: presentation), to ensure that those sections of the stage are lighted appropriately. Once those lights are set, if the actor or presenter walks out of the pre-configured lighting settings, he or she will literally be in the dark.
In other words, as a presenter, you have at least a portion of the responsibility to ensure that you are following the light.
For many business meetings, lighting is limited to the halogens available in a conference room. And it is common to dim the lights so that the attendees can see the projection of your slides. In this situation, turn on the lights for any interactive portions of your presentations.
Lighting during a live presentation is more of a concern on a large stage, where the speaker is often also projected on video. During the dress rehearsal, you will be given guidance on your speaking area; if the staging is complex, you can use markers on the floor, for example using duct tape, which can serve to jog your memory of where (or where not) to stand.
If you are in a professional studio, you can rely on the technicians to ensure that you are lit well. Still, more and more homegrown videos are springing up as a way to communicate a message. If you are shooting your own video, take a few test shots to ensure that you are positioned in the frame the way you expect. Many speakers do not position their cameras correctly, and create odd angles and shadows on their faces, for example because they are looking down into a camera that is positioned underneath their faces. Use an adjustable tri-pod for a steady shot.
Next, consider your light sources. You may be using natural light on a sunny day. The light should come from the front to highlight your face – but make sure it is not too close (the equivalent of shining a flashlight on your face), as that may create a harsh or washed out effect. Ideally, the light comes from the side and illuminates half (or more) of your face; a second light from the opposite side as this main light source will then ensure that there are no shadows on your face. Often, the best light for the second source is indirect light, which is “bounced off” a filter or another surface, such as a white cardboard.
Finally, do not shoot against a background light, such as a window on a sunny day; this causes backlighting, and you will see a profile, but not your facial features and expressions.
Finding the appropriate light may take a little time, but is well worth the extra effort – so that you can be seen in the best light!
District 4 Toastmasters speak on cable access TV: http://www.d4tm.org/Newsroom/bay2bay.php