I’ve watched a lot of conference videos on a lot of topics. Few lectures are recorded well and it doesn’t take much to greatly improve most recordings I’ve seen. Here are some tips for improving recordings of lectures.
If you’re speaking, here are some tips for you.
- Know where the microphone is and which direction it is aiming because a lot of mics are very directional; turning your head away from the mic greatly reduces the microphone’s ability to accurately pick up your talk. Either wear a mic attached to your head that turns with you (such as an ear clip or head piece) or practice holding a portable microphone in front of your mouth even when you turn your head by turning your entire chest with your head. If the mic is stationary, practice pivoting around the head of the mic so you’re always speaking into the mic even when you’re not facing the same direction as the mic.
- Don’t gesticulate between the projector and the screen. Instead use your computer to highlight something on the screen as you talk. Anyone standing in between the projector and screen gets in the way of the projection. If the recording captures what’s projected instead of the feed coming from the your computer, your audience can’t read your slides. Use the computer to highlight something (via drag-and-drop or selecting interesting words and paragraphs). Perhaps you should structure your slides to focus on one point at a time. This approach will let you simultaneously draw the audience’s attention to something on-screen while speaking aloud to elaborate a point.
- Enunciate your words, don’t mumble. Your audience chose to hear and see you, you should be heard and understood clearly. Speak slowly and practice speaking in front of people unfamiliar with your talk. You are more familiar with your name than anyone you’re speaking to so don’t rush through speaking your name.
- Don’t poll the audience (“How many people here have used the BarFoo system?”, “Anyone already familiar with the Foobar programming language?”). Here’s why:
- If you need to speak to a particular audience instead of a general audience, make sure the lecture description contains expected prerequisites.
- You should already know what you came to say; it’s too late to effectively change your talk to suit a particular audience. You should already know who your audience is, at least in broad strokes.
- Audiences came to the talk expecting what was advertised; if you change what you planned to say you’re probably saying something you haven’t thought through.
- Most of your audience will not be there to participate in any poll and you will never meet them because they will see or hear a recording of your talk. You’re not having a discussion, you’re giving a lecture.
- Briefly introducing concepts in your lecture leads to clear thinking and clear exposition. Your audience gets a better idea of what you mean when you describe the significant points in your talk. Anyone familiar with the concept you’re introducing can afford the time it takes for you to describe that concept in a couple of sentences.
- Repeat each question before you answer each question because:
- it’s likely you’re the only person who will be properly picked up by the microphone,
- repeating the question helps place the answer in context,
- and it’s good to know what the speaker got out of the question.
- Consider not using slides because they distract the audience away from what you’re saying and because you probably have too many slides which are poorly laid out.
If you’re organizing a set of lectures or recording someone speaking, here are some tips for you.
- Distribute the recording of the talk in formats that favor free software because everyone can play formats that favor free software such as WebM, Opus, Vorbis, Theora, and FLAC. Installing VideoLAN Client or a free web browser such as GNU IceCat lets users see WebM movies in free formats.
- Convey details clearly and completely in your invitation by laying down clear ground rules for your event when you invite speakers. Tell speakers in advance what they can expect from the audience (who is likely to attend, what reception are speakers likely to get). Anyone who doesn’t like what you’re describing can decline your invitation. Specifically:
- Tell speakers that their lecture and any subsequent question/comment period will be recorded and/or distributed live online in whatever format(s) you pick.
- Let speakers know the specific license under which all recordings of the event will be distributed. Don’t be vague by saying recordings will be distributed under “A Creative Commons license” (which one?) or by saying the recordings will be “Freely available” (which freedoms will you convey to recipients? Or do you mean available at no charge?). Be specific by naming a particular license such as “The Creative Commons By-No Derivatives 4.0 license” and provide a clear reference for the license such as a link.
- Let speakers know that you expect all speakers at your event to highlight some idea or favor something in their talks. If I were organizing a series of lectures about Free Software, I’d expect each lecture at the series to focus on and favor software freedom for its own sake and not “Open Source” or proprietary software, nor would I want speakers to fail to distinguish between the GNU operating system and the Linux kernel, no matter how inconvenient expressed opinions might be to business sponsors.
- It is better to record only the speaker well than to record everything in the room poorly. Condenser mics in located far from the speaker (such as those attached to a camera at the rear of the room) do a poor job of recording the speaker. The speaker’s talk is the primary attraction, so try to give the speaker a mic which is either attached to their head (so the mic turns with their head) or a mic they can hold as they turn.