A keynote speakers secret: how to create your remote setup step by step
Create a budget friendly and simple to use yet professional setup for your online presentations, streams and of course Zoom meetings. From ring lights to cameras and microphones to my little secret weapon…
In an article I recently wrote (here) I covered how to adapt your mindset and also your body — well at least your posture to really nail a remote presentation or pitch. What I didn’t cover was actual hands-on setup advice…
And this is exactly what I am going to do now!
This Article is targeted at creating a solid step-by-step setup…in fact I am going to show you the setup I use as a professional keynote speaker. The setup was devised gradually basically from the outbreak of the COVID-crisis in March 2020 with extremely limited supply. And of course its always work in progress.
This article contains affiliate links to Amazon (to exactly the products I am using).
I won’t cover out of this world Instagram *fake* home office setups — if you are looking for that, the *gram is full of it.
So, I am taking an approach in order of necessity — and the biggest and most important thing to get is good lighting! This makes all the difference in the world! There is nothing worse than not seeing you and your face. The sollution is simple: get a ring light!
Ring lights are amazing and are the most simplistic sollution in my oppinion. Put it infront of you, switch it on and *Bang* you look like a pro. And you know what they say — if you look like a pro, you might even feel like a pro. Well at least a little.
I am using two different lights, a small light on my desk and a second very large one for videos. For your convenience I have affiliate links to Amazon — but please do your own research.
The first light I would like to talk about is the smaller ring light — its placed right behind my MacBook and I use it for every single Zoom, Teams (or whatever link you send) call and it works like a charm. It has a diameter of 10 inch aka 26cm. Basically it covers 99% of my applications and costs about €35 as I am writing this. So its really afordable and really leaves you without excuses. If you want to buy one single thing to improve your setup, get a simple ring light. This is the one I am using: https://amzn.to/3xNfrRC
Now on to the larger light — and this is substantially larger with a diameter of 19 inch or 48cm…! I only use it for for videos I shoot (I really need to do more on YouTube…) as well as keynotes I deliver while standing up. You may have read why this makes sense, if not, please read my piece on this (here). The light is something you don’t really need unless you are intending more serious applications and its also subsantially more expensive at around €150. This is a newer version of the larger light I am using: https://amzn.to/3rvpZnx
For me nearly as imporant as good light is good sound. And rule №1 is simple: don’t use your onboard microphone — its horrible. Simple as that.
Sure, you might have this super tricked out Notebook that is the exception, but up to now in a 100% of all cases I have encountered onboard microphones are terrible.
So the absolute minimum here for me are headphones such as the ones you got for free with you mobile phone, or even better AirPods!
Now one thing for the ladies and gentlemen wearing earrings — please make sure that they aren’t interfering with your the microphone of your headphone…it makes a terrible noise!
AirPods are a really good solution and on top of that they also give you movability, as you are not limited by the length of the cable. No need for a link here, you will find AirPods on your own…
However, there is a way to improve and thats a more professional microphone! I did quite a bit of research on this topic and so should you. My usecase is rather specific as I’m not only a keynote speaker and entrepreneur but I also have a podcast as well as a young baby boy so I needed a rather versatile microphone that would work in imperfect environments (aka outside of studios) as well as not pick up keyboards or babies and there was one clear winner for me: the Shure MV7!
It has an amazing sound, can be used via USB and doesn’t require amplification such as the legendary Shure SM7B — perfect for my use case! You’ll find it here: https://amzn.to/3IcZ71j
I actually use my MV7 for every call nowadays and it is amazing and sure enough on a regular basis I receive compliments for my voice…which is mainly down to the microphone…
To make the microphone work it makes sense to use decent headphones as well and this is again a very personal choice, I was gifted the Shure SRH440 by my amazing wife (togehter with the MV7) and couldn’t be happier. With my wife that is and of course the setup as well!
Get a presenter
If you need to present remote, get a presenter. Again, its not rocket science but it allows you to create distance to your Notebook and lets you move more freely, being it sitting or standing. I’m using a super simple Logitech R400, which is pretty much standard. This one: https://amzn.to/3ElbuWK
I affectionally call the clicker my old war horse as is is battered and bruised but has served me loyally on so many stages over so many years that I just really like it. Sounds a little weird but might as well …
Besides distance it also helps you to get that timing perfect in transitioning from one slide to the next…
…which brings me to the next point:
Get a second screen
The result is pretty straight forward: it alows you to use the presenter mode and preview your next slide — again perfect for flow and transition. Theres a million screens out there so this is up to you — take what suits you.
Now in my oppionion in newer notebooks the onboad camera is pretty decent already, however I would consider upgrading. Now upgrading your camera is a science and it goes down to your use case…if you intend shooting super polished YouTube videos get a high quality camera — I haven’t researched much on this but there is a ton of resources out there.
Now, my use case is different. I deliver my keynotes via Zoom and Teams (mostly) and that means that the actual quality that can be delivered is limited due to, well Zoom and Teams and of course bandwith. So I went for something directed at that scenario as well as my other requirement, something that is simple plug and play.
I am using the Logitech StreamCam and couldn't be happier — the cam really works well for that application. Sure, I wouldn’t mind a super fancy professional camera etc. but I just don’t see the necessity for live keynotes where most people are sitting infront of their notebooks with limited bandwith. You can find it here: https://amzn.to/3EsD5Fr
Now here is my secret weapon:
The Elgato Stream Deck!
In fact the Stream Deck offers 15 LCD keys that are fully customizable for short cuts — and this thing really cuts down time and optimizes worksflows. I discovered while watching YouTube videos on streamers and their setups while researching my microphone and to be honest I initially didnt quite know what it was but I wanted it. I guess you know that feeling. However, after a bit of initially research and trying to find a reason why I needed it I heard one guy on YouTube say: “It works with Zoom” and *Boom* I was on!
Turns out, this thing is a weapon not just for your normal workflow but especially for Zoom! I have shortcuts for all relevant functions at the tipp of my finger without needing to interact with the keyboard of my MacBook — its such a game changer. And yes, it runs seperate profiles to adapt to whatever programm you are running.
Above you can see the profile I am running while on a Zoom call and when I’m talking Zoom call I also mean while delivering Keynotes or lecturing in University. You will notice straight away that thanks to the LCD keys the whole look and feel changes — a lovely little feature!
Top left to right: Camera (switch between cameras), Video (on/off), Share(Screenshare) and Sound (Mute on/off).
Mid row: Mute all (very helpful!), Unmute All (ask all to unmute), Stream Deck (short key to the App), Time (makes sense once you use it) and a short cut I am running to get me to Mentimeter, a servey tool I love using in keynotes.
Bottom left to right: Gallery (switches to and from Gallery mode on Zoom), Chat (super helpful, as this brings the chat function forward), Focus (brings Zoom to the front) and Leave (super quick and elegant way to end a call by one click.
Stream Deck is customizable for a bunch of use cases but again, please do your own research and understand that it requires a little bit of adapting as well as understand that the Zoom profile needs to be installed (found it here: https://lostdomain.org/stream-deck-plugin-for-zoom/).
The Stream Deck comes with 6, 15 and 32 keys and I went for the 15 key version and it really does the job for me. You can find it here: https://amzn.to/3xVf4oh
There is one more thing I am using that I can really recommend: a boom arm!
Initially I used a desk stand to mount my first microphone on it but two things kept happening: it was always in the way as it needed to stand right infront of me but even worse, it would pickup noise when I would move or ever so slightly bump my desk — as you would while writing something down or trying to interact with your Notebook. Not good.
The sollution is a boom arm — theres quite a few out there in several price ranges, however with a bit of research I discovered the Blue Compass. Pricey, yes. But very well built and super smooth as well as the only boom arm I found (within reason) with built in cable management. I can highly recommend it, you’ll find it here: https://amzn.to/3xVJC9e
So, this sums it up — the setup I am currently using. Now of course this is far from perfect, but it really works well for me. Please let me know what you think and of course please do your own research before buying the things I have recommended. And: I am obviously using affiliate links to amazon. So please be aware of that. However, I am not being paid to make any of these recommendations — they are my honest recommendations.
Thank you very much for reading this…in fact, if you found this helpful and want me to create more content around pitching and public speaking, please take a second and follow me here on medium or clap on this article. Or both … this really helps me a lot!
And if you want to know more about me: www.daniel-cronin.com