Gaining Camera Confidence to Help Build Business with Diana Howles

In this week’s episode, we hear from Diana Howles, an award-winning speaker, author, and international virtual trainer with 25 years of experience in the industry. She has trained about 100 and 500 companies and facilitated virtual programs in more than a dozen countries. 

She is currently the CEO of Howles Associates and her book, “Next Level Virtual Training: Advance Your Facilitation”, was just released back in May of 2022 over on Amazon.

It was an amazing conversation with Diana Howles as we discussed the following points:

  1. Diana’s background

  2. Zoom call tips for introverts

  3. Video literacy

  4. BLEACH – Background, Lighting, Expressions, Angle, Clothing, Headroom

So if you’re looking to appear better when you attend business meetings and present yourself better when pitching an idea, Diana’s tips and tricks for this episode are perfect for you!

Visit Michelle’s website:


Katie Brinkley 0:00

Hi friends. I’m Katie Brinkley, and you’re listening to Rocky Mountain marketing, with nearly two decades helping business owners, consultants and coaches with their digital marketing. I know that social media can be an incredible tool to grow your business, when you know how to do it the right way. And that’s what we’re going to do today, I teach you how to navigate the world of entrepreneurship and digital marketing. And hopefully, you’ll grow your business with a few great tips you wouldn’t have known otherwise, and maybe even discover a great local business you love. Let’s dive into today’s episode. Welcome back to Rocky Mountain Marketing. Today, my guest is Diana Howles. She is an award winning speaker, author and international virtual trainer who brings 25 years of experience in the learning industry. As a world class facilitator. She has trained fortune 105 100 companies and facilitated virtual programs and more than a dozen countries. She’s currently the CEO of house Associates, and she earned her master’s degree from Colorado State University right up the road in Fort Collins where my husband went to school. And she is also the author of next level virtual training, advance or facilitation, which was just released back in May of 2022. Over on Amazon. Diana, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast.

Diana Howles 1:24

Great to be here.

Katie Brinkley 1:26

I’m really excited that you and I were connected because we’re going to talk all things camera confidence in today’s episode and, you know, with so much happening online now between zoom, and, you know, tick tock and reels and YouTube. There’s a lot of us like like yours truly, who has been, you know, regretting every single moment of this video world because it can be hard to start showing up on video. You know, a lot of my listeners now I used to be a radio broadcaster. Reason I went into radio, I didn’t really feel comfortable showing up on camera. And I know that I’m not alone in this. So again, thank you so much for joining me today. And, you know, helping us learn more about this camera confidence. Absolutely. Well, and Diana, before we dive into this, and some of the different tips that you’re going to share, give us just a little quick background about how you became involved in this virtual camera confidence sort of field because it’s I feel like it’s kind of a niche market. And it’s a great market to be an expert in.

Diana Howles 2:37

Yeah, right. i So my background is I was a corporate trainer and I trained in business and worked with professionals. And then we transitioned in that genre to be online as well. ELearning, virtual training all of that. But it was also really involved in multimedia. And my husband and I started our own company Health Associates, which began as multimedia company, so I was doing voiceovers, I was an unkind camera talent, we created videos, I was really interested in all things related to media. So I even took screen acting classes in Chicago. So just being in front of the camera, my husband preferred being behind the camera, we really started studying the medium. And we’ve been doing that for a while. And then when the pandemic hit, right, we realized everybody needs help, really developing what we call video literacy becoming more video literate, because it’s a new modern skill. And it’s becoming a core skill, right? as

Katie Brinkley 3:37

well. And I mean, like even just from zoom calls. There’s, it is odd for me now when I show up to a zoom call, and I actually see the profile photo instead of actually showing up. But I know that for a lot of people, a lot of introverts, it can be hard to just show up and have the camera looking at you when you’re meant to be like listening, you know, and right. So it’s just a little bit about how an introvert might be able to have some confidence around just something as simple as a zoom call. Mm hmm. Yeah,

Diana Howles 4:11

you know, a lot of it is when you are interfacing with another online, it can be exhausting, right to be looking at everybody and have everybody looking at you. So sometimes for folks who are less comfortable around that what I say is set up your frame, and we’ll talk about that I’m sure in a moment about how to do that. Well make sure you are framed well putting your best foot forward, because as you talk a lot about marketing to Haiti, you know, there’s the idea of your brand and sending a good first impression. But once you’re framed correctly, in some of the platforms, you can select Hide self view, which means you are still on camera for others, but you are no longer looking at yourself, which can be distracting for some folks. So that’s one way to go. But when you do just have your photo that’s more old School, right? So the video revolution is here. And not that you need to be on camera all the time. But when there’s an important discussion, what I call purposeful connection moments, that’s a time to be present to show up. Usually when you’re visual, right, you’re speaking up, you’re interjecting, you’re also on camera for certain key moments that helps you be more visible to in your organization, and people will remember you more because of that.

Katie Brinkley 5:25

Yeah. And I think, you know, one of the things to Diana, that we’re talking about here is, we’re not here to tell you to, you know, start becoming a content creator or an influencer over on tick tock, you know, we’re talking about just establishing that camera confidence, because, like you said, during the pandemic, people were starting to buy from just virtual events, they were attending virtual things, people were having zoom calls, and it was a learning curve for a lot of us and just being able to show up on camera can do numbers for your business. So let’s dive into just developing some of that on camera confidence when, you know, video conferencing platforms, because like, like I said, we’re living in this virtual world, and majority of my clients now don’t live here in Denver. They’re throughout the US and Canada. Whereas before, primarily my clients were right here in Denver, because I was wanting to have that face to face, you know, business model. But now I can still have that because of zoom, huh?

Diana Howles 6:30

Exactly. All over the world. Right. So so now we are a global village, as Marshall McLuhan wrote so long ago in the 1960s. And it really is here. So virtual is here to stay. And so we want to talk about will, as we mentioned, how do we become more video literate, and become more comfortable. And so one of the things is really coming across as best you can on camera. So I have a phrase I call it, clean up your on camera image with bleach, and bleach is the acronym like a mnemonic to help us remember the six main elements that you can pay attention to, so that you can put your best foot forward when you are on camera. So bleach is an acronym B for background, L for lighting, ie for expressions, a for angle C for clothing, and H for headroom. to unpack, there

Katie Brinkley 7:24

is a lot to unpack, though. So why don’t we just go right on down the line? Well, and I’m gonna jump right on into branding here too, because, you know, it’s funny because I wear this shirt. And a lot of the episodes like I it’s typically some form of like a pink, I know this one’s purple, but it is still somewhat on brand. For all of my podcast appearances. Now it’s like, man, people are gonna think that’s like my only my only own clothes. But I want to make sure every time I’m on video, I’m showing up on brand. So So let’s, I’m excited that we’re gonna dive into this, let’s dive into some bleach, start with the letter

Diana Howles 7:58

B. All right, so before background, right, and what I see a lot of people do is they’ll be right up against a wall. And there was a lot of grace during the pandemic, right people I knew people that were in their laundry room, their bedroom, their kitchen table, their living room. But now it’s been two and a half years ish, right. And so we want to try to create that professional space wherever you are. So when you’re up against a wall, what happens is you don’t pop out from the wall. So it actually is great to have distance, a little bit of distance behind you and where you are, so that it creates depth. And then you pop more, right. And the other thing to keep in mind is there are many virtual backdrops that platforms have, but it can create really, sometimes distractions for us right like the hand will disappear, or your hair or half of your head will disappear too. So if you have a real green screen, then it might be better to use those virtual backdrops. Otherwise, just having sort of your real environment is okay, as long as you tidy it up. So what we do is remove remove clutter, because it can call attention to itself. And it doesn’t mean you have to move everything out of the room where you are, you just move everything out of frame that might call attention to itself. So we really want a simple and elegant background. And as you mentioned Katie on brand with your business. So depending on what products or services you sell, if you work for Menards and you want to show people how to build a fire pit, you’re probably going to be wearing clothes that are appropriate to building a fire pit in your HOW TO video, for example, if you are an attorney, you might want to be in your your legal office, because that’s on brand and as you mentioned, Katie wearing clothing that’s appropriate to that. So really kind of making sure that we’re minimizing distractions in our background is the general rule.

Katie Brinkley 9:46

Okay, two questions on this. Well, one question and one kind of did you know so first question, what are your thoughts on the blurred backgrounds? Because I find them incredibly distracting. Hmm,

Diana Howles 9:59

yes. So, you know, interestingly enough, if it is slightly blurred again that can call attention to you put you in foreground, which is important, right? We want to focus on you and your message. But I think a lot of times right now with the technology can be extremely blurred, and many people are distracted by them. So it’s not just you, Katie. So I think we’re gonna see the technology get better as an example of

Katie Brinkley 10:23

those watching on YouTube. I blurred my background, and I’m like, I look way too in focus now.

Diana Howles 10:29

Right, so we have this visual illustrative example. Thank you, Katie, Exhibit A. But yeah, so I think we’re going to see technology get easier and easier to use, as well as, quote, the qualitative aspect will also improve as it should. Right. So that’s definitely going to happen in the near future. So right now it can be distracting to have so much yeah, blurred. But if they could bring it down just a bit better. Yes. And you still you still see the backdrop, but not as much. Right. And so

Katie Brinkley 11:00

my guess my next question is, I’ve been seeing a lot of people by backdrops so you can get them off of amazon for like, $40. Yeah, and you know, get something that’s on brand. So like, for me, since I’m here in Denver, a lot of if you guys follow me on social media, you’ll notice in a lot of my carousel posts, I have like mountain outlines and stuff. So if I were to put a backdrop in behind me, I probably would do something that looks mountainy. What are your thoughts about people that just like buy a backdrop? You think it’s a good move? Or I mean, like, I guess it kind of depends on where you’re doing your video recordings, right?

Diana Howles 11:35

I think a backdrop is very appropriate. So if you have some kind of divider, and maybe that covers up some clutter, right, we want to have a tidy space, because remember, it says something about you when you are in a frame. Think about an art museum, when you go to an art museum, the frame says focus on everything inside this boundary. So it calls attention to you and everything in it. So it says something about you, right? So if your backdrop is professional can hide sort of the clutter, and it can also represent you well, I wouldn’t have right behind you again, you want to have that depth behind you. But it can be on a nice professional backset. Yes.

Katie Brinkley 12:13

Awesome. And I mean, like so and I think that the 40 to $80 is a good range, right that you can find something

Diana Howles 12:18

certainly affordable there. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So okay, well, let’s

Katie Brinkley 12:22

move along. So we talked about background, let’s move on to lighting or the L in bleach. Yeah. So again, how do we clean up our on camera image with bleach. So

Diana Howles 12:29

L is the lighting. So what what most people do, and don’t maybe realize the common error is that they light themselves from the back. And conveniently, it could be that there is a window right behind them. So what happens is, lighting is in the back which darkens you. So it can cast you in shadow or cast you in silhouette. And photographers, those of our listeners today or viewers that have done photography, you know, this is true as well. So instead, you want to light from the front. So if you have a light source to the right or left of your device, you can use ring lights, of course, watch out though if you do wear glasses, sometimes you can get the ring light doughnut circles in your Yeah, at certain

Katie Brinkley 13:09

angles. And one of the things that with with glasses too, and then I’ll let you continue, but like I’ve noticed, if you use two rings, if you have glasses views, two ring lights kind of from the sides, so neither one is right in front of you. But maybe at like not a 90 Maybe a 45 degree angle. It does help kind of reduce the glare the ring like glass

Diana Howles 13:28

glare? Yeah, yeah, like those donuts in your glasses. That’s right. So if you’re right, so even when you shoot video, actually, we do like three point lighting, you don’t have to worry about that front camera, but just to have a light source to the right and a light source to the left, I use an Elgato light air and it allows me to adjust the color temperature on my phone, which is really convenient, right? So if it’s a cloudy day, sunny day, whatever it is, I can adjust the temperature of that. But also for viewers and Lester’s to know is if you have a ceiling light turn those off because those create like a halos. And they are distracting because they kind of stick out right? Yeah, so and then this ties in with background to now that we’re talking about ceiling lights, watch out for those ceiling fans, so many people, they just happen to position their office so that the fan is like right, it looks like right above their head and worse yet it can be on so it’s spinning and it looks like they’re wearing a beanie. Those of you at home were listening to this you’ve maybe seen it so so try to turn off those fans but also reposition yourself so that maybe your office is off to the side and stay there. So really thinking about what’s in my background. And am I well lit remember we want to see your face, your eyes and your mouth

Katie Brinkley 14:38

for people who are watching this episode. You know, I am in is basically a glass I’m basically on display at the zoo here. It’s full of glass windows. My neighbors next to us whenever they come in this there’s a light to the right of me and it really kind of just throws everything off so I turn off all my lights except for a desk lamp in here. And I put on a ring light over here. So whenever my, my neighbors to the right are here, it causes me a lot of extra work to make sure that the lighting works out. But I do have a window across from me here, I’m trying to do what I can, in this in this aquarium of an office that I have. That is great

Diana Howles 15:17

Katie, and maybe a lot of our viewers too, might have a window in front of you, which is really great, because that’s natural light, right? Right on top of you. Today, I actually have a window to my side in bright sun comes in. And you can really get like hot hot spots, meaning this side is all washed out. And this side is in shadow. So I closed the blind too, right? So that you you kind of play with the lighting. But you know, I used to do on camera talent where I’d go and I was in commercials. And we would have one person and their whole job was just lighting. Like that’s how important video requires so much light. So it takes some time take some thinking and strategy. But it it’s worth it to do well.

Katie Brinkley 15:54

Let’s move on to E in bleach, we’ve got recovered background, we’ve covered lighting, let’s move on to E. So

Diana Howles 16:01

E is expressions and part of the expressions is eye contact. So sometimes people will, you know, they’ll do a zoom meeting and they’ll be looking off the entire time. We know what they’re doing. They’re looking at a monitor for those of our viewers and even you Katie today like

Katie Brinkley 16:13

How does this feel to you? It feels weird. Yeah, it

Diana Howles 16:16

feels weird. It feels disconnected, right? So when you can we know it’s not feasible all the time, because you’re working on a whiteboard, you’re chatting, you’re screen sharing, but when you can remember bring your eye contact back to the lens, that’s our conduit right to each other. And, and that’s creates that illusion of eye contact. And then also gestures are important, but we move slower on camera because they can create blurs, and we keep them closer to ourselves. Because when we move toward camera, they get gigantic, which is very distracting. So we kind of keep them here. And body movement to be don’t move front to back for the same reason. In video, the camera is the one that does the zooming. So we just we can do slight side to side, but we don’t move forward because I get smaller if I go back, and I get really, really big when I go forward. So those are expressions. Yeah. And I found too,

Katie Brinkley 17:06

that it does. Like for me, if I you know, like right now I’ve got my hands up. Yeah, being able to see someone’s hands does make a difference. It makes it feel a little bit more inviting. And I’m not saying to just, you know, like Ricky Bobby and Talladega Nights to be like, I don’t know what to do with my hands and just have them up on screen, awkwardly. But if you do talk with your hands, utilizing that doing a wave, just little simple things like that I’ve found make me feel more comfortable as a viewer. That’s

Diana Howles 17:35

right, because we’re used to seeing that whole person, right. And so gestures are a natural part of amplification of how we communicate, think about when you’re in a crowded restaurant, and you say no, and you probably shake your head at the same time. Or you say the word three and you find yourself gesturing with three fingers, right? They amplify what we say. So it’s a natural part of our communication. Just as listeners and viewers, we need to make sure that we frame ourselves so that gestures can be seen. Because if you gesture outside of the frame, you know, we’re not seeing them.

Katie Brinkley 18:03

Awesome. Alright, let’s keep on moving. Let’s go on to the

Diana Howles 18:07

A is angle. So sometimes what we see most often is odd angles, meaning the device is lower or the laptop is lower. And so it feels like the person is looming over you if you’re on the recipient. And people are probably identified with this too. It’s an intimidating posture when the angle is somebody looming over your head looking down at you. Plus, it’s not a flattering thing. If you have a double chin angle or we call it the nose pose where you’re looking at somebody’s nose. So really the best thing is to be eye level if you position your camera lens to be about it your hairline, it also helps to establish rapport which we know is very important for solopreneurs out there, or entrepreneurs are building credibility building relationships and improve in also boosting your trustworthiness right so I level is what we want to aim for.

Katie Brinkley 18:58

Yeah, and you know, I think that too, you know, when it goes with you know, Zoom video conferencing, but also with like, Instagram reels like or or Instagram stories when someone’s showing up on stories and they’re you know, they have their phone like held down are they have their phone up here? Yes, it looks weird. I’m like why am I you that much taller than me? So I mean, like you it is does make sense for you to try and always have the lens at that that eye level. So I love that tip.

Diana Howles 19:25

And that’s a great point to Katie. I love what you said there about, you know, notice everyone when she was talking about am I that taller? Am I that short when she’s thinking that she’s not hearing anything that the actual delivery of the message is saying and that’s the point, right? It’s distracting. So our goal is to minimize distractions. So we focus attention on whatever the message is.

Katie Brinkley 19:45

Yeah, I love that well. Alright, so now we are almost through, we’ve gone through four of the letters. Now we’re on to C.

Diana Howles 19:51

C is clothing. So really we want to avoid those thin stripes they can create a shimmering effect on camera. We also want to avoid busy patterns again can call attention to themselves. solid colors work best. Not that you always have to do solid colors but they do pop better on camera, those blues and those greens and the color that you have on to is like really pretty muted raspberry, tans and browns. All of those. All of those are are helpful.

Katie Brinkley 20:16

So if somebody says, Well, you know, I kind of plaid is my color I wear plaid and all my pictures are I’m a, you know, I am a lumberjack. I don’t know. But you know, what would you say like to kind of tone down like to find something that where you can still show up and it makes sense where you’re still on brand, but it isn’t distracting?

Diana Howles 20:35

Yeah, I again, I would caution gets the fine lines. If they were broader lines, it would be okay. And as long as the pattern wasn’t too busy, it would be working out trying to find a fine balance there. So general rule tool to is also dark on light light on dark. So if your backdrop is dark, we talked about purchasing a backdrop you would wear light clothes because you would pop with the contrast. And vice versa. If you have a light backdrop then I would wear dark clothing, right so dark pops on light light parks on dark. We don’t want to wear white and an all white with an all white backdrop. And we don’t want to wear all black with an all black wet drop, because

Katie Brinkley 21:10

then it just looks like a floating head. Yeah. We see that in stereo. Jinx. Moving on to h now talk to us about the final letter in bleach.

Diana Howles 21:22

Yes, so H stands for headroom. So this also has to deal with kind of getting kind of the right framing. So basically, sometimes we’ll see people with their head way down off to the side, kind of cut off at the chin, which is a very unnatural odd way to communicate with somebody, right? So you want to leverage the real estate you have in that three inch box or whatever the camera frame is for you. So I have what I call the three finger rule, which is where you take your three fingers, and I’ll describe this, for those of you who are just listening, we take our three fingers, and then we place them horizontally above your head. So that margin Yeah, that gives you a little bit of margin of headroom, but then we see more of you. So it helps us remember to fill the frame, give you that little space. And then I’m centered to right we want to be centered in the frame, which is different than photography where you have like the thirds here on video, we want to be centered and just a small margin above us.

Katie Brinkley 22:19

Yeah, there we go. And I fixed my framing for now.

Diana Howles 22:23

We’ll see your gestures Martin.

Katie Brinkley 22:26

Well, awesome. So. So that was really helpful. Because I mean, like, I think that a lot of people, it’s simple changes that you can make it is simple. And all you got to do is just just make the changes once and then it’s kind of like oh, well, that was easy. So, so talk to us a little bit more. So we’ve shown up now and I want to get like one more tip from you, just for people who are still not ready to embrace being on video, and I get it. Um, like I said before, I 100% understand not being comfortable on camera. But it is something that we all need to start embracing because it’s a virtual world now people are willing to and ready to do business online.

Diana Howles 23:10

Yes, absolutely. And like I said, it is here to stay. I think it’s important to just talk about some of the other mediums too, right? We don’t always need to be on camera. There’s an interesting tip that when we’re just on audio, when you are on a meeting, let’s say you’re on a team’s meeting or something Microsoft Teams meeting, and everyone is on audio, the research is suggesting we’re actually better able to discern when I can jump in. I think it’s because all of our senses were just focused on just the audio, but works better is if everyone is all on audio, right? Only, or everyone is on video, it’s when you have these discrepancies, half of us are on video. And half of those aren’t, that seems a little awkward. So that’s something that team leader can work with folks on. And then of course, I do encourage people to be in person when they can, because the energy is different, right? Yeah. And that is really our natural organic state. I’ve worked with somebody online for three years, never met her in person, just last week met her for the first time after working with her for three years. And what I learned about her that I didn’t know what she said, Go get her like she’ll jump in and say, oh, let’s move this round or a while, go get the you know, whatever is needed and bring it in. I didn’t know that after working with her online for three years. So you know, even if you have a remote team, find time where you can connect in person. But for those of you who really are thinking, oh, you know, I still don’t like being on camera. It takes practice, you will get used to it. I think you give yourself grace, right? You You save being on camera for those purposeful connection moments, maybe when you’re the presenter or when everyone really needs to be strategically having a discussion and showing up. But definitely what we’re finding in the research studies is that the viewers have a better perceived sense of your presence, which is this feeling of being together when you show up on camera, and they listen more effectively and are less likely to multitask. So there are a lot of wins. So was just reminding yourself on the other side of this lens are people and this is just my conduit

Katie Brinkley 25:06

100% Diana. And I think that, you know, that’s one of the reasons I want to have been to going into a ton of conferences speaking so far this summer, and there’s been people that I’ve either been a guest on their podcast, they’ve been a guest on mine. I’ve followed them on social media. And when I saw them in real life, it was just like, I was meeting a friend again, it wasn’t I never felt like this was the first time I’m actually meeting you in real life. Like, there’s something powerful about hearing someone speak, there’s something powerful about seeing them show up online through images or through through short form, video, time and time again, you get to build that know, like, and trust factor. And with all of this video, it’s it’s helping people want to do business with people, and it helps that, you know, move that relationship along, when you can’t be in person with somebody. So absolutely. Well, Diana, that this has been such a great episode, we’ve touched on so many important things, but many actionable things that you can start implementing right now. Well, one, where can we get your book? And where can we learn more about what you do?

Diana Howles 26:14

Oh, yes, thank you. So the book is brand new just came out in May. It’s called next level virtual training. It’s available on Amazon. So you can simply go to to get the book. And then we have our websites, our businesses, house associates. So you can go to holes, h o w. L. E. S is in Sam and Associates, And we also have links to our book there as well.

Katie Brinkley 26:42

Awesome. Well, thank you again so much for joining me on the show today.

Diana Howles 26:45

Thank you, Katie.

Katie Brinkley 26:47

Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Rocky Mountain marketing. Make sure to subscribe so that you can continue navigating the world of entrepreneurship. Man, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave the show a review and connect with me on social media. You can find me on Instagram at I am Katie Brinkley, or connect with me on LinkedIn. And if you’re ready to start making some sales on social media, be sure to grab my free guide to selling in the DMS without being spammy. You can get that at Katie Let’s keep taking your marketing to all new heights.