ALD Online 2020 Women in STEM Advocates: 13. Hema Vallabh

Hema Vallabh

Location: South Africa

Hema is an engineer and entrepreneur co-founded WomEng to address the issues facing women in engineering. She is also Co-Founder and CEO of WomHub, an incubator for female founders in STEM. Hema was recently chosen as one of South Africa’s Inspiring Fifty and, in 2017, was awarded the Fortune/Goldman Sachs Global Leader’s Award.

You can follow her work here:

Twitter: @HemsVallabh
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/hemavallabh
Website: womeng.org

Further reading

ALD Online 2020 Women in STEM Organisations: 13. Levers in Heels

Levers in Heels

Location: Ghana

Levers in Heels is a digital platform which celebrates and profiles African women in STEM, founded in 2013 to inspire the next generation. In 2018, they collaborated with The Exploratory, and African Women in Science and Engineering on the project ‘Letters from Black Women in STEM to their Young Selves‘. They run a mentorship programme, careers webinars and are currently collating a list of African women scientists involved in Covid-19 research and leadership.

You can follow their work here:

Twitter: @leversinheels
Facebook: facebook.com/leversinheels
Instagram: @leversinheels
YouTube: Levers in Heels
LinkedIn: Levers in Heels
Website: leversinheels.com

Further reading

ALD Online 2020 Women in STEM Advocates: 12. Alexandra Anghel

Alexandra Anghel

Location: Romania

Alexandra is an entrepreneur, Co-Founder and CTO of MorphL, and Program Director of StepFWD who co-founded Codette to promote diversity and education for women in tech.

You can follow her work here:

Twitter: @anghelalexandra
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/alexandraanghel
GitHub: github.com/anghelalexandra
Website: codette.ro

Further reading

Ada Lovelace Day Why STEM? video production guide

Do you want to want to make a video for our Why STEM? project? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you  make the best video you can!

Tech you’ll need

You can use either your phone, a DSLR camera, or your computer to record any video you’d like to use.

Phone

Most phones have good cameras, front and back, and mics, so make a good default device for recording. You’ll need to find a way to prop up your phone at eye level, and make sure that you’re close enough for the sound to be clear. Audio quality is very important, so make sure there’s no background noise. Make sure you video in landscape, not in portrait, so that your final video more closely matches how people will watch you video. Position your camera so that your head and shoulders take up as much of the screen as possible, with no ‘free air’ above your head. Remember to look at the phone camera, not at your own face!

DSLR Camera

DSLR cameras will produce better video, but make sure that the sound quality is also good.

Computers

Built-in laptop cameras can be very variable, and the on-board mic can often pick up fan noise from the laptop, so don’t use your laptop unless you have an HD camera and a good external mic. Be wary of laptops with cameras at the bottom of the screen, as it’s very hard to get a good camera angle with them.

Microphone (USB or Bluetooth)

Please use a good mic to record audio for both videos and any voice-overs. (See below for audio quality advice).

A stand or stack of books

Don’t try to hold your phone or tablet whilst you film yourself, as you’ll introduce wobble that is unpleasant to watch. If you don’t have a suitable stand, then make yourself a stack of books that positions your devices at the right height.

Use chunks

What are the key points you want to get across? Split your content into chunks, think about what the core point of each chunk is, and how best to communicate that to your audience.

Have a hook

Make sure that you’ve got at least one strong hook and that you make it within the first 60 seconds of your talk so that people know exactly why they are watching. More hooks throughout the video will also help to recapture your audience’s attention. Think examples, analogies, imagery, objects, demonstrations, anecdotes, personal opinions, stories etc.

Create a structure

Even a short, five minute video takes people on a journey, and leaves them knowing something or understanding something at the end that is new to them. Think about what messages you want people to walk away with and build to that. People generally remember the first and last thing they hear, so think carefully about how you begin and end your video.

Think about transitions

When you’re putting your video together, think about how you transition from one section to the next, both in terms of audio/video and thematically. Don’t jump from section to section, think about how you’re going to segue from one point to the next.

Careful of your audio

People will put up with sub-par visuals but they won’t tolerate bad audio. Make sure you use a mic, that it’s always the same distance away from your mouth, that you don’t have any pop, hiss or hum, and that you’re recording in a space which doesn’t have annoying background noises or echoes.

Audio is extremely important, so test your mic, settings and environment before you begin recording. There’s nothing worse than doing a perfect take, only to discover that there was awful background noise that you weren’t aware of.

What’s behind you?

If you’re doing a piece to camera, do a test run and then scrutinise your background. Your background will influence your audience as much as your own visual appearance so carefully choose the right background which complements your subject matter and personality. Make sure there’s nothing off-putting or embarrassing behind you, nothing sprouting out of your head or your ear, or that you are covering up parts of words in background text (such as book on a bookshelf) which then make another more embarrassing word, and that it’s not cluttered or messy. You don’t need to have a plain wall behind you – there’s a reason so many video interviews on the news feature tidy bookcases – but make sure you know exactly what your audience is going to see.

Lights, camera, action

Make sure that you are lit well, from the side with mostly reflected light, and that you are not casting too much shadow over any of your facial features. Don’t shine a light on your face, or use depend on the light from your ceiling light fitting, as that will cast harsh shadows. You need diffuse light that softens shadows.

Your camera should be at or just slightly above your eyeline, so that you are looking straight into it, or slightly up to it. Look into the camera as if you are looking at the audience, don’t stare down at notes, or look only at your slides if you are doing a voiceover. Your viewers want to think you’re looking at them, so look right down the barrel of the camera.

You may look away from the camera deliberately to read notes (such as reading out a quote, or ensuring you get a fact right), or speaking to someone else. But only if these things are also in shot so that your audience knows what it is you are looking at. The only other time to look away would be to think or give the impression of thinking which can enhance the impression of spontaneity in your speech, making you appear more relaxed and conversational.

When you are doing a piece to camera, frame your face so that the top of your head is right at the top of the screen. Don’t be too close to the camera, you don’t want your nose to be taking up the entire screen!

Whether you sit or stand is down to personal preference, and whether you film just a head shot or from the waist up will depend on whether you can position your mic close enough to capture your speech.  

You may also consider using shots where the camera focuses on your hands when demonstrating or illustrating a point, using more than one camera so that you can switch between front and profile view as if in interview, or travelling shots walking and talking (although this needs to be done carefully to avoid excessive camera shake).

Performance top tips

It’s not just what you say, the way you say it is equally important so pay attention to your performance. Everything is connected, your posture, face, hands and voice, so ensure that you use all of them to express yourself most effectively.

Avoid the monotony trap by focusing on the effect that your words are having on your audience. Remember that this is the first time your audience has heard your words, no matter how many times you have said them. Actors do this by identifying the objective that they want to achieve through every line they speak, movement they make and response that they show to other actors’ words and actions.

You can do this by identifying how you want your audience to feel or think as a result of hearing each chunk of your speech, and keeping this in mind as your goal when performing. Some of the best speakers annotate their scripts with emotive symbols. You can speak quite quickly on video and this helps to convey an impression of enthusiasm. But you must pause between spoken chunks of information to allow your audience to digest what you are saying. The power of the pause is dramatic and can completely change the way your words are heard, eg. signalling the importance of information, or building anticipation.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Even spontaneity can be rehearsed and some of the most seemingly spontaneous speakers rehearse more times than most people realise, Steve Jobs included! 

Watch your final video

Watch your video back, not just to make sure you’re happy with what you’re saying, but also to check for audio problems such as extraneous noise or drops in volume and video problems such as camera shake or poor framing (remember, your head and shoulders should take up as much of the frame as possible, with ‘no free’ are above your head).

Why STEM? with JP Morgan

Are you just starting out in your career in STEM? What do you love about your work? And what would you say to your younger self, knowing what you do now?

Today, we are launching Why STEM?, a new project with J.P. Morgan where we’re asking young women to make a short film talking about why you chose a career in STEM and why you are passionate about your job. We already have several videos that will be launched on YouTube throughout Ada Lovelace Day, and will continue to publish more over the next few months.

If you want to follow the project, then we’ll be posting videos on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube with the hashtags #ALD20 and #ALDWhySTEM.

And we want you to get involved as well! If you’re within the first five or so years of your career and you want to encourage girls and young women, then make a short video, share it using the #ALDWhySTEM hashtag, and we’ll reshare some of the best! If you want some tips take a look at this blog post which will help you plan and record your video.