Screen Recording Tips – Clutter Intervention & Digital Feng Shui

What is Digital Feng Shui?

Recently a salesperson was showing me a piece of software that I was considering for SEO analysis.  This person was what I would consider a well-rounded sales professional.  They asked good questions, spoke well, and knew their product well.  But during the demo, I found myself distracted by all of their digital clutter; an inappropriate desktop image, too many file icons, unused applications, notification pop-ups, and endless browser windows.  The presenter also shared a screen recording of an upcoming feature.  I realize it was not an “official” marketing video, but the cluttered video really made me cringe.

Regardless of their experience there is one area of screen sharing that many professionals overlook; screen clutter.  As a sales professional and consultant, I’ve delivered and critiqued my fair share of product demos.  So at the end of their presentation I joked that the salesperson should hire a Digital Feng Shui Designer.  It had never occurred to them how this clutter might have a negative impact during their demos.  So I thought it would be fun to share some tips for keeping a tidy workspace while presenting live demos and capturing screen recordings.

Don't clutter your desktop with files.

If your computer’s desktop looks like this, you need some digital feng shui in your life.

Move file icons and applications.

The first step in our Digital Feng Shui is to remove all the unnecessary file icons from your desktop.  If you’re not ready for a full-on digital clutter intervention you can simply move them to your documents folder.  This isn’t necessarily cleaning.  It’s more like shoveling clutter into the closet like a child who was told to clean their room.  If you really need all of those files organized on your desktop, consider using HiddenMe for Mac so you can hide desktop icons with a single click.  For Windows users, learn how to create a keyboard shortcut to quickly hide desktop icons.

If you’re using a Mac, I suggest using the genie effect in your dock preferences to hide application clutter.  At the same time, you’ll want to close any unneeded applications that may be open.  These are not only distracting to your audience, but they also take up CPU memory which could affect your computer’s performance.

Remove file icons from your desktop before recording your screen.

Remove file icons and hide the application dock to clean up your desktop.

Hide top menu application icons.

This may be taking things to the extreme, but you might also want to get rid of those app icons located in the top navigation menu.  For this, I found a nice tool created by Matthew Palmer called Vanilla.  You can download it for free here.  Again, this may just be the perfectionist in me, but I think it makes my screen recordings look better.

Use Vanilla to hide application icons from your top navigation menu.

Use the Vanilla App to hide application icons from your top navigation menu.

Create your own desktop image.

Ok, what’s not to like about that majestic lion gazing over their pride?  Really, I love animals just as much as anyone.  But I think there’s better use of this real estate when setting up for a screen recording or live product demo.  What I suggest is that you place your company’s logo on a solid color background.  If you plan on using a Live Annotation tool like the one included with the Collaaj Screen Recorder, you might even place your logo in the top left so you have more desktop space for drawing diagrams.  If you don’t have Photoshop, an easy way to create the desktop image is to use Keynote or PowerPoint.  Just create the image as a slide, go full screen, and take a screen shot so you can add it as your desktop image.  This looks clean and professional; almost as if you’re actually prepared.  😛

Clean up your desktop icons and use your company logo as the desktop image.

Use your company’s logo on a solid backdrop for your desktop image.

Clean up your browser tabs.

If you’re going to demonstrate a SaaS application or share information from a website, you should clean up your browser tabs.  Close tabs for your email, calendar, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and anything else that is not relevant to your presentation.  If you do plan to show multiple websites, try to limit it to 2-3 tabs so it’s easy to navigate.  I use tabs to show a customer how to copy/paste API keys to integrate Collaaj with their LMS.  Otherwise, I open individual windows in full screen and use the swipe function on Mac to transition between screens.

Don't keep multiple tabs open in your Chrome browser window.

Remove all of the unnecessary tabs in your browser and go full screen with a single tab.

Limit your browser tabs to 2-3 or use individual windows.

Limit your browser to 2-3 tabs or use individual browsers for each website.

Disable app and website notifications.

By now you probably realize that I’m a little bit critical of unnecessary clutter in presentations and screen recordings.  So you may not be surprised with this next suggestion.  Do not – for any reason – leave yourself vulnerable to surprise notifications during a live demo.  These look very unprofessional and will also ruin your screen recording.  I cant tell you how many times I’ve been on a demo where the presenter had a notification pop up.  Whether its LinkedIn, Slack, or – heaven forbid – a Tinder notification, nothing screams “I’m not prepared” like a notification popping up.  Instead, use the alarm on your phone and set it to vibrate so you know when to wrap things up.

Turn off app and website notifications during your screen recordings.

Turn on Do Not Disturb in your Notification Center.

Have any tips to share?

I could go on to share my thoughts about laser pointers, click sounds, animations, and more.  But instead I’d love to hear from other content creators.  What are your presentation pet peeves?  Do you like laser pointers or find them distracting?  What other tips would you suggest professionals consider while capturing a screen recording?  Leave your comments below.

Have an idea for an article or want to contribute a blog post?  We’d love to here from you!  Send us a message and we’ll get in touch right away.

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