While some people are riding the craze for lockdown video conferencing with a solo glass of wine and the cosiest of pyjamas, many are hoping to hone something a bit more formal. Those who are working from home must now master a professional kind of camera-readiness! Conferencing in for a virtual meeting with bosses, colleagues, and clients can feel downright intimidating when you are not used to it. It’s a world away from meeting face-to-face and needs a completely different strategy for success. With that in mind, we have put together some great pointers for avoiding any dreaded video ‘faux-pas’ and making a polished impression from the get-go!
1. Curate The Perfect Backdrop
The background for your conference call can either frame you fantastically, or act as a distraction. Try to choose a neutral background, such as a plain wall or closed curtain. Cluttered spaces, or busy patterns and colours, can detract from the star of the show – which is you! Not to mention, a thoughtful background check can save some mighty embarrassing situations. Nobody wants to suddenly realise that they have been giving valued clients a clear view of their dirty dishes or drying underwear, right at the end of the video call!
2. Be In The Limelight With Great Lighting
Lighting can either show you at your best or make you near impossible to see. As much as sitting in front of a window might seem like a good idea, it’s likely to leave you as nothing more than a silhouette! Avoid lamps in camera shot, as they will throw out the contrast of your video call. Opt instead for a light source that is in front of you, but not positioned in a way that will dazzle or distract you.
3. Look Your Best With Polished Personal Presentation
There are plenty of anecdotes doing the rounds of people absentmindedly answering their boss on Zoom in nothing more than PJs or a towel. A much better idea is to treat video conferences as a virtual trip to the office – and always dress the part! Being on camera adds a few other factors into the mix too. Choosing an outfit in a similar colour to your backdrop can make you all but disappear. Similarly, choosing a skin-coloured top, or something strapless, can create a very nude impression! Better choices to steer towards are colours that contrast, covering your shoulders, with no visually chaotic patterns!
4. It’s All In The Angles
There is an art to presenting our best selves on camera, and a flattering angle is undeniably an important part of the mix. The most common error here is positioning the camera too low. Sitting with your laptop on your lap can leave you sporting a quadruple chin, which is never a great look! Show your face at its best by positioning the camera in front of you, and slightly higher than your eye-line. Quick hacks to get the look include popping your laptop on a pile of magazines or splashing out on a separate web-cam that you can position exactly where you want it.
5. Be Cool As A Cucumber By Getting Prepared
While some find video conferences easy, others can experience rabbit-in-the-headlights moments. Avoid this sticky situation by preparing notes for your meeting. Nobody on the call can see what you have just off-camera, so some well-placed notes can also work magic. Go through the points you want to cover ahead of time and prepare some bullet point prompts to make sure you don’t forget anything. You can even grab some post-it notes and fix vital titbits to the side of your screen, to help you along the way.
6. Test Your Equipment For Call Quality
If you have never used the video conference software required before, a trial run is a must. Enlist friends or family to help you scope things out! If your internet connection is a bit ropey, consider hard wiring to your router, rather than relying on Wi-Fi. If your internet speed is sluggish, ensure that your fellow cohabitants are on-side to pause downloads, video games, Netflix, and the like, for the duration of your conference call. Finally, if those receiving your call are getting a nasty echo, invest in a basic headset to eliminate feedback. Nobody wants to hear their own voice booming back at them.
7. Banish Distractions
Invading children, and bouncy pets can derail a video conference call in an instant. Take care not to allow your little cherubs, or furry friends, to provide an insight into home life that you didn’t want to share! Instead, plan to make your conference call from behind a locked door and close the windows if there is potential for a racket to kick-off outside!
8. Anticipate The Unexpected
Despite your best laid plans, never doubt that something still might go wrong. The universe has a real knack for throwing curve balls when we are live on camera! This is why it’s vital to make sure that even though we only plan on showing our head and shoulders, we are dressed to impress from head to toe. Don’t join the ranks of those who have let their boss see their Sponge Bob boxers! Likewise, a mess just off-camera may be revealed if something accidentally spins your device around. Being ready for the worst is the surest way to avoid these disasters.
9. Stay In The Moment
Just as you avoid creating distractions for others, nix possible sources of distraction for yourself. Channelling your favourite TV news presenters can serve as a top tip here! Staying reasonably still, and mentally present, will create the best impression – and allow you to get the most out of your video call. Close any background programs on your device that might tempt a click while you are on a conference call. Try not to fiddle with anything, or to accidentally cover your mic with your arm…
10. Maintain “Eye” Contact
We all instinctively respond to eye contact, and while it might seem counter-intuitive when you are alone in a room, tapping into this instinct can make you more commanding via video call. It’s easy to be tempted to look at our own image during a call – especially if we are paranoid about how we may be coming across, but this is a major no-no. Splitting your focus between looking at your co-conference-members, and straight into the camera, will make them feel far more engaged with. To feel at ease with your own video feed, sit down ahead of schedule, with plenty of time to get in the zone. Open your device camera, separately from any video conferencing software – and check that you look the part. Once that has given you peace of mind, you can minimise your own camera window during the call and focus 100% on having a fantastic meeting.