Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts have all become common tools in our lives as we social distance and shelter-in-place. Business meetings have been replaced with the video call. It’s our new normal and it’s here to stay.
While it was fun for the first few weeks to be in our pyjamas with videos off and mics on mute, the novelty has worn off slightly. As we get settled into our new normal it helps to get back to our weekday routine – that includes wearing pants. Routine not only improves our mental health, it also helps us be successful when working from home.
As we start turning videos on, many are wondering how to look as good on a video call as they do in person while working with what you have at home. Don’t panic – with a couple of tips and tweaks you can ensure you always look professional on a video call.
1. Dress appropriately
You need to dress for a video call as you would for an in-person meeting – or as close as possible. We may be in the middle of a crisis with coronavirus but first impressions still matter. What you wear is nearly as important as what you say. As you are at home it may be ok to take it down a notch, but not too far. More cashmere sweater than varsity sweatshirt.
If you are in any doubt always dress up, never down. Know that if you are talking with the CEO of a bank, and they expect a tie at all times you will still need to wear a tie! Dress appropriately professional for the type of video call you are on.
2. Fill your face with light
In an ideal world, the best room in your house to conduct a video call will also have exceptional lighting. Failing that, cheat. Get two lamps and position them on either side of your desk. That way, your face will be illuminated from both sides and you will avoid unnatural shadows. Video quality is not always the best, so every trick will help you make a good impression.
3. Raise your camera
Position your webcam eye level or higher. This way you will be looking directly into the camera, not down, and it will look more natural. If this means you need to stack your laptop or screen on some books, do it. Just make sure it isn’t balanced precariously, you wouldn’t want it to fall over mid video call.
Make sure to look at the camera as much as possible, or at the screen closes to where the camera is. It will appear as direct eye contact. Avoid looking at yourself in the small frame of the corner of your screen.
4. Find a quiet place (and use your best headphones)
While we don’t have a lot of control over audio quality in a video call, you will sound better in a quiet room. Keep in mind that headphone can help you cut ambient noise, as well as ensure you hear what is being said. Remember that if you can’t hear the discussion, you will very likely answer incorrectly when called on.
Make sure your headphone mic is working correctly too. You may need to try a couple of headphones to find the one that has the clearest sound.
5. Choose a neutral background
Look at the background that will be in your video interviews. Is it a direct eyeline to your hamster cage or your bathroom? Both of those are distracting in different ways and will look unprofessional. Avoid that by making sure your background is a clear wall or more professional looking space.
Don’t have that option available? If you are on a Zoom call you can set up a virtual background to display an image as your background during the call. Shutterstock also has several free virtual backgrounds you can download and use.
6. Check your tech
Once you have your set up in place, do a trial run with a friend or family member. Make sure your webcam, microphone, and headphones are working correctly. Make any adjustments you need to in your trial call, so you are ready to go when your meeting starts.
Make sure you have a good internet connection. If your internet is likely to cut out, make sure no one else in the house is downloading all 16 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy at the same time as your video call. Don’t let your internet connection let you down your preparations.
As a courtesy to others know how to mute your microphone. Unmute yourself quickly when you need to speak and put mute back on afterwards. This will ensure no random outside notices make their way onto your video call.
7. Body language
Even though people will only be seeing the top half of your body, you still need to be aware of your body language. Sit up straight in your chair with your feet on the ground. Keep the fidgeting down to a minimum. Know what you look like before you get on the video call – don’t check your teeth once you’re connected.
Don’t forget that you’re on camera. Part of looking good means acting as you would in person. Pay close attention to your video call settings, and the expression on your face. We can all still see you!
8. Keep clear of distractions – if possible
As with regular meeting, try to clear the room you are in of everything that will distract you. Turn off the radio and TV. Close the door so family/roommates, children or pets don’t interrupt you mid-call. But if they do, roll with it as best you can.
This is an unusual time and we are often working in less than ideal home office situations. It may put a smile on a coworker’s face to see your cat appear for on-screen for a while. If your child needs to know “Why are we having spaghetti for the third night in a row?”, politely excuse yourself out loud, hit mute, and try come back as quick as possible. Just remember you are still on camera and the video call is still going.
If you are really uncomfortable on camera, then practise, practise, practise. The more you practise, the more you will be comfortable. Even though it may be awkward at first, with a couple of practise rounds you can become a consummate professional.
Stay safe, keep healthy, and remember to be kind to yourselves.