Althea is a creative writer and communications professional with a solid experience in handling digital tools and platforms.
As the world dealt with home quarantines and unpredictable economic shifts this year, remote work suddenly became the new norm and businesses had to quickly learn to integrate digital solutions to their operations. Left with no choice but to work from home, video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Skype and Teams have become critical business tools.
But as we started to shift to these platforms for business meetings and transactions, the need to look professional in the same way we’ve been used to during in-person meetings followed, especially for professions where you’re interfacing with clients and external partners.
Here are handy tips to keep in mind and practice before your next video conference call.
Look the Part
The preparation for a video conference call should be done even before the camera turns on. If you want to create an impression of professionalism, then you have to look the part. In a video conference call, it’s all about the visuals. How you look plays a big role in how you come across to the other side of the screen. And it doesn’t always have to be a formal suit-and-tie or full make-up affair, unless required.
Since the camera gives a limited view of the upper body, a nice, collared shirt will work just as effectively. Solid colors are best, as wild, colorful patterns will be highly distracting onscreen. It’s perfectly fine to wear sleeveless tops, as long as they cover most of your shoulders. Do not wear tops that dip too far down your chest or are off-shoulder. You don't want to look like you’re wearing nothing.
Basic grooming is also a must. Make sure to comb your hair and wash your face. For girls, even applying just tinted moisturizer to even out your skin tone would work wonders.
Find the Right Angle
As much as possible, you want to recreate the experience of an in-person meeting. That means the camera should be pointed at you at the right angle. There’s never a scenario when you sit down in business meetings where your conversation partner is ducking to look at you from underneath so they can get a full view of the inside of your nostrils, so avoid positioning the camera at an angle that’s lower or higher than your face. You should also avoid being too close to the camera.
To get the perfect angle for your video conference call, remember that, when sitting upright, the camera must be pointing straight towards the center of your face and you’re looking directly at it, not looking down or looking up. The camera must be far enough from you that they would view you from the chest up, but not so far that you can’t comfortably use your keyboard and mouse. There should also be enough space between the top of your head and the edge of the screen. You’re too close if the screen is cropping your forehead.
Step Into the Light
All that effort to look good on the screen will go to waste if you don’t have good lighting. When we take selfies, we always make sure that we don’t go “against the light” to capture the best photo. It’s the same with video calls. When you’re scoping out your space for the best location to take your call, the first consideration is to ensure that you will be facing towards your source of light.
Keep in mind, though, that your computer screen also emits its own light, so do a couple of tests to find the right balance between your natural lighting and your screen’s brightness so you don’t end up looking like a bewildered ghost.
Be Aware of Your Space or Hide it Completely
Remember the time we all had the luxury of having dedicated meeting spaces within our workplaces or coffee shops that are tailored to give you the perfect setting and atmosphere for business meetings? It was easier, then, when you didn’t have to think about your space and just focused on the content of your meeting. It’s very different today, when you’re stuck at home and you realize that you’re not the cleanest, most organized person in the world.
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Examine your home and find the best background for your video conference call - where there’s the least clutter and is the least revealing about your personal habits. You want to make the impression that your professionalism at work translates to your home. Setting up against a blank wall with bare or minimalist surroundings is best, if it’s possible. But don't be too close to the wall. Move forward a bit so you give the impression of a bigger space.
Thankfully, video conferencing platforms allow you to set up a virtual background so you can choose to hide your surroundings completely.
It's not advisable to set up outdoors. It’s the least controllable environment to keep your meeting private and professional.
Use Your Headphones
Ensure that, as much as possible, you use headphones during your video conference calls. Your laptop or computer would have a built-in microphone and speakers, yes, but you shouldn’t rely on them for a quality video call. Your voice would be captured more clearly through the mic in your headphones and you would hear their voices better, too. It will also limit the background noises it would capture.
In some instances, your computer’s microphone would detect the sounds coming out of its speakers and the people talking from the other side would hear echoes of their own voices as they speak or worse, feedback, which can be extremely irritating. It doesn’t matter what kind or brand of headphones or earphones you use, it’s always better to use one.
Stay Focused and Mind Your Manners
During in-person meetings, it’s considered basic etiquette to look at your conversation partners, minimize fidgeting and listen attentively. This basic etiquette should be applied in video conferencing. Understandably, it is much harder to not be distracted during video calls, as your computer is basically an ADHD-inducing machine with its constant notifications and access to the internet. But how you behave during video conference calls contribute a lot on how professional you come across.
Focus on the meeting and, as much as possible, avoid looking away too much or looking at something else on your screen or even fiddling with other gadgets. Contrary to popular belief, it’s very obvious when you have another window on top of your video conference call — you get glassy-eyed and miss important cues during the course of the conversation.
You should also mind your manners. Give your meeting partners their proper space to talk - never interrupt or talk over them, it doesn’t translate the same way it does as when you’re in the same room together. Mute your mic when you have to and if you absolutely have to step away from the camera, excuse yourself properly and turn off your video.
Ready for Your Next Video Conference Call?
It takes time to get used to new norms and at this time, when we find ourselves thrust into no-choice scenarios, the key to success lies in the length of time you take to immerse and transition well.
Keep these tips in mind and practice so that the next time you take a professional video call — whether it's with a client or a job interview — you will find it easier to set up and give your best impression.
Althea del Barrio (author) from Manila, Philippines on August 25, 2020:
Thanks, Cynthia! Glad you found this helpful! :)
Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on August 25, 2020:
This is a very clear and informative piece of writing that i will refer to for my next ZOOM conference. Thank you. I am sharing this.