As the world increasingly migrates to virtual meetings, it’s imperative to sharpen your tech savvy and etiquette—not to mention sounding and looking your best on video conferences. Self-help articles about how to show up online abound these days. Here are my personal tips and pet peeves.
1. Set the stage. Prepare the shot before the video conference starts. Find a pleasant, uncluttered space where the background frames you nicely and speaks to who you are. Make sure objects behind you are well placed and don’t look like appendages to your skull. Think of composition and balance. Add a touch of color, maybe books about your field. A family photo is nice but avoid a reflective surface (i.e. glass) that distracts.
2. Use virtual backgrounds with caution. If you are doing a video conference while sitting on your bed with your dog, you may want a virtual background more suited to your business. But note that unless you use a green screen, your image may pixelate and meld with the background scene with unwanted results.
3. Find a flattering angle. Place the webcam at eye level. Looking down is not only unbecoming to just about anybody but a supermodel, but the lens will show parts of your ceiling, air vents and random fixtures which distract from your appearance. If you are using a laptop, place it on books or boxes until you achieve the right height.
4. Calibrate your lighting. Place the light source facing you, not behind you. Play with soft fill from the sides. Use LEDs not fluorescent lights which cast nasty shadows. In daytime, find the best natural light sources, but don’t sit with the window at your back.
5. Look at the lens of the webcam. Don’t look at the screen if you don’t have to. If you wear glasses, watch the glare. If you must wear them, change the angle of the light to lessen the reflection.
6. Wear makeup. That’s right. Even men should apply translucent powder to blot greasy skin. Generally, women benefit from a touch of color on cheeks and lips. Keep a mirror nearby to check your face and hair before connecting.
7. Dress for success. You may be wearing pajama bottoms, but what you wear from your waist up matters—a lot. Select a video conference wardrobe in colors that complement your skin tone. Avoid busy patterns and floral prints. Don’t wear white unless it goes with your profession.
8. Watch your body language. You are on screen for the duration of the video call, so your gestures, hand movements and posture will be on view. Remember that slow internet connections can distort and blur quick movements.
9. Upgrade your equipment. I was using a 10-year old 720p webcam until I started doing online consulting and training. Switching to a Logitech C920s 1080p HD webcam was a game changer. Play with the camera settings, as well as the controls for your preferred video conference platform. You will make amazing discoveries, including a soft-focus setting that is gentle on the wrinkles.
10. Check your sound. Whether you use the integrated webcam microphone, headset or earbuds, do a sound check before connecting. Audio problems are a common time waster. Rooms with high ceilings create echoes. Be aware of background noise makers such as air conditioners, fans and clocks.
In addition to looking great on video conferences, here’s some basic etiquette to follow:
- Speak more slowly than you would in person. Sound distortion is common on video calls. And with people working from home now, hardware, connections and video/audio quality will vary greatly.
- Mute your microphone when you are not speaking. Mute your mobile phone, too.
- Complete your account profile. If you download video conference software (like Zoom or Microsoft Skype) and open an account, make sure to create a profile with your full name and nice photo. Your name will display while you are connected, and your photo will show when you mute your video.
- Start and end meetings on time. If you’re the host, open the call a few minutes ahead to check your connection and settings. If you are a participant, join a few minutes ahead to complete the logon protocol and check your own settings.
- Smile often. We need more reasons to smile these days.
Additional resources for communicating during the coronavirus pandemic:
Public Relations Society of America: https://www.prsa.org/about/crisis-communications-resources
International Association of Business Communicators: https://www.iabc.com/covid-19-resources/
Associated Press–How to write about the novel coronavirus: https://www.apstylebook.com/topical_most_recent