Video Call: 5 Tips for Looking Professional
2020’s global pandemic saw our work life and overall communication take a virtual turn. We moved from the crowded office spaces to remote home offices, our social gatherings took on the form of virtual parties or tender face-to-face discussions adapted to a screen.
While it’s perfectly fine to sit in your sweatpants and chat with your friends, looking presentable on screen for a business associate is paramount. And while it’s often the intention, some of us are shocked the moment our cameras turn on and our virtual meeting rooms fill up.
We’ve all heard the shocking Zoom stories, where homeworkers mistakably carried their portable devices into the havens of their bathroom, only to find out that they’ve shared a whole lot more than they’ve bargained for with their colleagues.
Our only tip here is to make sure you maintain proper business etiquette throughout your on-call meetings, video or not, but what about those of us who are always fully dressed, prepared and aim to perform and look as professional as possible once that all-seeing camera flashes green?
So how can you make Zoom or Skype make you look good?
Hunching yourself over a laptop while glaring into a webcam, can never be imagined as the most glamorous ‘pose’ of the hour – the truth is that when we, as humans, feel the distance between others, we kind of act differently.
Our silly habits generally carried out in the sanctity of our homes, sometimes carry on into the meeting rooms our colleagues, managers or clients invite us into. The minute we’re taken out of our comfort zone, and into an office space or physical meeting room, for example, our body language changes, our use of language changes too and so does our approach and sometimes even confidence.
Learning a few tricks to keep yourself looking professional in a video call could be your saving grace. Here are 5 tips that could angle you in the right direction:
Lighting is your friend
This is probably the golden nugget that will change the way you are perceived on camera. A dark, shoddy room will present you in a whole other light when compared to a bright, clutter-free environment.
Now you might think that this only relates to first impressions, but it might be just as inappropriate for your peers and superiors. Whether you’re shying away from the camera, or simply forgot to turn on the light behind you, presenting yourself with the right lighting not only makes it easier for other viewers to see you, but it also allows them to understand you better and take you seriously.
Top tip: set up your device in front of a window, the natural light will add a glow to your face, highlighting your presence and participation in the call. If you’re in a windowless room, pop a lamp behind your laptop or smartphone – that should do the trick.
What’s in an angle?
Angles make a whole world of difference and will make for better video quality, overall perception and avoid any funny views of the inside of your nostrils, lessening that double-chin effect too. Win-win!
Try to keep your webcam at eye-level, or possibly angle it a little higher, so you can control what view the end-receiver gets during their session with you.
Top tip: if you need some more height on your device, stack some books beneath your computer, you’d be amazed what a new perspective can achieve.
This one is a toss-up, some experts recommend showing off your interior, as long as it’s neat and tidy. Others swear by attaching a filter to your background through your app of choice. This one is really up to you.
We do suggest that you share your camera view from a professional perspective, a quick tidy up or relocation can easily solve that. But then again, a quick-fix background filter of a tidy office space could also do the trick.
Top Tip: make sure you are constantly the star of the show -nothing in your background should distract people from what you are saying or discussing. Even your cat could disrupt the flow of a meeting – and even though it’s a cute interruption, this is business.
Sorry, what was that?
The dreaded internet drop – hands down the worst flaw of technology, and the working world’s biggest time waster. If you know that you are prone to slow internet in your area, you might want to suggest that disruptions may happen during your call, although irritating to boot, your colleagues should understand that it’s out of your control.
If you are on a video call with a large team, making use of the in-built chat could help you jump in a conversation, or at least keep track of everyone’s ideas, comments and suggestions. The setbacks of technology can be frustrating, but preempting them and working around such hang-ups could save the worst WiFi situations around.
Top tip: try and install boosters around the house, these little boxes of intelligence can help you route your WiFi to that specific working spot, where the lighting is good and the room is quiet.
Mind your Ps and Qs
Dropping some angry or vulgar language on a video call with friends might be absolutely fine with your crowd, but do your best to hold back on foul language when in a video call with professionals.
It might seem like it’s OK to relax that little bit, but ultimately your virtual meeting room is still a professional space that you need to respect and maintain. A few jokes won’t hurt anyone, but keep it PG, keep it clean.
Top tip: clear your head before you enter a meeting, visualise your conversations and remember that you are a professional who deserves respect and appreciation for their work. Stray away from the slang and colloquialisms you’ve grown so accustomed to using in your home office.
Learning how to present yourself in a whole new medium might be hard at the start, you might even slip up and find yourself spotting a really bad hair day in dim lighting – but that’s OK.
Finding ways to give your video chats that boost of quality will drastically transform your online meeting spaces from chaotic daily dreads to structured and effective video calls.