We’re currently living in an era of Zoom meetings and video conferences, thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are still working remotely, and that’s a trend that is likely to stick around. Currently, Zoom has about 300 million daily meeting participants. Whether you’re using it (or a similar platform) for business meetings, a job interview, or even school, it’s important to maintain a sense of professionalism.
Sometimes, putting on your “Zoom attire” (even if it’s just a nice top and sweatpants no one can see!) isn’t enough. Having a professional background can make a big difference in how you’re viewed on screen.
What does that mean? No, you don’t have to go with a pre-made electronic backdrop. Those can often look cold and too “digital” to feel professional. Instead, make sure you’re setting up your surrounding space for success.
With that in mind, let’s cover a few ways you can create a professional background for your video conferences. With a few simple additions and adjustments, you can completely change the way people see you.
Getting Back to Basics
If you’re working remotely, it’s a good idea to create a home office space for yourself. Even if you don’t have a lot of room, you can still build a functional space that looks professional by going with the essentials. That includes things like:
- A desk
- Good lighting
- A computer (not your phone)
Having these basics will allow people viewing you to see that you aren’t just streaming from your couch. Something as simple as sitting at a desk can make a difference in how professional you’re perceived.
If you do struggle with space issues, consider transforming an area of your home and dedicating it solely to your work. It could even be a kitchen table, under the stairs, or an empty closet. As long as you have a few essential pieces, no one will be able to tell how big or small your space is.
Lighting Things Up
Once you’ve recognized that adequate lighting is essential, you can start to hone in on just how important it is. The right kind of lighting can make a big difference in how you look on a computer screen. If you’re in a room that’s too dark, people won’t be able to see you as well. Or, you might look pixelated and grainy. That can be distracting for others and paint your presence in a negative light – no pun intended.
Whenever possible, try to use natural lighting. The easiest way to do that is by placing your computer/desk close to a window. If it’s a darker day or you don’t have the option of being by a window, investing in high-quality light fixtures is the next best option. Many “influencers” today use ring lights to give themselves a more polished, professional look. You don’t need to go that far, but it will make a difference in the clarity of your appearance.
If you’re working with a limited budget, make the most with what you have. Setting up a few floor lamps around your room will help to create a “studio” feel and will add just the right amount of warm lighting. You won’t look washed up, but you’ll be illuminated well enough for people to see you clearly.
Avoid any reflective surfaces in whatever room you’re using. If the lighting you’re using bounces off any mirrors or shiny wall decor, it could cause an extreme glare. It might even become a distraction for others in your conference. Keep things as neutral and warm as possible by combining the right lighting with the colour(s) of your room.
There’s a fine balance you should try to strike when it comes to your video background. Going neutral with the wall behind you is a great idea if you’re worried about distractions. Some tips to keep in mind for a neutral background include:
- No windows
- Using a neutral colored wall
- Incorporating earth tones
- Ensuring there are no offensive posters or artwork on video
Going neutral for your background doesn’t have to mean having a plain wall behind you. While it’s important to choose any art pieces or posters wisely, a few decorative accents can actually make a positive difference.
If you want your layout to feel personal and professional, consider having a few family photos in the background. Or, hang up any degrees, awards, or certificates you might have. Those little additions can tell whoever you’re on a call with a lot about you. They may end up serving as much more than just “decor.” If you’re getting on a conference call with someone for the first time, those pieces can be used as icebreakers or conversation starters. Having touches of your personality in view will help everyone feel more comfortable.
Since video conferences are here to stay, it’s a good idea to make a professional background a priority. Keep these ideas in mind as you navigate the Zoom waters, and you’ll be able to give off the right impression with every virtual meeting.