Like it or not, video calls have become part of our lives. Whether you use Zoom, Teams, Skype or GoTo Meeting from your office or home office, there’s a good chance you’ve got one on your calendar for some time in the near future.
It has dramatically helped to keep business associates and co-workers connected and communicating. However, it has also made some people, (who are typically very professional and successful), look like complete and utter goofballs. A quick internet search of “Video Call Fails” will keep you laughing for a while, while making you wonder “what were they thinking?”
It is important to take these calls (and your appearance on them) seriously, and how they can establish your position as a professional and make a productive first impression. Think of each call as if you were walking into an office, instead of being remote. I believe that is where some people make a huge mistake. For some reason, certain people either don’t take the impact of the virtual first impression seriously or consider a video call to be something very casual.
Here are a few simple tips to make sure you’re getting the most from these calls and help you from becoming the one we’ll be laughing at in the near future.
No one wants to look up your nose! Adjust your camera so that it is as level with your eyes as possible. You’ll look much better and the straight camera angle won’t make you look all distorted. If needed, use a stack of books or a small box to raise the level of your laptop. Also make sure that you’re close enough to the camera so that others on the call can easily see your eyes. If you’re too far away in the back of the room, it’s weird.
Make sure you pay attention to the lighting in your room. If you’re sitting in front of a bright window, all everyone will see is your silhouette. The natural warm light from a window can be great, as long as it is positioned in front of you. Also, if the room is dark, you may need to adjust the brightness of your computer screen. If the screen is too bright, it can make you look like a ghost. For the real professionals, invest in an inexpensive ring-light for the ultimate pro look.
Wear Bright, Solid Colors
And for God’s sake, wear some pants! I am blown away at how many people get caught taking a call wearing nothing below the (supposed) camera view. It is best to wear solid earth tone or neutral colors. Wild patterns and/or prints tend to be very distracting on a video call, and depending on the quality of your camera, can look distorted. A slightly more casual version of what you typically wear at work is a good apparel rule of thumb for most video calls.
Get Ahead of Technical Issues
You definitely don’t want to be “That Guy” who everyone else has to wait for while they attempt to adjust their camera, lighting or try to figure out how to mute their microphone to remove the annoying echo from the entire call. Make sure to test everything out so you are familiar with the platform ahead of time.
This is a big one for me. I get really frustrated when seeing someone on the call who is clearly typing an email or surfing the internet during the conference call. Last week, we even had one person, visibly holding their phone, texting away. We could all hear the “click click click, click click click,” as they didn’t even bother to mute their mic. Nothing says “I’m not really interested in anything about this meeting” like multi-tasking during a video call. That’s not the kind of impression you want to leave.
Taking a few steps from the list above will absolutely help you make the most of today’s video call technology. Your cat might still jump onto the desk, your spouse might make a strange unexpected appearance, and you still might get hit in the head with a flying cheerio from your adorable toddler, but that’s life, and having a more professional overall appearance will help to let those little instances slide.