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Work from home hacks to present your best self on video

How to look and sound great in every meeting

We’ve all heard the expression, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” Thankfully, that famous ad slogan is more cliché than truth. Every time you step into a video meeting you have an opportunity to make a great impression. The following tips are designed to help you do just that.

Tips for meeting participants

Let’s start with the visuals. Making a good impression on video begins with lighting and framing. Have you ever been in a video conference with someone who appears to be completely in shadow while the background is brightly lit? Or spent a meeting talking to someone’s forehead? It can be awkward.

Hit the lights!

Unlike external webcams, the cameras on laptops and computer monitors are not typically designed to handle situations with low light or bright contrasts. But if you don’t have a high-quality webcam available, you can still make it work. For starters, make sure you are well-lighted, facing your computer, and not in front of a background that is brightly lit. 

Facing a window with your camera pointed toward you and away from the window is much better than having the window at your back. If a window in the background is unavoidable, consider closing the curtains or blinds to reduce backlighting.

Roll the camera!

Having the camera at eye level or slightly above is far more flattering than the alternative. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a “nasal cam,” you know what we mean. If you have a webcam, positioning it on top of your computer monitor is usually best. If you’re using a laptop, try placing it on a stack of books to bring it up to eye level. If you must use your phone, you’ll do everyone a favor by propping it against something in front of you rather than holding it low in your hand. Trust us on this one.

The scene is important too. A distracting background can draw attention away from you or what you’re talking about. Whenever possible, position yourself in front of an uncluttered background. Having your back to a wall is a good solution. Background replacements are a popular and fun alternative, but they can quickly become distracting to others if the image doesn’t render properly.

Cut! Who called for lawn service?

Lastly, let’s talk about barking dogs and that noisy lawnmower next door. You may be able to tune out the background sound, but it’s a guarantee other meeting attendees will focus on it obsessively. 

A purpose-built headset can make a big difference – and not just for you. Your sound quality will be better, and the mic will help reduce ambient noise.

Obviously, finding a quiet location is ideal, but some interruptions can’t be avoided. It’s a good practice therefore to mute yourself when not speaking. It’s also helpful to colleagues if you give them a heads-up about potential disruptions, like a loud neighbor or co-working canine.

If you do need to work with what you have, any headset, including the one that came with your phone, is better than putting your meeting on speakerphone for all the world to hear.

Tips for IT

For IT teams, the best advice we can offer is communication and training. Sharing best practices like those above can help educate end users who hadn’t stopped to consider how they come across in a video meeting. This is especially true for employees who are new to video conferencing. A little education can go a long way to improving meetings for employees and reducing requests to IT for assistance.

Beyond that, consider provisioning webcams and headsets that are purpose-built for video meetings:

  • High-quality webcams with HD resolution and light-adjusting capabilities can significantly improve situations with low lighting or too much contrast.

  • Headsets improve sound not only for people wearing them but also for others in the meeting. Make sure everyone can hear and be heard.

With the sudden move from working in the office to working at home, many of your end users are making do with the cameras and mics on their laptops. But IT teams should anticipate that those same users will begin requesting higher-quality video conferencing tools, especially as work-from-home orders are extended. You can get ahead of this curve by planning today for this eventuality.

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