I’ll be honest with you. There have been times in my career when I was truly grateful for the absence of cameras. No need to go into details, but suffice it to say, that it is much easier to cultivate a professional image in a well-ordered office building than surrounded by evidence of the presence of small children, animals and the occasional domestic disaster. As video conferencing increases in popularity, more mobile workers are going to join conversations by video from home offices.
Fortunately there are ways to engage by video and protect your image at the same time.
1. Background check. Launch your video application and test different camera angles and backgrounds. If your back is to a window, for example, you may be so heavily backlit that you are barely recognizable. This can be a benefit if you didn’t manage to shower before your meeting, but is otherwise considered undesirable.
2. Camera position. Try to have the camera positioned directly in front of your face. This might mean elevating your laptop or tablet and moving it closer than normal. You want to avoid appearing on screen as two giant nostrils (camera below your chin, pointing up) or as a headless chest (the opposite).
3. Screen your background. This can mean checking to be sure there are no objectionable titles on the bookcase behind you, or it could mean literally setting up a screen to block something you’d rather not share with the world.
4. Mute strategically. In a multi-party conference, chances are will be listening rather than holding forth for long stretches of time. When that happens, make it your standard practice to hit the “mute” button. No need to call attention to your corner of the screen with sounds of a ringing doorbell, barking dog, frantic teenager etc. Just remember to unmute when you want to speak—unless your co-workers all happen to be accomplished lip readers.
5. Remove your square. In many video applications, the default layout lets you watch everyone else in the conference….and yourself. Take the time to ensure the camera angle, lighting and background are spot-on before you join the conference, and then turn ”self-see”off. It’s human nature to be distracted by your own image. You will enjoy the experience more and interact more naturally if you let yourself go.
What are your recommendations for video conferencing from home? We’d love to hear your lessons learned!