Video meet-ups have been a life-line during our stay-at-home times. Like “social distancing,” Zoom has become a part of our everyday vocabulary. But we didn’t have much time to learn to fine-tune our skills as work meetings, doctor’s appointments, and happy hours quickly relocated to our laptop screens. For me, an introvert, there’s something intimidatingly intimate about video calls that gives me butterflies in my belly. Of course, there’s plenty of folks who have been non-stop FaceTiming even before there was a pandemic going on. But with work and socializing moving more to virtual meetings, it might be time for a few tips on how to look your best and get the most from video calls.
The Right Light
Lighting is ESSENTIAL for looking your best on video chat. Do a few test videos using the platform you’ll be using to video chat (each one is a little different, so make sure to do a test run). Try out different angles and positions for your webcam. If you can be facing a window, even if there’s no direct sunlight, it will help illuminate your face. If facing a window isn’t an option, just point a desk lamp directly at your face (low wattage works best!). The goal is to evenly light your face, so avoid back and overhead lighting that’s going to create weird shadows. You definitely want to avoid having a window behind you, which will cause you to look like a shadowed form without a face, not a good look for anyone.
Basic Your Background
There’s two schools of thought on the best background to sit in front of. Basically it depends on the impression you want to give. Some say to keep your background very plain like a bare wall, so as not to have participants distracted by the what’s behind you. Others want to give a lasting impression of their home office and make it part of their image. This latter option might be more appropriate when you have fewer opportunities to speak, like on a larger conference call, so you can let your decor do some of the talking for you. Whichever way you choose, be conscious of what’s in the background so you don’t have anything you wouldn’t want the public to see. I am however slightly enjoying seeing news anchors’ unfolded clothes in the background. It lets me know others are procrastinating on their laundry too.
Keep your clothing simple and go with a color that makes you feel confident. You’ll usually see me in navy blue and there’s a reason for that: it makes me feel strong and I feel like it compliments my skin and hair tone, giving me a little boost when I need it on camera. Stay away from patterns, but also consider something other than basic black which can be a bit boring on camera.. A nice necklace or earrings can give your look a real boost beyond what accessorizing generally does in person. These little accents will have you looking like you’re all pretty and polished even if you might currently be pant-less and on day three without a shower…the beauty of the teleconference.
Let Your Hair Shine
Spritz your hair with some quick hair shine oil and I can almost guarantee you someone is going to compliment your hair on your call. You just need to have washed your hair in the last couple of days for the spray to do its thing.
Your cat likes to stick its butt on camera? No worries so does mine! The best part of video chatting is it’s a little less formal that actual meetings. So if your pet wants to get in on the call, don’t freak out. I, for one, will never complain even if it’s a cat butt i’m seeing – sometimes it’s a great conversation mover and humanizes a stuffy work call. The last group conference call I was on, my cat jumped on my lap and proceeded to shed practically her entire coat in one breath. My face was covered with her fur and I kept sneezing from the cloud of fuzz. That’s why the mute button was invented!
Hide Yo Self
This is a tip I can’t take credit for. I got it from my therapist during our last teletherapy appointment. I LOVE it and cannot believe I didn’t think of it sooner. After being logged into a call and seeing yourself all good on the call, take down the image of your video so you can just see everyone else on the call. There are ways to eliminate seeing yourself but the exact methods differ on each platform. My therapist keeps it simple and old school though, opting to use a plain ol’ sticky note to cover up the video feed of herself while on a call. There’s actually science behind this and not just video call insecurity. Our brains tend to spend more mental energy focusing on our own image when we see ourselves rather than others in a video chat. It makes sense since, when you think about it, during a typical in-person conversation, we rarely see ourselves while talking. I know I often catch myself looking at myself, adjusting my hair, checking my expression, rather than listening to the other person. Grab that sticky and pop it on your screen next time! Just don’t forget you ARE still visible to everyone else!
Go All In
Have you been on those Zoom chats where it seems like one of the participants must’ve butt dialed into the call, because all you’re seeing is the bottom of their chin? Or they’re walking or running errands while everyone else is chatting? Although it’s cool to be casual with your calls, the best way to keep them efficient and effective is to be focused on the conversation rather than your daily tasks. Others on the call will feel your focus and be more invested and everyone will get the most out of the call.