Looking your best on a videoconference isn’t merely a question of vanity. At this point in the pandemic, not being prepared for a videoconference or electronic meeting may appear unprofessional or detract from your noteworthy contributions. And let’s be honest, meetings are being recorded and screenshots are being saved, so that camera view up your nose will live on forever. As a consultant and coach, I have seen a range of performances, and I thought I would provide some hints to help you be your best online self.
- Presentation. First, place your camera slightly higher than your face. Think about a good selfie in which the view is almost always from above. Next, try to have natural light (best) or lamplight on your face. Don’t put your back to the window or light as it will darken your face. Having a white surface either on the table or floor will reflect light and decrease unflattering shadows. Think of a professional photographer’s setup. Do find an appropriate place in your home to conduct your meeting. The simpler the background the better. Don’t let your good contributions be overshadowed by your décor. Backdrops of beds and kitchens may not send the right message, even though we all know that by necessity it is where a lot of work is being conducted.
- Practice. Familiarize yourself with the platform. Many people have been on more Zoom meetings than they care to count. Make sure you know how to mute, why to mute, how to unmute, or how to get gallery view. Understand that our previously normal conversational styles aren’t optimal for this setting. Even simple conversational fillers – uh-huh, I know, yes, got it – can cause a change in view or a delay in the conversation. Most pros like to mute until they are recognized to speak. Do go to a site where you can see how you look and play around to find the optimal setting, distance, and lighting. Ask a trusted friend for advice. Have a practice call with a colleague.
Try to limit off-camera distractions. It isn’t always possible to avoid dancing toddlers or barking dogs, but do your best. It was cute initially, but these are stressful times, and patience may be in short supply. Also, know that people can’t really see the cute photo on your phone no matter how close to the camera you hold it.
Meeting hosts make a difference. Be sure you are familiar with the platform before the big meeting. Few of my meetings are confidential, like a telemedicine conference for example, so I appreciate being able to enter a meeting early and to chat with participants while we wait to start. Hosts should start the meeting on time. A nonverbal check-in – a show of hands from 1–10, or thumbs up/down) on how people are feeling can provide important feedback and participant engagement. If time permits, an online poll can be useful, too.
Pacing. An agenda and a time limit will ensure the meeting stays on track. Keeping participants engaged in a virtual meeting requires extra attention to meeting preparation. Try to create short presentations or use break-out sessions to keep attendees interested. Be clear with key speakers of their time limit. If information can be shared electronically prior to the meeting, it could cut down on run-on presentations. When asking for feedback, put clear expectations on the time. For example, ask for short lists: What are your three goals? In thirty seconds, tell us one thing you want to do. Consider whether the chat function can meet the same purpose. I prefer a ninety-minute limit on larger meetings without participation by the attendees. Even meetings with fewer participants who can interact should plan on a time to end the meeting. People are stressed with extra responsibilities and concerns. Everyone will appreciate a well-run meeting that is respectful of their time and attention.
Pants! Finally, and this feels as if it should go without saying – put on your pants and don’t take your computer into the bathroom. We’ve all see those videos go viral. Don’t let it be you. Attire rules are relaxed for work at home, but keep your attire clean, neat and professional, even if casual.
See you online!