Video calls – they’ve become the new normal. For many across the country, face-to-face meetings seem like a distant memory.
As people all over the world dial in to video conferences, we are given an insight like never before into the homes of co-workers, clients and prospects.
Whether it be the home office, the kitchen, the spare room or, if you’re lucky, the garden, our video call backgrounds may reveal more about us than we think.
So the next time you’re pitching to a prospect, or a new customer, be sure to take a moment to consider the backdrop to your call.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to create the perfect video call background.
Preparation is key
In this ‘new normal’ we find ourselves in, many will be plunged into the world of home working for the first time. As we give our colleagues and clients a so-called glimpse through the keyhole (or webcam), it’s important to be prepared.
The beauty of your website and social media channels is that you can project your company values and portray a certain image. That’s not as easy to do when you’re on a video call from home.
Whilst clients, co-workers and prospects will most likely be understanding and many ultimately, in the same boat, it’s important to remember that it’s human nature to take a glimpse at the room you’re looking at.
While you might not think it’s that important, it can portray more than you think about who you are as a person, and as a result your business, particularly if you’re freelancing. After all, it’s a visual representation of how you choose to live in your own personal space; your home.
With that in mind, take a moment to consider what the background of your video call looks like. A quick test to see what shows up in the background on camera may save you a lifetime of embarrassment.
You take time to make yourself presentable before taking a meeting, so do the same for the room where you take your video calls.
Keep it clean
It may seem obvious, but try to avoid an overly cluttered or messy background. Don’t take calls in your kitchen where there are piles of dishes or empty milk cartons, or in your spare room that’s covered in children’s toys, laundry and an unmade bed, it won’t necessarily create the best first impression.
Try to find a space that is clean, professional and presentable to take that important call with a prospect or client. It doesn’t have to be clinical and devoid of any character either. Portray your personality, with artwork, ornaments or photos, just don’t have a background that’s too busy or distracting.
After all, you don’t want your client trying to see which video games you’ve got, rather than listening to what you have to say!
It can help to dedicate a space to home working that you keep clear in case of any last minute conference calls being added to your calendar. This way you’ll know you’re prepared and won’t have to quickly blitz your room before dialling in.
Getting the lighting right for your video call is important. You don’t want to appear a shadowy figure in the heart of darkness, and you don’t want to look as if you’ve got no features due to a light shining directly in your face.
Try to find a nice balance and make sure you have enough light for both you and your background.
Make the most of the natural light you have available in the day and if you have calls in the evening, perhaps with a client in a different time zone, utilise lamps to create a nice, soft lighting.
Although it’s a video call, it’s still important to interact as you would in person. If it was a face-to-face meeting you wouldn’t conduct it in darkness and linger in the shadows so they can’t see your face, so don’t do it on a webcam.
Zoom’s virtual background feature allows you to display an image or video as your background during a video call. So if you don’t want to show people the inside of your house, why not use a virtual background?
That way you can go anywhere in the world! Zoom has a number of backgrounds to choose from, but you can also upload your own photos and videos.
The BBC has made over 100 photos of empty sets from their TV programmes available to spruce up your video background. Could come in handy on that next team meeting. After work drinks in the Queen Vic, anyone?
Zoom does recommend choosing images that match the aspect ratio of your computer’s camera or cropping them accordingly. So standard images of 1280 pixels by 720 px or 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels will most likely do the trick.
The virtual background is also a great option if you haven’t had time to clean the room you’re taking the meeting in. You can swap that messy room for outer space or a virtual paradise.
You don’t want this happening to you mid-call. It doesn’t have to be kids either, it could be husbands, wives, housemates or pets that make an unannounced guest appearance.
Try to minimise the risk of interruptions. If you live in a shared-house, let your housemates know that you’re taking an important call and if you’re working from the kitchen, don’t plan to do a load of washing that may run into a video call meeting.
A good old finished sign on the door and clear communication with those in your household may help to avoid any unwanted interruptions.
Consider conversation starter props
If you don’t want to go virtual with your background and you fear there could be some awkward silences on the call why not strategically place items in the background that could generate conversation in those moments of awkward silence.
Placing items of interest, aka conversation starters, is a great way to fill the void of screaming silence. It can help to break the ice and generate some casual conversation to get to ease into the meeting.
This can come in handy if it’s the first time you’re meeting with someone via video call and would like to get to know them that bit better.
Remember to leave the meeting
Always double check you’ve left the call. Nobody wants to hear you exclaim how the meeting was a waste of time and could have been an email.
So, there are some top tips to help you create the perfect video background on your next call.
Have you got creative with your video call background? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.