Part 3 in my series on coronavirus communications. Here are some tips for how to look good on video conference calls. Whichever platform you use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, BlueJeans these pointers will help you to set up your webcam so you look and sound professional.

The rise of the video conference

The COVID-19 crisis has led to most in-person events being moved online. And in these new virtual meetings, many of us are seeing wild variations across our colleagues’ digital skills. Younger digital natives have taken to video conferencing like a duck to water, but for those less familiar with webcams and video calls, it’s posing a bit of a challenge.

Prime Minister and Chancellor on Zoom

This guide is aimed at leaders of organisations who need to conduct virtual meetings from home, using only their laptop, and without the comms or IT advisors who would usually be there to help.

At a time of social distancing, leaders need to maintain gravitas even when communicating online. The first hurdle is setting up the room, webcam, and lighting to ensure good optics.

Leadership by webcam

The following measures will help you to make a strong impression in your next virtual conference or video message.

Raise your camera to eye level

Raise your laptop on a stand or a pile of books. A camera positioned below your face will create an up-the-nose shot, which you want to avoid. Sit up straight and don’t hunch over your screen. Imagine you’re a newsreader.

How to position laptop webcam for video conference
Raise laptop on books if necessary

Position yourself with the main light source in front of you

Bright light behind you will create a silhouette or unflattering shadows. Natural light from a window is most forgiving and will create the sharpest image on your webcam. Alternatively, lamplight bounced off a wall will help to counteract the unnatural blue light given off by your screen.

Choose a neutral backdrop

A bare wall is too cold, but too many details – like family photos – will be distracting. Microsoft Teams allows you to blur the backdrop. I would avoid this, because it might give the impression that you have something to hide.

Home office layout for video calls
Wirecutter‘s guide to a home office layout for video calls

Dress code? Smart-casual

No-one expects you to work from home in a suit, but don’t give the impression you just rolled out of bed. Avoid bright colours and distracting patterns. Check your appearance before the call with your laptop’s photo booth or camera app.

When starting the call:

  • Close any other video-based programmes;
  • Before you log in, familiarise yourself with the “camera” and “mute” controls;
  • Begin with “Good morning/afternoon” rather than “Can you hear me?”;
  • When you speak, look into the camera, not at your colleagues’ faces;
  • When there are lots of participants, mute yourself when others are speaking.

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