It’s no doubt that working from home is often more relaxed than at the office. And during the pandemic, you may have let some things slide, like your preparation, appearance and behavior during Zoom meetings. For example, you may have become accustomed to pulling up your chair to your desk right before the meetings start, showing up in your sweatshirt with a three-day-old beard or checking notifications on your phone as they come in.
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If you’re guilty of these bad habits or others, and no one’s said anything to you yet, you need to check yourself right now. You should always present yourself just as professionally during a virtual meeting as you would during an in-person meeting.
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To help you put your best foot forward, here are some examples of bad Zoom habits and how to solve them based on expert advice.
Consider Your Background
Background matters. After all, you don’t want your colleagues to see your dirty laundry, do you? Marci Powell of Marci Powell and Associates recommends choosing a location that has a professional-looking background.
“… Not cluttered and not with a bed behind you. Likewise, do not have a window in the background. The light coming in will dominate the camera’s attention and put your face in the dark. A solid wall with simple decor is best. A bookcase is fine but most likely the person on the other end of the Zoom call will be looking at book titles to get a feel of who you are by what you read.”
Test Your Audio and Video in Advance
Sure, you may not have any audio or visual issues in today’s Zoom meeting, but what about tomorrow’s? Joseph Liu, personal branding consultant and host of the Career Relaunch podcast recommends doing a full dry run before each meeting.
“Test all system permissions from start to finish … to ensure your microphone, webcam, audio and screen sharing are all working fine.”
Liu also recommends using a high-quality microphone. “Instead of using your built-in computer microphone which tends to be lower quality and may pick up other ambient sounds, use a wired, external microphone. A clip-on lapel microphone offers high-quality sound without being too visually distracting on camera.”
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Adjust Your Camera
Even if you’re wearing pants for your Zoom meeting, there are still reasons to worry about camera angle.
Jackie Labrecque, executive producer of Poston Communications’ Video Division, offered this advice:
“Adjust the camera height so it’s coming straight at your eye level. If using a laptop, that means ensuring it is at a 90-degree angle, and then physically lift the computer up to meet your eye level. This may mean you need several books under it, or perhaps find a different surface in the home. And watch your head room: Too much space above is distracting. Anywhere from an inch and a half to two inches is ideal.”
Powell offered this tip for positioning the camera: “Try to set the camera so that it puts you in a frame similar to the way a television broadcaster looks; a head and shoulders shot with your head in the upper third of the screen.”
Practice Your Presentation
Preparation is key when it comes to a Zoom presentation, and you should prepare for a Zoom presentation just as you would prepare for an in-person meeting.
” … Record yourself,” Labrecque advised. “While watching ourselves can be painful, it is important feedback to see how we are coming across on screen. We can make tweaks and adjustments before the important meeting.”
Get Rid of Distractions
If people working from home have learned anything, it’s that unexpected distractions can occur. If you have pets or small children who might push their way into the room during your Zoom meeting, securely close and lock the door before beginning.
“Anything that might potentially distract you should be eliminated as much as possible when you interview,” said Beaconstac’s HR specialist Raveena Singh. “Unexpected noises [and] people walking by in the background can be a source of distraction to you.”
Liu takes it one step further: “Turn off all other devices and close all other applications, not only to reduce bandwidth usage but to prevent distractions during your interview. Even leaving your devices on vibrate will be distracting, not only to you but also [others].”
Consider Your Attire
It goes without saying that you should dress professionally, but not everything that looks good in person will look good on camera.
“Dress in solid colors, not stripes or patterns,” Powell said. “Eliminate wearing flashy jewelry. Consider what your background will look like and dress in a way that doesn’t make you blend into the background. For example, wearing a white shirt and sitting in front of a white wall makes only your face stand out.”
“Avoid wearing stripes or patterned clothing, which can create a distracting, on-screen optical effect called a moire pattern. Instead, keep it simple, and wear solid colors that tend to look better on camera.”
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