In our new reality, more and more of us are attending meetings and conducting business from home, and will be for some time. This means more video discussions using webcams on devices like laptops, cell phones or tablets. How you conduct yourself during these virtual interactions is indicative of your brand and what you stand for.
If your virtual meeting is tainted by a messy background, distracting noises and technical issues, you will lose credibility. It won’t matter how relevant your point was or what essential information you bring to the discussion if the person or people on the other side of the screen are unable to focus on you.
Of course, there are instances where it is more acceptable to have a more casual video interaction. For example, long-time peers and colleagues who are already familiar with your children and pets and know the level of professionalism you are capable of in the boardroom may welcome getting a more intimate view of your home life, particularly now, when we are all experiencing social isolation.
However, there are many instances where you should strive to put your best self forward and represent yourself in a way that is reflective of your professional capabilities. As we all navigate these new everyday working realities, we should consider video through a range of lenses or specific-use cases. A virtual meeting is an opportunity to shine and put your most professional foot forward.
These tips for conducting business through video will help your interactions in the virtual world come across as more professional and sophisticated.
1. Compose your picture. Think about the background and the composition. Level your face with the camera so people aren’t looking up at you. Be sure you have created an organized, professional background. Don’t give your audience the opportunity to be distracted by a messy living room or leave them wondering if you’re still in bed and that’s your headboard they’ve been seeing in the background for the past half hour.
2. Check your lighting. You want even, well-defined lighting across your face so your colleagues can see you clearly. A dark shadowy space or backlighting from having a light source behind you will give a gloomy and dated impression.
3. Grooming and presentation are critical. Do a close shave, fix your hair/ makeup and dress professionally. Even if you think you can get away with shorts because they won’t be visible on screen, go the extra step of getting fully dressed. How you are dressed impacts how you think and feel. Don’t put yourself at a cognitive disadvantage because your brain is in “Sunday hang out in pajamas” mode.
4. Check your tech. Be sure you have a high-quality camera and microphone and, if at all possible, use a laptop or computer rather than a smartphone. Test whatever platform you are using ahead of time. One minute before your meeting time is not the time to discover you’ve forgotten your Zoom password or your Skype app is out of date.
5. Get rid of extraneous noises. Place all your devices on silent mode so you don’t have notifications going off in the background. Don’t rustle papers on your desk or tap your pen; these small sounds may be picked up and amplified by your microphone. If at all possible, conduct your meetings in a private space away from the dogs and kiddos.
6. Look engaged. The way to look engaged is to actually be engaged. Look directly into the webcam when you’re speaking or listening to someone. Genuinely connect with your audience. They will know if you are distracted or trying to discreetly check your email or read a text on your phone.
Be sure to put your best foot forward as everyone is adapting to the new reality of working remotely. Be as thoughtful in your approach and preparation as you would be for an in-person meeting. This is an opportunity to convey that you are a well-put-together, digitally savvy and contemporary professional who can adapt to any circumstance. These are qualities your clients, colleagues and bosses will highly value and reward.