One silver lining that has emerged from the coronavirus pandemic is companies realizing employees need more flexibility and options to work remotely. The kids will eventually go back to their classrooms, but Zoom is here to stay for the workplace.

Here are tips on how to appear professional on video conferences.

Lighting is critical. If you can, sit facing a big window. Natural light is almost always better than artificial light. (Artificial light comes in a lot of different color temperatures that aren’t noticeable to your eye, but look wonky on camera.) Make sure the light source is in front of you, not behind you, so you don’t get accidentally silhouetted.

Avoid having a light source behind you when video conferencing. (JiaYing Grygiel)
Avoid having a light source behind you when video conferencing. (JiaYing Grygiel)

Control your background. I’m a bit of a real estate voyeur and I love looking in people’s houses. (Open houses are my guilty pleasure.) Your natural environment says a lot about who you are. This may be your co-workers’ first time seeing you outside the office; do they really need a visual on the dirty dishes stacked up on the counter, or your tornado of a living room? Be mindful of what is in your background. Can you position yourself in front of a blank wall? At least pick something clean and neutral, without busy patterns.

Position the camera right. Ideally, you want the camera to be straight on or slightly above you, pointing downward for the most flattering angle. If the camera is angled up at you, you’ll show off your nose hair and a lot of chin.

Fill the frame. Do you ever turn on cable news and the talking head is at the bottom of the screen with a whole lot of empty ceiling above? Didn’t think so. Position yourself so you’re squarely in the middle of the frame, with your nicely lit, smiling face filling up at least one-third of the space.

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Wear something bright and solid. Head-to-toe black is my safety blanket, but it looks awful on camera. So do busy patterns like checks, florals and tiny stripes, which can have a moiré effect. Here’s where you take a cue from newscasters, who are almost always dressed in solid, bright colors. Business on top, sleepwear on bottom, I’ll never tell. (Hmmm, wonder why Walmart is suddenly selling a lot more tops than bottoms.)

A busy top and a busy background make for a distracting visual. (JiaYing Grygiel)
A busy top and a busy background make for a distracting visual. (JiaYing Grygiel)

There’s a mute button. Use it. Spare the rest of the meeting from hearing all the background noise at your house. Yes, we’re all working from home but it can be distracting for co-workers to overhear violent potty noises and “OOPSIES, MAMA.” Wearing a headset with a microphone, even a basic cheap set, improves your sound quality dramatically.

If all else fails … put a Post-it note over your camera.

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