Laptop with video camera perched behind it on dinning room table

Video Conference Tips to Perfect Your Space and Avoid Snafus

We’re all living a new normal, and for many that means working daily in a home office for the first time and connecting with teammates virtually. Maybe you’ve already had a few video calls but wonder if there’s a better way. Read on for video conference tips to polish your image—even if you’re secretly wearing flip-flops under your desk!

Also, if it was you who shared one of those recent viral video faux pas, thank you for the restroom break footage and the Ms. Potato Head snafu. Please keep them coming, because we all need the comic relief these days--along with a reminder to take care during recorded meetings.

“We’re taking video calls when we used to just send emails,” said Marnie Goldberg, also known as MsGoldgirl on YouTube. “If there is a silver lining, some of us are having more face to face interactions in our business life than we normally do.”

Of course you want to plan where you work and to keep appearances in mind, said Jenn Jager, owner of Plum Productions, a professional video company.

“Good lighting is important, first and foremost,” Jager emphasized.

Make sure you face the direction of your light source, otherwise if you’re behind the light, you’ll be a silhouette, and no one wants that!

“Lighting is so important, but you don’t have to run out get some professional lighting kit,” Goldberg said.

You can place a lamp or portable makeup mirror behind your computer. Goldberg suggests an LED daylight bulb and not bulbs with yellow tones because that can be very unflattering.

Also, make sure your laptop camera is eye level. A stack of books works wonders in a pinch.

“If you need something in a hurry, you’ve just got to look around your home and make do,” she said, adding she’s even used an ice bucket from hotel rooms to prop up her laptop.

Avoid leaning forward. No one looks good in that pose.

Clean Audio for a Smooth Video Meeting

Jenn Jager owner of Plum Productions sits at her computer desk

Jager recently led a 45-minute video webinar for 50 people and learned some new tricks herself.

“I think the thing people overlook is a microphone,” she said. “The quality in the built-in microphone on your computer is not amazing.”

She cautions against relying on your cellphone headset as a microphone. At one point, her mic was rubbing on her collar and created feedback. It was unbeknownst to her until she looked back at the video.

A simple fix, she said, is going online and finding an external microphone that can clip onto your shirt. You can find one on Amazon for as low as $25, she said.

To polish the look, if you want to impress, you could run the wire under your shirt and clip the mic to your collar.

Some people are also springing for USB headsets. They don’t look cool, but they drown out background noise. No one will know your dog is barking at the UPS delivery woman! There are even wireless versions for those calls that aren’t on video. Please do wait until between meetings to use the restroom.

You can also consider talking to family or roommates and letting them know you have a very important meeting coming up.

“At the same time, give yourself some grace because everyone is in the same boat. You can’t control the dogs barking, and at the same time, it can bring some levity to a tense situation," Goldberg said.

Clean Up Your Backdrop for Video Conference Calls 

Marnie Goldberg hands clasped and posing for camera

Remember, people might be on a video call for at least an hour, and you don’t want them to be distracted by anything in your background.

So make your bed, or if the shelves behind you have unnecessary clutter, then remove it.

Consider going into your settings and moving your screen so that you take up most of the frame, which reduces how much people can look into your backdrop.

If you need a little help in this area, don’t forget that Zoom allows you to add a virtual background. Everyone from the website Canva to furniture store West Elm has gotten into the game of ready-to-use virtual backdrops to make you, and your home office, look super cool.

But do test this out ahead of time; otherwise, you might end up with a background that doesn’t entirely work.

Set up a practice call either with a coworker, or friends or by turning on your computer video to make sure the audio and lighting are ideal.

Also, don’t test out a new feature while on a work call. If we’ve learned anything from those viral videos, it is this: a work call is never a good time to experiment.

If you’re not familiar with the website you’re using, perhaps you should go online and watch a quick tutorial, or at the very least, sign in early.

Looking good on screen is something more and more people have become conscious of, says Goldberg, who suddenly started getting comments and questions last month from followers asking how to do their makeup for video calls. It prompted her to record a special YouTube video Top 10 Tips & Tricks for a Zoom Meeting.

Just don’t go overboard on your appearance.

Jager tells her clients, “you plus 10 percent."

“If you want to throw on a little extra bit of makeup, that’s fine, but you want to look yourself," said the expert who noticed a big spike in interest in her 2018 YouTube video How to Look Good in Your Webcam Video, which now has more than 18,000 views.

And speaking of looks, Jager said we should always be dressing up—head to toe—for video calls.

“Put on proper pants,” she said. “If you have to stand up, you don’t want to be caught wearing gym shorts, or worse.”

Creating a Distraction-Free Meeting

If you’re leading a call, Jager suggests printing out any notes you’ll need ahead of time.

There’s also a double benefit to closing other applications and programs, such as email. It can lighten your computer’s load and speed up your video, cutting down on the dreaded video lag.

And if you haven’t already turned off alerts on your machine (please turn off the pings!), it will quiet the distractions.

Avoid looking at your watch or Instagram during a phone call. Don’t be that guy or gal!

“Be present in the conversation,” Goldberg said. “If your eyes are darting around and looking at other things, you are telling other people in the meeting they are not as important. It’s basic conversation etiquette.”

Learn Zoom Tips and Tricks

Chances are most of you have used Zoom to host video conference calls. Here are some tricks to make using the site easier.

Did you know Zoom has a “Touch up my appearance" option, which enhances your look. Nothing like those glamour shots.

Zoom also has a slew of keyboard shortcuts, which can help you from fidgeting too much while on a call.

• Alt+A allows you to mute your audio. Hit Cmd+Shift+A on a Mac

• Alt+F to switch to full-screen. Hit Cmd+Shift+F on a Mac

• Alt+F1 prompts the speaker

• Alt+F2 to see the gallery view, or, as I like to refer to it, the Brady Brunch view. You can toggle that view on a Mac by Cmd+Shift+W.

Goldberg suggests we be patient with these adjustments.

“Most of us have never had to deal with this, and, if you’re in the corporate world, you had someone in IT to help you,” she said.

Let us know if any of these tips and tricks work out for you. Remember, it may take a couple of practice runs to get it right.