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A guide to looking professional on video calls

Written by Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce | 21 Apr 2020

As we all adjust to working from home, video calls have become part of our daily working life. We are reliant on digital platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, clients and suppliers.

And many people will be wondering how to make themselves look professional in these video calls and online meetings. It’s not just about getting your best angle, but practical tips for how to make a good impression and ultimately, have productive meetings.

So in this blog post, we share our top tips on how to look professional on video calls.

Look presentable

Looking professional on a video call starts with looking presentable. You should opt for clothing similar to what you might wear to the office. If your company is relatively casual, stick with casual clothing as long as you look presentable. But if you are used to wearing a shirt and tie, you should dress the same. (If you're worried about comfort - take advantage of the fact that no-one will see your lower half!)

Steer clear of tops with stripes, checks or bold patterns that can blur or be a distraction on-camera. Instead, opt for solid colours. And be mindful of jewellery that jingles or sparkles as that could also be distracting for people on the other end of the video call.

Have a quick check of your appearance right before joining the meeting to check your teeth, hair and make-up. This will eliminate the risk of any last-minute embarrassments when you turn on the camera.

Consider what's behind you

Although your home is probably less equipped for professional meetings than your office, there are some simple things you can do to make your environment look more professional.

Junk and clutter can be distracting – and no one wants to see an unmade bed or piles of washing up in the background. Avoid positioning yourself so that pets and kids are in the background too – whose behaviour you may not be able to control!

Ideally, choose a space to conduct video calls where the background is relatively minimal or at the very least, tidy. A simple space with a neat bookshelf or plain wall is perfect.

Find the right lighting

You may look presentable and have a neat and tidy background, but none of that will matter if the people on the other end of the video call can’t see any of it.

Front-facing natural light is best as it brightens your skin and people will be able to see your facial expressions clearly. This means setting your computer or laptop up in front of a window so that the light is hitting your face straight-on. Having a window in your background will only blur you out as soon as the sun comes beaming in.

If you happen to be in a room without a window or with very little natural light, you may need to get clever with the lighting. Try putting a lamp behind your laptop and in front of your face.

Watch your positioning

There’s a reason built-in webcams sit at the top and not the bottom of computer and laptop screens - having the camera slightly elevated is more flattering and makes you look much more natural on camera.

But you still may need to adjust the height of your device to get the right angle. Try putting books under your laptop if it sits too low to avoid the camera pointing up at your chin or nose.

Think about your positioning in relation to the camera too. If you’re sitting too far away, your face will be little more than a dot. Ideally, you want to be sitting in a position where people can see your head and shoulders, where you’re close enough for people to read your facial expressions, but not so close that it’s distracting.

You may also be wondering where you should be looking. How do you maintain eye contact during a video call? The solution is to look into the webcam. That may not always feel natural, but remember to look into it every now and then, and particularly when wanting to make an important point.

Minimise noise distractions

Bad audio feedback or distracting background noise can ruin your video call. A dog barking or children playing could disrupt the flow of your conversation. The best thing you can do is use a headset so that any background noise will be filtered out and you can be heard clearly. And when you’re not speaking, put yourself on mute.

If you can, shut the door to reduce any noise or disruptions from other household members. Consider introducing signals that flag to family members when you’re on a video call, such as putting a sign on the door.

Be prepared

Nothing shouts professionalism more than being fully prepared for a meeting. It might be tempting to only look at your notes when you jump on the video call or to look things up online during the meeting – but to the people at the other end, it will appear like you aren’t listening or paying full attention. So make sure you’ve done your research ahead of the call and have your key points top of mind so that you can interact naturally.

Don’t forget you’re on camera!

You may have seen those funny clips circulating at the moment of people who have gone to the toilet in the middle of an online meeting and accidentally kept their video camera on. But in all seriousness, it pays to remember that you are on camera, so if you doze off or start scrolling through your phone, people will notice.

By combining all these tips, you will look more professional on video calls. And ultimately, you and the people on the other end will get more out of your meeting. If you take away nothing else, treat your video calls in the same way you would treat a face-to-face meeting. Make sure you look presentable, be prepared, speak naturally and stay clear of distractions.

For up -to-date business advice on coronavirus, please visit the British Chambers of Commerce Covid-19 Business Guidance Hub.

Topics: remote working

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