It’s Time to Look Like a Zoom Pro
(This article originally appeared in the Providence Business Journal, June 19, 2020.)
When we first turned to videoconferencing in the early days of the stay-at-home orders brought on by the pandemic, most of us figured it would be short term. We did not take the format, or ourselves, very seriously. We were casual both in appearance and attitude.
But expectations have evolved. Now, we need to be as professional in virtual meetings as we are in face-to-face meetings. Thankfully, it is rather easy to do. Simply implement these tips.
• Arrive early. Many of us think, “My meeting is at 10, so I can hop on at 9:59.” But what about that time when you have to reboot your computer? Or, what if there is a glitch with the platform and it takes longer than expected to log in? Your credibility is at stake. Be at least five minutes early.
• Do not rely on your computer’s built-in microphone. It is not very good. Instead, use an external microphone. A headset that has a boom mic is an excellent choice. A set of wireless headphones works well. Even the earbuds that came with your phone are a better option than the built-in mic. (Excellent bluetooth headsets: Sennheiser MB Pro 1 UC ML – one ear pad version. Sennheiser MB Pro 1 UC ML – ear pad on each side)
• Muting is key. Keep yourself muted unless you are speaking. Unmute yourself a few seconds before you are going to talk. As soon as you have finished, mute yourself again. When speaking for only a few seconds, unmute yourself by holding down the space bar. When you finish speaking, let go of the space bar, and you will be muted again.
• Be aware of what is behind you. Is it a plain wall? Fine. A wall with mementos, photographs and the like? Perfect. The library in your office? Excellent. A sink full of dirty dishes? Probably not. You can also use the video settings to “drop in” a virtual background.
• Be the proper distance from your computer’s camera. Take a cue from anchors on television news broadcasts. They are generally framed in a bust shot – their head, chest and shoulders. Try to replicate that.
• Have your computer’s camera at eye level. If you are working on a desktop, raise or lower your chair until your eyes are level with the camera. If you’re using a laptop, raise or lower the laptop. Don’t merely place the laptop on a desk or table, tilt the screen back and have it shoot up at you. It’s not a flattering angle.
• Make eye contact. It is essential. When it comes to videoconferencing, this can be difficult. Here is what I suggest. When someone is speaking to the entire group, look at them on the screen. It’s the most comfortable thing to do. However, look at your camera when someone speaks directly to you or any time you are talking. This gives the appearance of your making eye contact. It is not the easiest thing to do, but you will get used to it.
• Adequately light yourself. Have a light source in front of you. This source could be a lamp, video light, or window. Be sure it is enough without being overpowering. And whatever you do, do not have a bright window behind you. If you do, it will appear as if you are in the witness protection program. (Check out the Neewer 18″ Ring Light)
As we get back to business, it will not be business as usual. Many aspects of it will be different, including communicating by virtual meetings. Even if you are less than enthused about meeting with others in this manner, you will have clients, prospects and business associates who will insist upon it.
Embrace the technology. Consistently apply these ideas, and you will appear as professional in your Zoom meetings as you do in face-to-face meetings.