9 Simple Tips For Zoom-Proofing Your Home Office
As working from home becomes the ‘new’ normal rather than a passing phenomenon, thanks to COVID-19, the perils of Zoom video conferencing is gradually dawning on many of us.
Dodgy Wi-Fi connections, embarrassing backdrops, questionable fashion choices, even naked partners wandering into camera view have formed part of our new pandemic video conferencing experience.
Looking and sounding professional is not that difficult. All it requires is a little preparation and a bit of tech kit. Whether you’re having a team conference or a one-to-one meeting, these 9 tips will ensure your professionalism is on display when you’re on-camera.
1. It’s the Wi-Fi Stupid!
The number one problem in working from home is poor or intermittent Wi-Fi. Zoom conferencing and being able to access content stored on the Cloud from home requires a quality Wi-Fi connection. Patchy Wi-Fi is the bane of your team’s Zoom existence!
If you’ve ever tried to host a team Zoom video conference over a dodgy wireless connection, you’ll know what I mean.
Look for a fast Wi-Fi system that can cover your home regardless of your location. Blanket home coverage enables you to work where you want, when you want, without the inconvenience of being tethered to a short-range router.
2. The All-Important Backdrop
Keep your backdrop as clutter-free as possible. White bookshelves with their contents artfully arranged with a pot plant or two are perfect. Don’t transform it into a sterile wasteland but you don’t clutter on the desk or in the background either.
3. Lights, Camera, Zoom!
Lighting is a critical element in any home office environment. Where you place your lights are important. Never place a bright light behind you. That transforms you into a ghostly silhouette.
Similarly, you don’t want a piercing floodlight on one side of your desk either. Side lighting casts your face drops into darkness. If you want to look like a villain out of a Scandi-noir series that works otherwise, not so much.
For the best effects, position soft lighting in front of you so your audience can see your face clearly. Whether that light source comes from a desk lamp, a standard lamp or an open window doesn’t matter so long as you are facing it.
If an office has an overhead light and it’s even, you should be good to go. However, if your overhead lights throw harsh shadows, turn it off and go with other light sources instead.
4. Digital Transfer Technology
Many organisations that have been around for a while, constantly dip into their content library as part of their communications and marketing activity. Transitioning to distributed team-based work means these resources need to be accessible remotely. Often stored on elderly VHS tapes, audiotapes and even 8mm film stock these archives can be easily digitised.
Enter VHS to Digital transfer services. Not only will this service facilitate access to your visual archives with a mouse click, but it will also ensure your brand’s historical content is preserved for posterity.
5. Invest in Headphones With A Lip Mic
Clear audio can make or break a Zoom conference. If you’re in a quiet room, your laptop will probably work. For superior results, however, invest in headphones equipped with a mic or a decent pair of earbuds.
6. Place Your Camera At Eye Level
Whether you opt for a stand-alone high-quality camera or use your in-built laptop camera, it’s important to ensure your camera is at eye-level. You can position a camera separately or you can raise your laptop on a stand.
Remember to look at the camera while you’re talking. Looking at the camera enables you to forge a closer relationship with your audience. It’s as if you’re meeting their eyes. If you feel self-conscious or a little weird, simply position your screen and camera at eye level.
Test your Home Office setup by taking a screenshot after starting your video app. That will give you a sense of what your audience is experiencing at their end.
7. Positioning Is Key
On Zoom, the participants are the centre of every conversation. Your audience expects to be able to view you, so they feel they are communicating directly with you, regardless of the technology.
Always position yourself so you can be seen easily from your head to your shoulders or waist. Anything closer can prove overwhelming, while anything further away can make it difficult to see your face.
8. Choose A Comfortable Chair
Chances are you’ll be spending considerable time in your home office, so choosing a comfortable chair is important. Look for one with good lumbar support. It’s hard to communicate effectively with your team if your back is killing you and you are constantly fidgeting to get comfortable.
9. Clothing Is Not Optional!
Most casual clothing is fine. However, there are some simple rules of thumb to remember. On camera, it’s best to avoid pinstripes and checks. These can trigger distracting flair patterns on your audience’s cameras. Similarly, avoid wearing brilliant white or pitch-black clothes. Many contemporary webcams come equipped with automatic exposure settings and will adjust to those colours.
This can make the image appear darker and less clear than it is. Black shirts can make the surroundings appear to be too bright. Choose neutral tones and colours that avoid these extremes.
The key to Zoom conferences is to be prepared and to use your common sense. Check your audio, camera and lighting before you go live on Zoom. Put together a “Zoom kit” that can be ready in a couple of minutes. Similarly, keep your home office clutter-free. Clutter is for kitchen tables! Experiment with getting your lighting right then you don’t have to think about it again. Similarly, a good quality camera coupled with decent headphones with a built-in mic will set you on the path to Zoom mastery!