A Matter of Perspective: Putting Your Best Face Forward in a Video-Driven Working World
With the sudden increase in people working from home, and the resultant increase in virtual meetings, the question arises: how do you present yourself in a professional yet authentic manner while in video mode? 3Points account coordinator Chris Brendza and PR intern Anne Riley have come across a few interesting video call phenomena since the beginning of their WFH life (currently on day 36). They are here to share a few pointers on how to improve your conferencing experience and communications!
In the ever-relevant words of Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin’”. We’ve all adapted to a new normal of virtual meetings, and after an at-times interesting and at-times frustrating month-and-a-half of remote work, we have all had to consider how to make a professional impression across newer mediums of work communication.
Although there are a myriad of articles telling you how to look your best on video calls, staying true to your authentic self is important — if you don’t normally apply setting powder to your face before work meetings, now may not be the time to start. We don’t want to tell you explicitly how to look… but we do have some opinions on how not to come across on video calls. Below, we’ve listed out the types of video-call attendees you should avoid becoming (with some visual aids starring us), our tips to make sure you don’t, and some final reflections on how we can all become better communicators in this new video-driven working world.
“Wait, sorry, I was on mute”
Know how to use your video technology prior to meeting time, so you’re not fumbling around when everyone is trying to get to work. From Zoom to Google Hangouts to Skype to Chime, there are a lot of competing conferencing systems out there — do a test run if you’re unfamiliar with the chosen brand. And keep an eye on that pesky (although occasionally useful) mute button!
“Can everyone see me okay?”
Test runs aren’t only for learning the technology’s user interface. You should also be reviewing how you are showing up on screen: from your background, to the lighting around you, to the angle of the camera and its distance from you. A good rule of thumb is that you should be visible from your shoulders up and at eye level with the camera, like a professional headshot. No one wants to see up your nose.
“My room is a little messy — I hope it’s not too distracting.”
Your visual backdrop is just as important as your appearance. Start with the basics: a clean and professional backdrop is a necessity — even if you’re working from your child’s bedroom, find a background that’s not an unmade bed. From there, you can add your own personal flair; for instance, position a specific book to the forefront of your bookcase or sit in front of an interesting picture hanging on your wall. Your background represents you just as much as your appearance does, so make sure it is giving off the impression you are trying to make.
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know we were supposed to be on video”
Conference calls don’t always need to be on video, but when they are, you want to make sure everyone is on the same page. At 3Points, we’ve found that putting a V in parentheses in a meeting title — for example, “Weekly Check-in (V)” — is an easy shorthand for letting participants know that it will be a video-powered meeting. Or, you could mention that the meeting will be on camera in the meeting description. Whatever method you choose, you should, as the host, be sure that participants understand it. And if you’re a participant, make sure to check your schedule the night before so you know if you are requested to be on video.
“Whoops, I’ve got a lot of tabs left open!”
If you know you are going to be sharing your screen, make sure your personal browser is separate from your professional one. When sharing your screen with a client or coworker, they shouldn’t see your YouTube or Netflix tabs from the night before.
“Sorry, I’ve got a little background noise”
While we understand you can’t control the construction outside your house, and no one can keep their dog from yelping or their kids from running into places they’re not supposed to, be cognizant that competing audio streams can quickly get distracting. Throw on your trusty AirPods and learn how to master that mute button (we told you it would be helpful!) — and hopefully you can be a little more technologically savvy than NFL GMs.
“Can you repeat that one again?”
Yes, we can see you texting.
Hopefully, with the above tips, you can more professionally present yourself and avoid becoming one of the types of video callers we often find frustrating to deal with. But that said, looks aren’t everything, and beyond a first impression, it’s also important to reflect on how we can be better communicators more broadly during this time of remote work. This may not entail many changes from your pre-remote work communication style, but given the challenges and hardships many are facing, we have a few recommendations to help everyone stay connected to their clients and their coworkers.
Check in. Showcasing personal interest in your peers’ well-being has always been a good practice, but given the communal nature of the impacts of COVID-19, spending more time than usual doing so at the beginning of calls is more than welcome. At 3Points, we’ve taken this a step further and have internally instituted weekly virtual lunches where we forego work discussions to check in on each other as a team. These personal conversations not only develop and deepen work relationships, but allow us to take a step back from our often hectic days in a way that’s hard to replicate outside the office.
Take time to chat. Similarly, we recommend being more open to letting conversations stray away from their intended objective for a short period, allowing for small moments of levity in often chaotic and busy days. Whether you want to gossip about whom the Bears drafted or need to talk to someone about how the price of oil just went negative, you should feel free to jump in. It’s these “watercooler” conversations that we’ve found lacking in a remote working environment, and while many businesses — ours included — have set up Slack channels in an attempt to inspire them, virtual meetings are a way to get an even closer replication of those personal connections. Although we are big believers in having agendas to guide all of our meetings, letting conversations wander outside of the sometimes rigorously constructed agenda can lead to a deeper interaction than just an instant message coming across a messaging application.
We’d love to hear from you if you have other tips for making a professional yet authentic impression on video calls, or if you have other reflections on how we can better communicate during our WFH experience. Times certainly are changing, but communicating what is working and what isn’t will help us get through this together.