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How to nail your next videoconference call

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Wendy Newsome, at left on monitor, in Portland, Ore., provides a virtual guided haircut through Zoom to Danielle Espinoza during the coronavirus outbreak in San Francisco, Saturday, June 13, 2020.

AP

Some of us have been using videoconferencing for years, while others are just grasping the concept. Little tips and tricks can ensure your next call goes off without a hitch.

Hundreds of millions of people across the globe have turned to videoconferencing for everything from work meetings to ballet classes. But because many are adopting this form of communication for the first time, there’s room for improvement for a lot of us.

Professionals are using Zoom, Google Hangouts and other methods to stay in touch with clients, colleagues and kindergarten teachers during the pandemic. There are some basic tips to help make sure you appear professional and put your best foot (or face) forward when it comes to talking with others through your screen.

The first and easiest thing you can do to make sure you look your best through a webcam takes just a moment. It involves turning on one easily overlooked setting in Zoom. Go to Settings and click on Video. Then check the box next to “Touch up my appearance.” Voila. This option uses a soft focus on your face that can help smooth out skin tones and present a more polished appearance, according to Zoom.

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We all know how great it has been to stay in pajamas all day and still get work done from home. But when it comes time to jump on a videoconference call, get dressed like you were meeting in person. Yes, that means you even need to put on some pants. Maybe you figure no one will ever see what you’re wearing below the desk, but you never know if you might have to stand up unexpectedly. And you wouldn’t be the first to have a webcam fall down and show that while you may be wearing a jacket and tie up top, you’re still trying to rock stained sweatpants below.

When you set up your computer, make sure you have a light source in front of you. If you sit with your back to a window or have a heavy overhead light, your face will end up either too dark or with weird shadows. 

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Use headphones to avoid an echo and to minimize background noise.

Set up your computer so it sits at eye level. If you’re sitting at a desk or table, your computer will likely be around chest level. If you have to look down to your computer, the view for others on the call will not be pleasant. They will be looking up your nose, likely seeing a double-chin and a lot of ceiling. It’s not a good look. Use books to raise your computer up if needed.

Do a dry run and check out your background before you get on the call. Figure out how much of the space behind you shows up on camera and make sure it’s clean and organized. Lots of knick-knacks and clutter can be distracting for others when your goal is to have them focus on what you’re saying.

There is the possibility that nowhere in your house is suitable as a background for a videoconference call. Virtual backgrounds are one way to avoid presenting your messy kitchen to everyone and to possibly show a little personality. You can upload any photo as a virtual background, but if you are in a serious profession, you’ll likely want to stick with a solid color or something subtle. If you work in a more creative field, it could be just fine to have a little fun with your background. Keep in mind, though, that using a virtual background can make you appear glitchy. It might be worth cleaning up your kitchen counters so you can use your real-life background.

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Removing distractions is good for you as well as your colleagues. Don’t have items around you that could draw your attention away from what is happening on the screen. And definitely don’t try to multitask during a videoconference call. It will be very obvious and disrespectful if you’re going through email or trying to watch Netflix on the side. Be present just as you would be at an in-person meeting. 

So you’ve set diversions aside to better engage in the conversation, but there’s still one mistake people often make that can give the impression they are distracted. Looking at yourself on screen instead of into the camera can make it seem you are disinterested. Resist the urge to stare at yourself and look into that little dot of a camera when you talk and especially when you listen.

These small tweaks can make all the difference when it comes to making sure your next videoconference call comes off flawless.