As much as we might appreciate “going to work” without pants, it looks like virtual meetings and workplaces might become the norm for many of us. While it may have been fun to see our co-workers’ kitchens and dogs because we are all in this together, we’ve now had months to get over the novelty and casualness. It’s time to adapt to this new way of doing things.
The reality is, your professionalism still matters. It may be that your next job interview, or first day of work at your new job will be a conference call; what do you want your colleagues to think of you?
Following are some tips to remember (other than the obvious *don’t walk around in your boxers*) to up your video call game, or just maintain the respect and reputation you spent time building in person. Remember, looking good on video is the new dress code.
Just because you are virtual doesn’t mean eye contact doesn’t matter. Plus, no one wants to look up your nose because you have your tablet in your lap. If you have a small device or laptop with built-in webcam, put a few books under it to raise the camera to your eye. If not built-in, get an adjustable webcam and mount on something at your eye level.
If you are on a computer, keep the videocall window high on the screen, so while you are watching people speak, your head is still pointed toward the camera. This will also encourage better posture, which makes a good impression in any circumstance.
Having your back to a sunny window or an overhead light turns you into a silhouette. Avoid this by having windows or lights in front of you, even at a slight elevation. Having sufficient light on your face helps ensure all-important facial expressions and body language are clearly seen. Since we are likely to spend plenty of time on Mute, an occasional smile, nod, or raised hand to show agreement and validation will be easily noted by your fellow conferencees.
The fewer distractions in your background the better. Put yourself in your peers’ shoes and think about what impression it makes if you are showing open doors with kids walking back and forth, a wall of golf trophies, or animal heads behind you. Ask yourself, “Would this be appropriate on the wall in my work office?” (If you work at a day care, Academy, or hunting lodge, go for it!)
Ideally, boring may be the way to go. Do a quick review of your virtual presentation, or have an online meeting with a trusted person and ask, “What does this view say about me?”
When you’re at a conference table, it’s pretty obvious when people are looking at you. On your boxy video screen, you can’t really know if any (or all) of the participants are watching you in a given moment.
Try to drink or eat sparingly, resist the urge to fix your hair, or look at that thing you found in your ear. No need to be a robot, but try to time necessary fidgeting to a point when a speaker is being very engaging, and more likely to have everyone else’s attention.
Be extra vigilant when you have a need to share your screen. Once again, people just might be looking at your open documents at the bottom, or open browser tabs at the top. You don’t want people texting about you on the side because you were looking at FootFungusHacks.com or working on divorce.xlsx before the call.
Perhaps, after the meeting, call your boss on a phone and ask for feedback regarding the visual and spoken impression you make. Showing eagerness to adapt well to this new environment, as well as polishing your virtual presentation, may go a long way to a real world promotion.