Don’t Let Your Background Backfire

Meet Joanne Linden, CPS, CEAP, CWCA President and Master Trainer

Summary: Figuring out how you will present your work environment says a lot about how seriously you take your role. Find out why attention to the smallest details contributes to how well you will develop and earn the respect needed to level up.

With the hybrid office becoming the new normal in our work lives, it is imperative that we learn how to make our video calls as professional as possible. This includes looking the part – both in attire (check out our previous blog for tips) and what is going on behind us on screen. 

It’s difficult to find the space needed and keep it orderly. Many of us were caught unaware when we needed to make this switch and so our office spaces have been cobbled together at a kitchen counter or dining room table. The truth of the matter is that we don’t all have the extra room to fashion an office for ourselves, so we get crafty. That is normal, and it does make things tricky, but not impossible. 

Some people find it easier to use a prepared backdrop to save time and hassle. These prepared backdrops can be created in a program like Canva or can be made of fabric that can easily be hung up behind you. 

No matter how you decide to create the aesthetic behind you, there are a few things to keep in mind so your backdrop doesn’t backfire. We are going to explore a few key “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to pay attention to while preparing your space for a scheduled video call.

Dos

  • Keep it simple.

Clean lines, few items, good lighting and your smiling face is just what you need. If you find it difficult to create this type of atmosphere with a pre-created background or by arranging the items in your home, you can always resort to turning your camera to face a plain wall.

  • Use good lighting and angles.

The best angle for video calls is eye level, straight on. If you are using a laptop, the chances are that you have it positioned on your lap or table, with your camera looking up at you. To avoid this unflattering angle, raise your computer up using books or boxes so that your camera meets your eyes. 

Lighting is also your friend during a call. Not only will it allow your audience to see you clearly, but it can also flatter your face. Find out more about these types of aesthetics in this article from The Verge. 

  • Stay on brand. 

If you are representing a company and you are speaking with a vendor, consider keeping something in your background to represent the company. If you’re feeling fancy, use it to highlight a core value or upcoming feature/event.

  • Keep it smooth. 

If you are using a fabric background, make certain that it has no wrinkles. Run an iron over it prior to using it for your meeting and hang it up in advance to make sure it doesn’t have any stray fold lines or stains. 

  • Cover everything. 

When using a material or fabric backdrop, make sure that it covers everything in the screen view behind you. Do a quick check on your computer screen before you log into a meeting to get an idea of what your audience will see. 

Don’t

  • Don’t use a distracting background.

Clutter in the house, pets or children running behind you, bright colors and busy patterns – anything that draws attention away from your face really needs to stay out of your background during your meeting. 

When arranging the items behind you or choosing a pre-created background, it is important to add a little bit of personality but make certain that things stay simple enough to keep from distracting your audience. 

  • Don’t use a moving or video background.

Although it seems fun to try out all this new background technology, a professional video call or meeting is not the time to have fishes circling behind your head. Not only will it majorly distract your audience, but it will not reflect well on your attitude regarding your role. 

  • Don’t have your back to a window.

A video call is not the time to look Heavenly. When your back is to the window with daylight, the sunshine will create a fuzzy halo around your body, over saturating the background with light and drowning out the subject of the video call – you. Instead, let the natural light from the window be a flattering light source for your face.

  • Don’t wear the same color as your background.

You do not want to blend in with your environment. This is especially important if you are using a green screen. Rather, avoid wearing green at all. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, take a look at this “Ooops” moment with Her Majesty

Get Creative

If you want to get creative with your background and arrange it in a clean way that communicates your personality, while giving a professional appearance try something like this:

[Image of Joanne on the video call]

Notice that everything is neat and organized, a little bit of branding and credentials and a little bit of personality. How would you organize your space?