Unprecedented times. As we creep up on our one year year pandemiversary, it’s safe to say the remote work environment has taken a massive transformation throughout the last year. Gone are they days of simply logging online from your bed with your camera off while taking notes in the background of an hour long call. (Admit it, you’ve done it too.) Now, the video chat game is encompassing of major client conversations, rigorous academic exams, important touch points with family and friends, and even awkward first dates.
As I’ve experienced this shift alongside the rest of the world, I have come across a couple of things that have helped me feel more prepared and polished on camera for these different types of events. Especially when internet connectivity and audio issues can easily occur, having a controlled environment that manages a clean presentation and presence is key to having your video speak for itself.
Ensuring Proper Lighting
If there is only one thing you take from this article, please let it be the fact that proper lighting is key to a strong first impression on video. Whether you’re taking advantage of natural light streaming from a window while you’re facing it or you’re utilizing a form of artificial light through a lamp or a ring light, making sure that your face and background is properly illuminated is important. This is the first thing others will see when you log online and it creates the basis for being able to read one’s facial expressions and reactions throughout a call. Especially when virtual, these visual cues are critical and speak for themselves.
If you have assess to a window with natural light, try to position your desk so that your face is facing the window. This will allow that natural light to illumnate you and your background. However, if you’re like me, you might not find the window to be the best spot for your workspace area. If so, there are a few options.
First, you can make sure you have one or two lamps directly behind your computer or desk area to provide a spotlight effect on you during the call. Never put the light behind you or to the side, as this can cast unflattering shadows across your face. Second, you can purchase a ring light on Amazon that plugs in and provides various features for additional lighting. A ring light is a light that is typically used for filming or shooting video or photo content when there isn’t enough proper lighting. But don’t be intimidated, it’s actually amazing for amping up your lighting situation for work calls as well.
Having a Basic Grooming Kit Handy
There are definitely mornings where I grab a coffee in my messy bun while I catch up on my morning emails. There are also mornings where someone pings me to jump on a quick call right then and there and I have to rush upstairs to make myself look presentable. Avoid these off-guard moments and have a small of kit of grooming essentials near your workspace area for these occasions. This can include anything from small amounts of makeup for touch-ups, a hairbrush to turn that messy bun into a sleek bun, makeup wipes to clean up a spill on your outfit, or even an extra blazer draped over your desk chair that you can throw on for calls. This is such a simple thing you can do that night before and have ready for these kinds of emergencies. Looking put together can add instant credibility during these types of calls, especially when they’re unexpected.
Logging On Early
This is also an easy tip that requires minimal effort. If you tend to be in back-to-back calls throughout the day, this tip may not be feasible for you. However, if you have a lighter day, make a point to always log onto your calls a few minutes early. I think anywhere between 2-4 minutes is appropriate.
The reason being is that you might run into potential audio issues, connectivity problems, or overall unexpected troubles that could disrupt or impact the call if you were to join as everyone was already on. By joining a few minutes early, you give yourself the proper opportunity to trouble test everything yourself and make sure you are prepared for when others log on. I also like this tip because it positions you as usually always being the first on a call and allows you to greet others as they trickle in. This automatically shows you are punctual and considerate of other’s time and is a great impression to make in the workplace.
Making Sure Writing Utensils, Chargers, Misc. Items Are Accessible
I speak from experience when I say this. Make sure you always have your computer charger, phone charger, and a writing utensil and paper nearby. Unfortunately, I have been on hour long calls where my computer has died right when I was about to speak and I am left literally scrambling to find my charger, plug my computer in, and log back on. Not only is this embarrassing for me, it’s also disruptive to others on the call and it’s easily avoidable. It also causes unnecessary stress for me and makes it difficult for me to pick up where I left off effortlessly.
In addition, there might be times when your computer freezes or Microsoft Word is unresponsive while you’re taking notes. During this time, someone might mention an important action item that you need to document and having a pen and paper handy is perfect for saving the day in this moment. While you might be able to use your phone take notes on some instances, you should never save confidential client information or personal data in a non work approved device. Being prepared by having a computer charger and a writing set-up alleviates this error. The less you have to scramble during these emergency situations, the better you can quietly resolve them without anyone else on the call knowing what’s going on.
Maintaining Consistent Eye Contact
Now, this is a tricky one. Some might argue that video chat does not require strong eye contact, but I’m here to stay otherwise. When you’re at work, you can grab lunch with someone, stop by their desk and ask about their weekend, or pop in to ask a question. In a remote work environment, these organic check-ins don’t occur as easily. Therefore, your video calls are essentially acting as a stand-in for this moments, which is why it’s so important to appear engaged and as an active listener. If you’re scrolling through a website or checking your phone or simply just looking off in a different direction on a call, this can be misinterpreted as being rude. It can also accustom you to constantly multi-task on important calls as well. In order to get the most “bang for your buck”, give your calls your full attention and showcase this strong eye contact with the camera. It might feel awkward at first, but on video, it’ll translate differently.
I am incredibly passionate about encouraging women to succeed in their professional careers. While video chats might not be the norm for every career field, it’s certainly becoming more and more common to have a video call for a variety of different occasions. Next time you log online and want to leave a strong impression, follow these tips and check back for Part 2!