How many people know… that you’re working from a bedroom?

With everyone jumping in to teleconferencing I thought I would write a really quick blog about how to make telecons not just work but work well. Those of us who are now working from home offices may not have planned to let other folks see our previously “personal” spaces, but now we need to meet with people via video conferencing. In short, what do you want your clients and co-workers to see, or perhaps more accurately, to NOT see? Since professionalism is even more important when you cannot meet people face-to-face, here are a few tips.

Just in case you want to share this with others, a PDF version of these Telecon Guidelines are available.

Before telecon cleanup
My home office before I tidied it for a teleconference.  If you enlarge the image you can see poor image quality.

Before your video conference begins (preferably a day or so before!)  turn your camera on and look at what’s behind you. 

Do this using “Photo Booth” on a Mac (it’s in your Applications folder), or Camera on a PC). Is your background is too busy, personal, or messy?  Fix it by changing location, tidying up, using an image for a background (examples from Pixabay, if your software permits) or adding a false background (Amazon or DIY).

In my case, I made sure that my printer table was cleaned off, replaced a mirror, tidied my bookshelves and moved the ironing board that lives behind the door of my home office.  A room with a door that closes may be your best bet to avoid interruptions, just don’t forget to close it.  See these before and after pictures: Yes there is a small pile of things on the bed, but I needed to put those things somewhere else anyway!

after telecon cleanup
My home office after I spent about 5 minutes removing visual clutter and turning on more lights.  Notice the improved image quality!

If you are using a tablet or phone for your teleconference don’t assume you can hold it up for the meeting’s duration.

If you have a tripod or gorillapod use it or improvise a stand or holder, there are loads of DIY’s on the web. Even a small stable coffee mug works wonders! For more ideas do a quick DIY tripod search on Google.

Check your lighting to make sure the area you are in has the correct amount of light.

Images require photons, i.e. light to capture an image.  If the area you intend to use is poorly lit the quality of your video feed will drop. Harsh lights from above or behind will make you look shadowy or washed out. Experiment to find the best results.  Look at the before and after pictures to the right to see the difference a little light can make.

Ready to go. Simple clothes and accessories, plus a touch of makeup. I even tweaked the brightness of my computer screen to minimize the reflecting glare on my glasses.

Make sure your screen’s brightness is turned down. 

It will minimize glare and reflections on things like your glasses. Try this while you’ve got your camera on  because it is hard to see it otherwise!

Test your sound system to make sure you can hear and be heard. 

When I do a teleconferences I tend to use my Bluetooth headset because it gives me the best sound.  If you don’t have a headset or can’t use it for some reason, make sure you know where the mike is on your computer, tablet or phone.  Be sure to make sure it isn’t blocked or muffled by office miscellanea or a protective case.

Have a backup plan.

With so many people using video conferencing these days connections can be slow or your free subscription may not work.  Can you move to Facetime or just audio?

Have a clear agenda and meeting leader. 

Life is chaotic enough, make sure you have someone in charge of the meeting and have them follow an agenda so you don’t miss anything critical.  Make sure someone takes notes as a reference or for legal purposes.

Make sure to send out the agenda and other materials prior to the meeting.

That way people don’t have to fiddle with email and other software during your meeting and can focus on what you need to discuss.

Get creative so you can use a flipchart or other common office tool.

Find out who can easily handle screen sharing and can either type well or write neatly and use a program like with word, Snaggit, or a drawing program.  You can also open a blank slide in a Powerpoint program and type or draw with your mouse or computer pencil. Paper taped to a mirror or picture even works in a pinch.

Include some meet and greet time in your agenda.

It will be great to see other people and help folks get used to how video conferencing works.

Have a specific time frame for the meeting.

It will keep the meeting moving and help folks who may have kids or other responsibilities that they are juggling.

Dress for your meeting.

Make it look like you’re prepared! You may not need to wear a suit and tie, but definitely skip the jammies or sweats/ tshirt look. It may actually feel good to get polished up for others to see you. Wear a solid color shirt, it looks better on screen and is less distracting.  Keep accessories simple, e.g. ties or jewelry.  Ladies, don’t forget lipstick—if you don’t wear it you will look washed out. Men, remember that thin pinstripes on dress shirts don’t always show up well in pixelated connections; solid colors are much preferred.

Minimize distractions!

Turn that second screen off, don’t be cruising Amazon or social media during the conference, kennel the dog, give the kids and your husband a snack… and make eye contact, at least virtually, by knowing where the camera is on your computer.

Be Secure

While I was writing this I began to hear about hackers breaking into meetings and school classrooms. Follow these guidelines to give everyone peace of mind.

  • Make sure that meetings are private, e.g. require a password and/or use a waiting room feature to control who appears at your meeting.
  • Don’t publish meeting information on public spaces like social media.  Share meeting information directly to specific people.
  • Keep control of screen sharing options by permitting only hosts to share screens
  • Have everyone update software if using a service like Zoom, GoTo Meeting etc.

Stay visible!

Hope to see you soon, via telecon or when things go back to normal, in person!  If you would like to learn more, contact us today and let us your be your Link to Visibility.

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