Use these pro tips to look better in video calls!

By Shannon Serpette, Contributor

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How not to embarrass yourself on video calls:

If you’re not used to video calls, they can be intimidating. All kinds of things can go wrong, and some of them you’ll never see coming. The good news is most bosses are going to be pretty lenient about errors – we’re all learning our new roles and duties as we go along.

The bad news? There are some hilarious work-from-home video call fails all over the internet right now – and you could be the next star of one if you don’t pay attention to these tips.

1. Set your camera — whether a phone, tablet, laptop — in a holder.

You want to slay your audience by wowing them with your skills, not leave them puking from your shaky, Blair Witch-like camera work. And no matter how steady you think your hand is, it’s no match for putting your device in a holder.

Don’t have a holder? That’s okay. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Try Jennifer’s glass and a rubberband trick.

2. Make sure the webcam is eye level, not looking up your nose. 

We’ve all seen these video-chats online, in the news, and likely done a few of them ourselves lately … you know the ones, where the webcam is about three inches too low, looking up at double chins, showcasing dark circles, and getting a straight-shot up someone’s nose? Yep, those. Put the camera right at eye level, or slightly above eye-level for a more

flattering face shot.

Once you have the camera set up where it needs to be, remember to keep looking at it – not the person on the video. If you look at the camera, it will look like you’re looking right at the person you’re conferencing with. If you don’t, you might end up looking bored or confused. It can take some getting used to, so you might want to practice with a friend first.

Keep in mind, even if you have a bad video, there’s always someone having a worse one. Don’t believe me? Check out potato boss, the photo bombing kid, and this unfortunate woman.

3. Have light in front of you.

If the only light you have is behind you, you’re going to look like you’re having an encounter with your work associates in a dark alley. If you’re trying to go for a mysterious or threatening tone, you’ll nail it. A light in front of your face will help fill in the shadows so you look as normal as possible.

In the “biz,” we also call this the “fill light,” because it helps fill in dark circles and can even make you look younger. (Score!)

If you have backlighting, it’ll make it more difficult to see your face. So consider switching off that light behind you if you can. If that isn’t possible, add a light in front of you, off to the side, or overhead. If you have some natural light in your video call room, let it in. Open the shades and get some light – you’re not working in a windowless office anymore!

4. Clean up the space behind and around you.

You don’t have to go full-on Martha Stewart, but cleaning up the clutter is a good idea before starting your call. Your co-workers don’t want to feel as if they are watching an episode of Hoarders. It’s harder for them to concentrate with all the half empty glasses of milk, garbage, and junk behind you.

No time for a quick sweep? You can set up a virtual background, if you don’t have time to tidy up your space.

Here’s the easiest way to do it on Zoom:

  • Go to your Zoom app and your profile at the top right. Go to settings.
  • You’ll see an option for virtual background – click that.
  • Check out the default background choices and click on your favorite.
  • You can add any photo for the background by selecting the + near the Choose Virtual Background setting. It’ll give you the ability to upload your photos.

There are a ton of free, great backgrounds out there, so use your imagination.

5. Try to work in a space with a little depth behind you.

Rethink doing your video call in front of plain white walls with no decorations. It’ll look like you had your mugshot taken at a police station.

If you only have white walls to work with, put up a picture or some kind of knickknack to make it look like you’re not working in some fly-by-night kind of setting. Neat and tidy bookshelves work well, or a colorful photo or two. Just remember, you want people looking at you, not at … what is that … behind you. 

6. If it’s a group call, mute your microphone when you’re not speaking. 

This is especially a good idea if you aren’t in home quarantine by yourself. It will mask it if you’re trying to yell at your kids like a ventriloquist to be quiet. If your microphone is off and your lips don’t move, your coworkers will never know you’re pleading with your kids to behave.

7. Pretend the camera can see everything you do - all the time. 

Remember in Tip No. 2 where we shared that video of the women who went to the bathroom on her video call? That’s hard to come back from. Your best bet is to pretend people can see you, and hear you, the whole time.

8. Shrug off the inevitable kid or pet photobomb. 

Let’s be honest – most parents know the monkeys run the zoo, and they know their kids will probably photobomb their call one day too. But if you call too much attention to it, that’s when it gets embarrassing. Don’t freak out about it – you’ll look like Mommie Dearest. Just ignore it, shrug, and move on.

9. If your Wi-Fi service is spotty, switch to an Ethernet cable. 

One of the biggest irritations during conference calls is when someone freezes in mid-sentence or keeps getting dropped from the call. If you know your WiFi cuts out periodically through the day, this could be a safeguard that will keep you on the call.

You can also make sure you get the strongest WiFi signal in your house by working right next to your router. If playing tech repairman drives you crazy, you can try the Cloudcheck app instead. It will investigate your WiFi connectivity issues for you and help you fix them.

10. Stay Professional

If you’re sheltering in place by yourself, any contact with the outside world can seem thrilling. But remember, this isn’t your best friend you’re talking to. It’s a work contact. Don’t try talking in your best Joe Exotic impersonation just to get some laughs. Make sure you’re calling your real friends a lot during your home confinement, so you don’t feel so lonely that you blur the lines of professionalism.