There’s been a steady increase in the number of remote workers over the past few years, which spiked recently due to the coronavirus outbreak. As global workers shift from their corporate offices to their homes, there’s been a huge uptick in the number of videoconferences. And, as folks have started turning their webcams on, we’ve been able to get an interesting look into some new facets of our colleagues’ lives – often starting conversations with one another about things we’ve never disclosed before.
For example, early in our company’s quarantine, I participated in a call that I’ve come to name the “Kids, Cats and Cowboy Hats” meeting because of the things each attendee had in their video frame. While the uniqueness definitely made everyone laugh and was a great icebreaker for the tensions that are running high at the moment, post-COVID19 we’re going to want to develop more polished online personal brands for ourselves. With that in mind, here are five quick tips to take your personal video presence from bland to grand.
Let’s start with a look at a typical home office worker joining a videoconference. Full disclosure: it’s me, so it’s ok to be critical.
Remove On-Screen Distractions
There’s a whole lot going on here, but let’s start with the easiest – the water bottle. Like a cat wandering through the frame, it’s distracting and my colleagues can’t stop focusing on it. So, step one – move all desktop clutter out of view of the camera. I can keep it close at hand – enjoy my lunch, pet the dog, etc. – but let’s do that just a few inches to the left or right of my keyboard where nobody can see.
Properly Frame Your Shot
Next up: the window in the background. The cameras built into our laptops are good, but not great. So, mine has auto-focused on that big bright light, rather than my face. Step two in our process is to turn the desk so that a different wall is behind me – or to put a desk lamp somewhere in front of me (maybe right behind the laptop) so that it shines light onto my face and creates a better picture.
This repositioning fixed the problem, though a plain wall as a background will look even better (and my colleagues won’t be distracted by trying to figure out what those dishes on the back shelf really look like).
Enhance Your Personal Brand
While I’m at it, I might want to give some thoughts to the t-shirt I’m wearing. Yes, one of the neat things about not going into the office is that I can have a more relaxed dress code, but it’s easy to “dress this up” a little bit and make a huge difference in my personal brand.
I keep a sports coat near my desk that I can slip into at any time, but a nice hoodie would work too. Women might just as easily grab a shawl or scarf to make an instant transformation. You don’t need to know that under the desk I’m still wearing my pajama pants.
Don’t Speak Down to Your Colleagues
Step four is a big one: raise the height of your camera to eye level. When I’m looking down at the computer, I have a menacing, weirdly hovering sort of perspective that you never get from me when we’re physically in the same office. Raising the camera so that I can look straight into it makes me way more approachable and trustworthy.
An easy way to do it? Grab a ream of printer paper or two, and set the laptop on them.
Finally, feel free to accessorize the background a bit by moving a potted plant into the frame, or including some other personal touch that lets a little bit of your personality shine through.
Voila! A slight repositioning of our laptop camera, an added jacket, and some accessories have taken my personal brand from bland to grand.
Not only are these tips critical to keep in mind while working from home, but at the office as well. Give them a try to see how you can elevate your personal brand with a few easy tweaks.