Businesses all across the country are learning how to work remotely at a rapid pace. Flexjobs estimates that 22% of the entire workforce in America will be remote by 2025. This indicates not only that this type of work is here to stay, but that it’s important to acclimate yourself to remote work etiquette. Even if you’re not working remotely, you may work with other people who do. This includes knowing how to stage your background professionally for remote meetings.
Just as you’d dress professionally for work, it’s equally as important to have a professional background. Think of it as an extension of your work clothes — it communicates professionalism, helps set the tone, and creates a positive first impression. Below, you’ll find some tips for how to stage background for video calls.
1. Choose Your Space Carefully
Consider not just the type of room, but any other functions of the space. For example, a shared living room may offer you the most open area, however, it can also have the most distractions.
Ideally, you should conduct all your video calls in a low-traffic setting. This will decrease the possibility of others walking in and out of the frame, as well as decrease background noise. If this isn’t possible, then try to schedule your meetings when you know the space will be free.
2. Consider Your Primary Purpose for Live Streaming or Video Calling
The purpose of your video call will help you determine the mood you should be setting with your background. For example, a funeral home getting in touch with out-of-town family members to arrange a service should have a different staging than a local virtual church service.
Even much smaller differences between meetings can help you determine how to set up your background. For example, meeting with a co-worker to collaborate on a project is likely to be more casual than meeting with management for a performance review. These differences should be reflected in how you dress for the meeting, as well as how you arrange your background.
3. Put Yourself in the Other Person’s Shoes
When setting up a background for live streams and video calls, considering the other person’s expectations can help you create an appropriate and effective background. For example, virtual health professionals may include their degrees in the background to reassure patients, as they would in their office.
The tone of the meeting can also help inform your background. A disciplinary meeting may not be the one to take in a coffee shop, while a brainstorming session can be the perfect place to switch up your background. By putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, you can create an environment that’s cohesive to the purpose of the meeting.
4. Do Some Basic Cleaning
The presence of clutter can be distracting and may subliminally translate into disorganization, or convey a lack of care.
Make sure all chores, such as laundry or dirty dishes, are out of frame. If you’re setting up in front of a bookshelf or any other dynamic backgrounds, make sure to remove items that you wouldn’t put on your desk at work, and clear the space of any excess clutter.
5. Be Mindful of Your Lighting
You’ll want to be somewhere with adequate lighting so that you can be seen clearly, and avoid lighting problems like overexposure. Ways that you can improve your lighting include:
- Sitting by a window: Natural light can be a great tool. It’s flattering and often allows for high contrast. Keep in mind that natural light can change quickly, so it’s good to have backup options.
- Using a lamp: A desktop lamp can be a great supplemental light to natural lighting or overhead lighting. It can create a warm and inviting look. If this is your only source of light, you’ll want to keep it nearby to get the maximum amount of light you can.
- Using overhead lighting: Overhead lighting can be the most convenient option. They provide adequate lighting and often don’t need to be angled as carefully as a lamp or natural light source. It’s important to note that some overhead lights, like fluorescent lights, may cause flickering on the camera.
- Using backlighting: Backlighting, or the light emanating from behind the camera’s subject, can be a great way to create contrast and affect tone. You’ll want to be careful with backlighting to make sure you don’t overexpose yourself, or create distracting shadows.
If you’re trying out a new lighting configuration, you’ll want to test it on your webcam before entering the meeting. This will help you determine if the lighting has the desired effect on the camera, and can help you troubleshoot any issues like flickering or shadows beforehand.
6. Use Strategic Framing
When it comes to strategic framing, you’ll want to consider:
- The scope of the camera;
- The angle of the frame;
- Objects within the frame;
- Lighting in the frame;
- Lighting/noise out of frame.
All of these factors will inform your framing and overall background. For example, if you’re in public and there are people around you, strategic framing that cuts out bystanders can make it appear as if you’re in a private room. Alternatively, framing a head-on shot of yourself can communicate confidence and focus. How you portray your background can be just as important as what’s in it.
7. Keep It Simple
Simplicity is often ideal for a wide range of online meetings. Reducing clutter can cut down on distractions for both you and the meeting participants. Simple backgrounds often add more emphasis to what you’re saying.
This can be ideal for local government officials, who are delivering important speeches about local legislation. The focus, in this case, needs to be on what is being said, not where it’s being said.
Creating a simple background can also be easier than designing something highly stylized since all you need is a blank wall and proper lighting. If you don’t have a blank wall, you can improvise one by hanging up a sheet behind you. Just be mindful of how this affects your lighting.
8. Add a Touch of Personality
Adding a touch of personality into your background can help you create a distinct impression with people you’ve never met before. This can be especially helpful in interview scenarios. It can also put people more at ease, and create a sense of comfort and approachability. You can add some personality to your virtual office by:
- Utilizing color;
- Including specific props, such as coffee mugs or artwork, in your frame;
- Changing the tone, color, or brightness of your lighting;
- Including plants in your frame;
- Color-coordinating your outfit to your background.
It’s pertinent to note that there’s a line between communicating personality and creating clutter. For example, including your entire collection of Marvel action figures in your background can be cluttered, but placing a few of your favorites on your desk can communicate your love of the movies.
Virtual meetings aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So learning how to create the most effective backgrounds for your meetings, whether this is for work or school, can help you create the impression you want to portray.