HONG KONG - Social media channels are full of memes of those of us quarantined or working-from-home mid-digital meetings, and they ain’t pretty.
Bad lighting and worse backgrounds, colleagues embodied by guffaw-inducing filters, family members strolling by in minimal dress, and someone forgetting to turn off the video before wandering off to do something more interesting instead.
Highly entertaining, but to come across as virtually adept rather than remotely inept, here’s how to prepare yourself and your environment and project a professional and memorable (for the right reasons) presence.
1 – Look well groomed
Beverley Cappleman, founder of Little Black Book Styling in Hong Kong, suggests starting with the basics; cleansing and moisturising for maximum hydration and a smooth complexion. For a natural glow, tinted moisturisers and light under-eye concealers can work for both sexes, while for women powders minimise shine and mascara over curled lashes open up the eyes.
Too much effort or rushing from lie-in to dial-in? Zoom’s Touch Up My Appearance option comes to the rescue with a flattering reprieve by way of soft focus.
2 – Wardrobe
Many people dress in office clothes – from the waist up. While Australia’s former foreign minister Julie Bishop takes video calls to stylish extremes by pairing a ball gown with expensive trainers, don’t be that guy in shorts getting up and giving colleagues an unexpected flash of legs.
“For a formal meeting, keep to simple, smart shapes,” advises Ms Cappleman. “White is a clean, sharp look that stands out on camera, and fitted clothes look professional.”
Rule of thumb; colours are fine and can help you stand out if there’s a larger group on screen, but busy patterns are distracting.
3 – Background
Check what your screen reveals and adjust for a plain, light-coloured wall behind you, or at least make sure everything looks neat and tidy.
Don’t angle the screen up, even if the ceiling is the least incriminating background in your home, as neither you nor your colleagues will appreciate the up-nostrils, double-chin angle. Keep your camera in line or slightly above your eyeline by elevating your laptop onto a pile of books.
If your place really is unshareable, replace the mess with an iconic image from Tourism Australia’s 13 Zoom backgrounds (www.australia.com/zoom).
4 – Lighting
Ideally face a window to take advantage of the natural daylight shining straight-on for an even, healthy skin tone with minimal shadows.
If it’s dark outside, keep the light source in front of you and as soft as possible; use a shade or diffuser. Multiple sources, for example two lights at 11 o’clock and 2 o’clock, offer balance. Avoid light from behind as it dazzles colleagues and throws you into silhouette.
5 – Keep focused
While others are talking, resist the urge to check emails, scroll your phone, yawn or scratch; extra movements will attract attention.
If you click out of the video function, double and triple check you are no longer on screen before pulling faces or multi-tasking. Ditto for audio; make sure you are definitely on mute before you become the laughing stock of the virtual office.