With many of us working from home, it’s worth bearing in mind that we still communicate a message about our business vision or brand personality through our video calls.
Principal designer at Ethos Interiors, Anna Williams, has been helping business owners create an impression for nearly a decade by designing offices that represent both the person and the business.
Anna recommends getting the basic technical aspects right and creating a background that is both professional and reflects your personality.
Light on your face
Face a window if possible and avoid light behind or directly above you. “Harsh overhead lights can make you look tired,” warns Anna. “I find it helpful to sit where I am getting a lot of natural ambient lighting in the room.”
Set webcam at eye level
For the most flattering angle, have your device at the right height so your camera is at eye level. “I have about six books stacked up that my laptop sits on,” Anna confesses. “This stops people looking up your nose.”
Reduce background noise
Too much background is distracting and makes it difficult to listen to you speak. Distant traffic sounds or quiet music is fine and can help you avoid the call sounding sterile.
Use a background that is both professional and gives a peek into your personality
Check that what can be seen behind you is tidy and professional, but that doesn’t it mean can’t be personal or a little fun.
“When designing an office for a client, I look to incorporate little pieces of their personality or history into the design,” says Anna. “Normally your business brand reflects your personality.”
In Anna’s case, her video call background is a gallery wall of art pieces, including a piece painted by her grandfather.
“My mother is an artist, and art is something I work with a lot,” Anna says “It also shows my quirky, creative side.”
Anna suggests that to give a peek into your personality while still maintaining your professionalism is to focus on:
“Hobbies can be anything from watching the footy to being an artist, or just dabbling in art,” says Anna. “You could put a piece of your own artwork behind you or a framed footy jersey.”
“We just did a corporate office for an executive who runs a company with a lot of earthmoving equipment, so the backdrop behind his desk is an artistic photograph of a bulldozer. It’s a stylish way to bring in a little of his past.
“Another idea, if you don’t have a wall to use or something to hang on it, is to use a shelf or bookcase.”
Tips for styling your background
Anna assures us that you don’t need to be an interior designer to have an effective backdrop, and just a few carefully selected pieces can create an impact.
“From a design point you want it to represent you but not make it fussy or cluttered,” advises Anna.
“You want to avoid colours behind you that are too strong because at the end of the day they are looking at your face and you don’t want to distract from what you are saying.
“Keeping if fairly neutral or in more muted colours is helpful.”
Anna suggests placing a few books, a travel memento and a photograph together to create an interesting vignette or backdrop, but warns not to overdo it with a suitcase full of souvenirs.
“Don’t over-complicate it, pare it back and keep it simple.”
“It’s not about being perfect or pristine because then you may as well use a virtual background,” says Anna.
“Take the time to think about what people are seeing, and what it reflects about you.”
Written by Sonia Zabala for BDmag