Why the background on your Zoom call matters
Taking precautions can help you avoid distractions and counter short attention spans
We’ve seen a lot of Zoom meetings, either through our own communications with colleagues or watching subject-matter experts doing interviews on national television. And let’s be honest, there have been some questionable surroundings out there.
Let me ask you – have you been on a Zoom call and found yourself wondering about what you are seeing behind a colleague? Or watched a remote interview on a newscast and been distracted because of bad lighting or cluttered surroundings?
Why does this matter? Because if you are doing an interview or participating in a meeting and have something important to share, you need to make sure your audience is listening to what you are saying and not thinking about your backdrop.
We are being bombarded with information from our smartphones, computers, tablets, television sets and everything else out there. And with so many of us working remotely from home, there are an awful lot of distractions around the house, kids, animals and other family members. There’s incredible, unprecedented competition for our fractured attention spans, so you need to make it as easy as possible for your important message to register with your audience.
In order to maximize your impact and make sure people hear your valuable observations, they must be listening to you, but they can’t listen to what you are saying if you are throwing roadblocks at them in the way of a bad set. Let’s address some of the worst offenders.
I know most of us don’t have the luxury of a professional studio, but be aware of your surroundings and what’s behind you. Backlighting from windows or a chandelier can be distracting and take away from the details your face and in some cases even look comical. If it is possible, try to direct a light from behind your camera onto your face. A soft light can help smooth out facial lines. Experiment with what you have in your home.
Years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing TV icon Barbara Walters. She was incredible, and at the end of our interview, I asked her how she always managed to look so good for so many years and she told me, “Tiffany I always have great lighting.”
Sound is another factor that can be distracting. Again, be aware of your surroundings. If you are in a room with hardwood floors there can be reverberations with your audio. If possible, choose a room with carpeting to minimize the echoing. Also, if there are family members present, try to keep their background noise to a minimum.
Angles can be your friend or enemy, depending on how you want to play them. Ideally, you want a shot not too close, focused at eye level. You want to be making eye contact with your audience. Remember, one of the least attractive angles of our face is from down below looking up at our nostrils.
Think of the space where you do your remote meeting or interview as your studio. Be thoughtful and deliberate about what you want your background to say about you. Ideally, your studio should reinforce your brand and not be filled with distractions.
I watched an interview recently on CNN, and the person was jammed in front of a cluttered bookshelf. I have to admit at the end of the interview I don’t remember what he said because I was reading the titles on his shelves and wondering where his family photos were taken. I’m sure other people did the same thing.
Again, why should you care about this? Because It has to do with your credibility. Your setting can either help or hinder your ability to tell your story. Would you show up for an important meeting wearing flip flops and ripped clothes?
There are many things that you can do at home to create your own professional-looking “studio.” Experiment with your space and settings. Get feedback from friends and family. Often, a few minor adjustments can make a big difference in the quality of your shot.
Tiffany Eddy is a former broadcast journalist and founder of Smart Strong Sassy, a company that supports communication and connects individuals through storytelling For a video with some tips and visual examples, click here.