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Etiquette: How to look presentable on screen during virtual meetings

Readers Lounge By Lolita Bunde
Look presentable during your video call (Shutterstock)

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, people have been asked to maintain social distance to help curb the spread of the virus.

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Most people are now working remotely and video calls have become a popular way of communicating with colleagues, clients, family and friends.

As people embrace video technology as part of communication, there are etiquettes that need to be observed. Image is everything and virtual meetings should be taken seriously.

According to Derek Bbanga, a personal branding and communication consultant, it is important to look presentable during virtual meetings – especially if you are working from home.

“It’s important to always look your best, it doesn’t matter what your best version is. Looking presentable is about looking your best, this is regardless of having a video call with your colleagues or not, pajamas and bath robes do not help with your productivity,” says Bbanga.

When you are having a zoom meeting with your colleagues, it doesn’t necessarily mean you put on a suit and tie or have on your sheath dress. It simply requires you to look presentable. People normally make their judgments based on how you look.

Here are tips to help you look presentable during virtual meetings:

  1. Have your lighting right

Whether you decide to have the meeting in your dining area or on the couch, ensure that the lighting is always right.

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Good lighting brightens your face and enhances your features making you presentable before your colleagues. You don’t want your colleagues or clients seeing shadows of you or false images.

Set up your virtual office in a place with a natural source of light, like a window. This will ensure the light is directly hitting your face with no resultant silhouetting images.

For Bbanga, this is the first thing to consider before setting up a video call.

”Lighting is very important, natural front facing light is key, set up in  place with enough natural light. Do not hoard yourself in a couch where your face won’t be clear to your colleagues.”

While setting up the light, always remember to put your computer at eye level. This is photography rulebook 101. When the computer or phone is placed at a low angle, the images will come out dark as lighting is compromised.

  1. Choose the right background

Backgrounds play a big role in emphasizing how you present yourself during a video call.

You can create professional backgrounds using some of the video calling applications. However if you cannot access these features, you can ensure your background is plain to avoid destructing your colleagues.

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“You can have a nice picture in the background, or a flower to make it look presentable. Also avoid people interfering during the video call,” Bbanga advises.

Additionally, Bbanga says it is important to put boundaries when it comes to your work. It doesn’t look professional when you destruct your colleagues or clients during a meeting.

“You need to stipulate how long your meeting will last and request to have your space while you work,” he says.

In a situation where you don’t have to directly participate in a meeting, you can switch off your video but have a profile picture for people to be able to identify you.

However, in the case that you are coordinating a meeting, your video needs to be on because a lot of people base their judgements on nonverbal communication.

“We see you smiling, frowning, we can read your gestures, it is important that we see you. Unless you are part of a wedding, you don’t have to have your image on. Have an image for the brand you are representing. It is good for people to know you,” adds Bbanga.

Ensure your sitting position is comfortable before making a video call (Shutterstock)

Another important thing to note while making video calls is to learn how the applications work.

Learn how to mute audio or switch off the videos when you are destructed. People will still be able to see you make faces and hear the things you say if you do not know how the video tool you are using works.

  1. Dress appropriately

During video calls, whether with family members or colleagues, you need to put on clothes that are camera friendly.

Avoid flowered and printed shirts and blouses. These could easily distract the people you are video-calling.

Wearing a bright white or black shirt may cause your camera to auto-adjust the brightness and make it hard to see your face, go for solid bold colours.

For ladies, it would be best to tone down on the jewelry.

Avoid putting on chunky necklaces and dangling earrings that will make noise when you are moving around explaining something.

Also, chunky jewelry can easily distract people from what you are saying.

Additionally, avoid hairstyles that cover your face as this can be distracting, ensure you tie your hair up. Always check your appearance prior to the video call. 

  1. Have a comfortable position

Ensure your sitting position is comfortable before making a video call.

Avoid changing seats from room to room during a video call as this shows lack of preparedness on your part.

Choose a single spot and avoid fidgeting during the call, this will be distracting to those trying to listen to you during the call.

Also, avoid slouching too close to the camera, your audio might come out too loud to the rest of the callers.

During video calls avoid using the computer microphone since the computer will be picking noise from your environment and this can cause a lot of distraction to listeners.

It would be best to use earphones since they are not too bulky on the face.

Prepare a set of things you want to say to avoid stuttering during the call. Similarly, be clear; do not shout; and always have a notebook to jot down points you might forget. In other words, preparation is key.

Tip: Be intentional with everything you do, staying in the house may not be every easy and sometimes you may wake up feeling like a mess, but do something to lighten your day.

Make some coffee or go for a jog before setting up for your video call. Be intentional with the image you want to present to your colleagues, clients and the world. The internet never forgets.

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