Recently one of our clients, the executive director of a large membership organization, asked an important question: How do I conduct video conference calls from my home-office in a way that will reflect the brand of our organization and the authority of my position?
This is a question most of us will face at one point or another. Whether it’s a meeting with your team or a conversation with an important stakeholder, we all need to be prepared to represent our organizations well on a video conference call.
Let brand be your guide. Then ask yourself two questions: What are the things that will reflect negatively on the brand I represent? And what should I do to make it shine even more?
A video conference should NOT be an opportunity for meeting participants to visit your home; it is an opportunity for your home to become a part of an online space.
Remove the things that remind people that your home-life distractions may only be a few feet away. Clear the clutter and get rid of the things that will distract from who you are and what you want to say.
Have you picked up your dirty dishes and laundry? Hidden messy piles of paper? That’s a start.
Look at your home-based office from the eyes of your viewers. What’s in the background? Do you have bookshelf behind you? Good. Does it feature every title in the Twilight series? Less good.
Your backdrop is telling a story about you. Is it a story that detracts from the meeting you’re joining, or does it reinforce your organization’s values, mission, credibility?
Dress for the part
Are you dressed for the meeting you’re having? You’re becoming a part of an online community. Even though you may normally wear slippers and a casual shirt, once you join an online meeting you are no longer at home. You’re in a virtual world, and you need to dress the part.
Choose clothes that are in alignment with your organization’s personality and positioning. Do you work for a grassroots environmental organization? A t-shirt with your organization’s logo may be fitting. An organization fighting for credibility? It might be time to break out the jacket and tie.
Note: When you’re on camera: small patterns and lines can cause a visual effect known as moiré. You can avoid this effect by choosing solid colors or larger patterns. But avoid orange, which doesn’t look good on camera. Here’s an example from photolife.com.
Get your technology right
Bad technology can be incredibly frustrating for everyone involved and reflects poorly on your organization. Right in the middle of an important point –zerk, blat, zilch – no one can follow what you’re trying to say.
Here are a few things you can do to avoid bad technology:
- Close unnecessary apps.
- Restart your computer before your meeting. Avoid jumping between apps during your meeting.
- Quit out of social media and web pages that feature a lot of ads. Pages like Facebook, Snapchat, or even news sites like CNN can start sapping your bandwidth quickly. Who shares your internet with you? Maybe this isn’t the best time for the kids to be on Netflix.
- Turn off notifications on your phone and laptop, especially if you’re sharing your screen. You don’t need the whole world to know that your teenager is texting you because she forgot her lunch.
Check your audio
Hearing and being heard are very important parts of your meeting. Here are a few ways you can ensure audio quality:
- Use a headset. Your computer’s built-in mic is more likely to pick up feedback.
- Dial in separately. Consider using a separate connection than your video. That way, you may still hear, even if you lose the video connection.
- Have alternate connection options at the ready.
- Have a door you can close, and let others know that you’re “On air.”
- Work with others in your home to keep pets quiet.
- Close your windows, and make sure your room’s fan isn’t pointed at your mic.
- Remove noisy jewelry, and leave the ice cubes out of your water glass.
- If you have a squeaky chair, get out the WD40.
- Know where your mute button is, and don’t be afraid to use it if things get noisy.
Be your own cinematographer
Just like making a movie, things like lighting and camera angles are important to the message you’re sending to other meeting participants. A low camera angle can make you look tired or give an unwanted look up your nose. Put the camera too high, and your stature is minimized.
- Place your computer’s camera at eye-level and stand if you can.
- Look into the camera when you’re speaking or when others are talking.
- Avoid looking at other things on your computer while the meeting is underway. Otherwise, it will become clear quickly that you’re not paying attention.
- Direct overhead light may not help you look your best. Use lamps and windows to illuminate your face as much as you can, and avoid standing in front of a bright window because the light from behind you will cause you to become silhouetted.
Now that you’ve fixed the things that might detract from your brand image, it’s time to take proactive steps to bring your brand to life within your space. Here are a few things you can try:
Wear Your Logo
Yes, it’s possible, you can put your logo on your person without looking like a NASCAR driver. Here are a few options:
- Lapel pin
- T-shirt or polo shirt with your logo
- Name tag with logo
Make Your Own Backdrop
Ever notice the backdrop movie stars stand in front of at awards ceremonies? It’s just a vinyl banner with logos repeated over and over. Backdrops like these can be easy to make and have printed at your local FedEx. Since you likely won’t need a very large banner, you can print something for under $100.
Set that backdrop up behind you, and you’ll have the handsome gravitas of George Clooney.
Choose Meaningful Art
Not ready to commit to printing a banner? Frame your logo in an 8×8 frame and hang it behind you. You can also choose photos that reinforce your mission or show your organization in action.
Boettcher Foundation, for instance, encourages all of its staff members to feature personal photos in their offices of their brand values in action.
Another great example of an on-brand backdrop comes from my colleague Julie who used to work at Nike Foundation. Every time she was in a video conference call, other participants could see the rows of numbered race bibs from the many long-distance races she had competed in.
Share What You Know
There are more ways to bring your brand to life in your home office. Share what you do (or the lessons you learned the hard way) so that others can benefit from your experience. For more about what we know, check out our resources page.