How to make your Zoom set-up rock
Before March of this year, you may have never used Zoom in your life. By now, you have probably logged quite a few hours on this service or other video conferencing services, as it has become the communication tool of choice for many during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As many employees are still working from home, now is the perfect time to brush up on some basics to make your Zoom set-up fit your needs. Not working from home? These tips can still go a long way making every video call a little bit better.
Lose the Silly Backgrounds
You have probably spent time playing with the different background options Zoom offers, ranging from a lovely mountain scene to a still from a recent Godzilla flick. While these certainly add some fun to your conference call, they aren’t always the best choice. For starters, they are distracting: It’s difficult to discuss a budget report while you are watching a coworker sitting in Jurassic Park. The backgrounds also cause visual glitches on the screen, meaning that if you are using visual aids, they may not come across to those watching your screen if you are also using one of the fake backgrounds.
Find the Right Background
So if you can’t use the fun backgrounds, what should you use? This really depends on the purpose of your call, but for professional calls, try to find the least distracting background in your house or office. A blank, light-colored wall looks best, but if your desk is in front of an organized bookshelf or decorative wall hanging, that works, too. The key is to keep your background space as clean and organized as possible, both to minimize distractions and present a professional image during your call.
This may seem obvious, but if you are on a professional call – or even if you are chatting with a buddy – what you wear is more obvious than you think. Even if only your top half is visible, you will inevitably get up to grab a file, or to refresh your drink, and wind up sharing a lot more personal information than you intended, like your love for Ninja Turtles pajama pants. It’s just for an hour, so put on your slacks and look the part for the job.
Go Towards the Light
Good lighting is a key part of a successful Zoom call. For the best lighting, use a light source that is close to your face, like a lamp. You can also use natural light from a window, and even increase your screen brightness to add to the visible light around you. Avoid sitting with your back to a window or any other light source, unless you are trying to conceal your identity and only show your silhouette.
Dress for a Meeting
Sure, you may be at home, but if you are jumping on a Zoom call for your job, act like the meeting is in person. This means combing your hair, dressing as you would for the office, and double-checking to make sure you haven’t buttoned your shirt incorrectly. Dressing in a solid color is your best bet, though it’s better to stay away from solid white or solid black shirts, because they can cause you to look distorted on the camera.
Find Your Sound
A Zoom call only works if you can communicate, which usually means you have to hear everyone clearly. Invest in some headphones or earbuds that will allow you to hear the other people on your call. Make sure your computer has a reliable microphone, or use an external microphone so your words aren’t cut off. While you’re at it, eliminate other sounds as much as possible – silence your phone, turn off any alarms, and kick your pets out of the room so your sound will not be interrupted.
Set the Stage
Before you even join your call, take some time to prep the area in which you will be working. This means having supplies, like a pen and paper for notes, as well as any materials you are supposed to have available for the meeting. Consider keeping a water bottle nearby if you will have to do a lot of talking, so you don’t have to get up and leave during the call if you need something to drink.
Test it Out
Even though your laptop has been reliable for the last seven Zoom calls you made, it’s still a good idea to double check that your headphones and microphone are working, as well as your Internet connection, before each meeting. Each device has a different way to test the volume and sound, but if you’re not sure what to do, you can always have a quick Zoom call with a friend or colleague to make sure they can see and hear you well.
We realize this sounds harsh, but it’s for the good of the group. If you are on a Zoom call with multiple people, go ahead and mute your microphone until it is your turn to speak. Zoom will automatically give the spotlight to the person making the most noise, and that construction going on next door is louder than you think, so do everyone a favor and mute yourself until you are speaking. If you are the meeting host, consider muting everyone at the beginning and instructing them to stay muted until you call on them.
Keep it Steady
Make sure your device is set up in a place where it will not wobble or tilt at an awkward angle. Use a stand for your phone, or find a good place to set your laptop for the duration of the call. Don’t carry the phone around with you, or even hold it up – no matter how steady your hand is, your phone is heavier than it looks, and the other people on the call will be treated to a roller-coaster effect as your screen begins to shake and move.
It may sound like a lot of rules, but for services like Zoom, a few details make a big difference. Take some time to prep your meeting spot, gather what you will need, and iron your best button-down to create a Zoom experience that will be successful for everyone involved.