Who, me? Well, I’ve got more than a few Zoom calls today, so right now? A short-sleeved button-down and….shorts and my Crocks.

My point? Because of Covid, we’re all working from home and while conference calls abound, more than a few conversations today will take place by video. I don’t know what that means for you, but for me it means never skipping a shower, always shaving, and always wearing a respectable shirt. Sure, there are days I just walk around, unshaven, in a t-shirt and shorts, but you never know who is going to text and ask; “Can you jump on a zoom call now?” Here are my tips for successful zoom calls.

Your Work Environment –
Taking zoom calls from home means working in an area of the house that’s appropriate and clean. If you have to work from the kitchen table, that’s totally fine, but dear Lord, please make sure I can’t see a pile of dirty dishes in the background. Oh, the things I’ve seen. I don’t mean to say you have to be in some sterile, phony environment, but come on… straighten up around you people! If you’re working in what appears to be a cyclone-hit disaster area, what does that say about you? You at least have to look neat and organized. If you work in a studio apartment and you just don’t have a background you can show (hey, that’s okay), feel free to use one of the digital backgrounds zoom offers. There are even a few companies that allow you to customize a virtual background free, as long as you don’t mind their logo appearing in it.

Lighting –
Who knew we’d be talking about the best lighting for video calls, but it does make all the difference in the world. Test out the camera angles, views, and background before your call. While I know you want us all to see the beautiful view at which you’re staring, avoid sitting with your camera facing the ]window because sun glare from behind you can make you look like an apparition.

Books –
My desk is at the back of my home office. So, it’s directly in front of some bookcases where I keep, awards, mementos from some of my previous places of employment, tchotchkes from my startups and, well, books. What you see is what I read, or have read. When you’re on video, you can be sure people look at what’s behind you. It’s human nature. So, be careful about what books you display. If you’re reading “How not to be such an ass,” it would be a good idea to remove that one. I had to remove “30 days to long-flowing hair and washboard abs” because I didn’t want to reveal my secret strategy. (Obviously, I jest.)

Pets and kids are great –
Look, this is life, so unless you’re giving a presentation to the Board of Directors, pets and kids show you are a real human being. A quick dog bark, an inquisitive cat, or a child popping into the screen to say hello is fine… to an extent.  A quick introduction to your favorite, four-legged friend or of course, your wandering toddler, are actually quite enjoyable. However, if you have an incessantly barking dog or pre-teens screaming and beating up on one another, you need to find a quiet place, so you don’t ruin the call for everyone. Listen, things happen, so for heaven’s sake, use the mute button and stop the video when you have to. These features exist for a reason. I think we’ve all seen an adult on a video call talking about Q3 numbers, when all of a sudden, they excuse themselves and they leave their video for a minute (forgetting to mute) and scream bloody murder at their fighting kids and come back, NOW hitting the mute button, and start talking again. Quickly they realize what happened, but the rest of the participants will never un-hear that!

Take it easy –
Be casual and comfortable, but not too much. Unless you’re zooming with your best friends, act like the pro you are. There’s a degree of comfort that is expected and accepted since we’re all working from home, but I see too many people who not only look like schlubs but worse, act like it. Big stretches. Yawns. Would you do that in a face-to-face meeting? No. So don’t do it on a video call! 

Preparing for a call –
To prepare for your call, in addition to what I’ve mentioned above, get up, walk around for a few minutes, and stretch. Wash your face. Get something to eat and drink. And, if you’ve eaten and had something to drink, hit the potty! Now, get a glass of water and keep it near your computer? Why water? I can’t tell you how many people think it’s ok to slurp their hot coffee.

Don’t be on time –
That’s right. Be EARLY. The early banter of a call is sometimes a great opportunity to chat with someone you’re trying to impress. Being early is also a good way to get noticed.

The BIGGEST mistake I see people make is sharing their cluttered, revealing screen. If you’ve got a million tabs open and have endless files on your desktop, you need to be careful. First, you’ll easily show everyone where you spend your time. What tabs are open? What chats are visible? What pictures do you have on your desktop? What should you show? NOTHING. Close it all! Browsers, files, chats, etc. Last week I was on a Zoom call with someone who was pitching me on SEO services who shared their screen. What did I see? Bank balances, horoscopes, an email thread with a co-worker, and more. That’s a big fail.

I hope this gives you something to think about. What are some of the best zoom tips you have? And oh, if we’re not connected on LinkedIn, let’s fix that right now. (Click here to connect with me on LinkedIn)

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