Emily Fisher | Interior Designer
Before our new world with Covid-19 hit, I rarely used virtual platforms for meetings. I love people, being with people, talking to people, meeting new people... pretty much all things people. When it came to transitioning my “all things people” world to an “all things virtual” world, I rose to the challenge (maybe a little begrudgingly) and embraced it.
As I turned on my laptop’s camera for the first time and saw myself staring back, I realized I had a lot of work to do to present myself as a professional. I moved my desk to every wall of the office, and 5 million ways in between, trying to find the perfect lighting so my face wouldn’t look like it was an extension of the sun. While moving my desk all over the place, one issue I kept running into was that my background was super distracting, so even though I could sometimes get the lighting tolerable, the background wasn't. After six weeks of Zooming (I can’t help but sing the old Mazda jingle, "zoom zoom zoom"), I have several tips that have helped me through these virtual meetings.
Enjoy it! It is totally okay to be authentic and enjoy the time you have with other people outside the walls of your home. Distractions are going to happen. I am a mom of four kiddos and one boxer dog that just HAS to inform us every time our driveway alarm goes off... like we can’t hear it.
I have never needed doors on my office, but you better believe the installation of those doors are getting scheduled ASAP. Before one meeting a few weeks ago where I was presenting, I worked so hard to get my children situated and my house in order before the meeting started. Within the first few minutes, all craziness broke loose: the Roomba decided the floors needed to be cleaned right behind my chair, the driveway alarm rang so my dog had to inform us of someone's arrival, and of course then my children had to come check everything out.
Maybe you have that quiet, perfect home office, but remember to extend some grace to those who don’t. Finding the right place in your home to work can be a challenge! Try finding a spot that is comfortable for you and quiet - make that your work spot. Avoid moving from the table, to the island, to the sofa. Create a work area, and at the end of the day, leave work there until the next morning. Having a window nearby to give natural light, and to be able to look out, will help keep your spirits lifted. A window is a nice reminder that life is still happening outside the walls of your home! Lighting It is hard to find that perfect balance between looking like you have joined the conference from either a cave or the surface of the sun. I have found that it is helpful to have a light source between your face and your screen. The best placement is to the side to ensure that there are no shadows. Natural light from windows can be a big help in this area. When your main source of lighting is from above you, it tends to cast shadows under your eyes and other areas of your face. It helps to have multiple light sources to illuminate your virtual meeting area. If at all possible, avoid fluorescent lighting. Background When it came to the background, it was really helpful for me to use the camera on my laptop and see what the background in my frame looked like. Some things to avoid in your background are clutter and personal items such as family pictures. Try to make the background look as professional and organized as possible. Some nice backgrounds include shelves with books and accessories, console tables with accessories, or just a plain wall with nothing. If you are opting for the plain background, the most flattering color for you is a wall color that is grey with a hint of blue.
When it comes to what to wear, solids are a good choice. Try to avoid the stripes and patterns. Something my mom always said to my siblings and I when we were younger was, “Who do you represent?” and it still rings true. We are representing our business and company, so a great choice would be to wear your company’s colors or something with your logo on it. Etiquette I seriously dislike being late, but it happens. It’s life. If at all possible, be on time or even early to virtual meetings. Once in the meeting, treat it as if everyone were in the conference room at work. Maintain good eye contact, try not to check your phone or emails, use the raise hand button when you have something to add to the conversation, speak up when you do say something, and mute your microphone when you are not speaking. (I have unintentionally had the privilege of hearing some lovely conversations.) If you plan to do any screen sharing, make sure to close all those personal tabs such as email, documents, or browsers. While it has been fun learning all things virtual and all that entails, I can't wait for the day we can all get back to meeting in person. Hope my clothes still fit!
Happy zoom zoom zooming!