How to Look Sharp (and Feel Less Awkward) During Virtual Meetings

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Now that you’re likely spending hours every day on video calls, you’re probably wondering how you can step up your game on video.

Tired of reading? I created the video above so you can sit back, relax, and watch.

Here are the resources you need:

1. Think about your Setup

Take a few minutes & make sure you’re good to go on your setup. Here are some things to consider:

  • Power chord – Make sure your computer is fully charged and plugged in, so you don’t all of a sudden loose power.
  • Webcams – It’s absolutely fine to use your laptop’s webcam. If your video is a bit blurry, take a few seconds and wipe your screen in front of the camera. If your webcam breaks, or you decide the image is too cloudy, consider investing in a Logitech webcam (they start at $40).
  • Headphones – I rarely wear headphones, but if there is background noise they can be helpful and they can also help prevent you from getting feedback if you’re using a microphone.
  • Get rid of background noise – Consider using Krisp as an extension to mute background noise in any communication app. They are currently offering a free plan in response to COVID-19.
  • External Microphones – If you’re doing a podcast interview or want to step up your audio, using an external microphone can help you sound more professional. I use a Shure MV5 mic ($99). I’ve also heard great things about the Yeti brand ($129.99) and the Blue Snowball ($69.99) microphone.
  • Software to Use – I’ve been using Zoom for years and it’s tied to my Calendly for automatic meetings scheduling, so it’s my go-to software (and here is a blog a wrote sharing some of the more technical ways to utilize Zoom). The free tier for Zoom cuts meetings off after 40 minutes. Cisco’s WebEx is another great alternative. You can sign-up for free and the free account allows 100 people into your call. Their paid plans start at $13.50 per month (versus Zoom’s $14.99/month plan). Last, but certainly not least, Google Hangouts is a good alternative too and can integrate with Google Calendars
  • Internet Speed – If you can invest in a higher speed connection, at this point, it’s likely worth doing so. However, another strategy for faster speeds is to close all of your programs in the background as you prepare for important meetings. Also, make sure you mute any popup notifications if you are going to use screenshare.

2. Plan your Visuals

It’s worth investing time into identifying opportunities to improve how your show up on camera:

  • Get your lighting right – Having studied photography, I’ve learned that lighting is EVERYTHING. If you think you “don’t look good on camera” it’s probably because your lighting is bad. The ideal type of light is when you’re sitting next to or in front of a window. If that’s not possible, consider investing in having a front-facing light or, at minimum, try using a lamp for more flattering light. Have you ever wondered why fashion bloggers look so amazing? It’s because many of them invest in a ring light, which adds a nice glow to their face and creates a beautiful “ring” that lights up their eyes. The most famous brand of ring light is the Diva Ring ($189.00). Two more affordable versions that are popular on Amazon are the Neewer light ($105.99) and the MACTREM (approximately $30).
  • Dress appropriately – Think about your audience. If it’s your friends, it’s fine to wear a sweatshirt. However, if it’s a professional meeting at least look sharp from your torso up, so you look your best. Other tips:
    • Avoid clothes that blend in the background, so you avoid looking like a floating head
    • Avoid patterns as they can be distracting
    • Avoid distracting jewelry for high stakes meetings (for less formal meetings I opt to ignore this advice)
  • Think about your background – A little over a year ago I decided to design an office for myself and I knew that I wanted to have a background with bookcases. Now that I’m working from home all of the time, I’m grateful to have a backdrop that really reflects who I am. If you can’t get an “ideal” background, there are a few strategies you can use:
    • I’ve seen a handful of thought leaders with YouTube channels invest in a room divider, like this, to make their background less distracting.
    • If you use Zoom you can select a virtual background. To do so, click on the arrow to the right of ‘video’ in your menu below the zoom call. Then select, “Choose Virtual Background.” You can choose one of the backgrounds zoom shares OR you can upload your own. To make a virtual background look more seamless, consider investing in a green screen behind you. Here is a low maintenance option ($52.99).

3. Body Language is important

Vanessa Van Edwards is a body language expert and I am a huge fan of her work. I’ve taken her CreativeLive course on The Power of Body Language as well as her Negotiations course – both are fantastic.

What I’ve learned from Vanessa is that 60% – 90% of our communication is non-verbal.

Think about that.

How you look, sound, and the effectiveness of your body language are the vast majority of how you are perceived by people and whether or not they decide to trust you.

To emphasize and communicate with your body language, one of the most important things you can do online is to make sure your camera is set up such that people can see your hands. As humans, studies have shown that the first thing we look at when we meet someone is their hands to confirm they are safe to trust.

When you start your presentation make sure your hands are visible. Vanessa van Edwards suggests that you consider doing a quick wave to say hello.

Other things to consider:

  • Think about whether you can use your face to be expressive
  • Look at your webcam (vs. at your screen) when you are making important points
  • Take a deep breath before you speak and intentionally work to speak with confidence.
  • Think about something that makes you happy before you speak or get on a call. People can actually “hear” your emotions.

Most importantly, be your authentic self. People can tell when you are uncomfortable or when you’re forcing something. Even in business settings, work to be conversational.

With a little bit of preparation and learning to embrace your authentic self, you can become a master at connecting online.