By now you have likely participated in or hosted a Zoom or other video conferencing platform meeting. Probably lots of them. But there are still a few hints, tips, and reminders so that you have a professional image and demeanor. You may not be able to always keep your dog from barking or your cat from stealing the limelight, but there are things you can control when participating in a video conference.
Mirror My Video
In the Zoom video camera settings you can toggle on or off “mirror my video” (in a meeting go to the carat next to “Start Video” and choose “Video Settings”). By toggling on or off this setting you may find that you can choose your most photogenic side or reduce exposure to a side of the room you would prefer to stay out of camera. If you are using a virtual background with words you may have to mirror your video to make the words readable.
Touch Up My Appearance
In the same place that you find the “Mirror My Video” settings you will also see a “Touch up my appearance” setting. It adds a soft focus, so your skin looks better. Always try to position the camera at eye level or slightly above so your video camera is not looking up your nose (and you are not looking down your nose at others). If you are using the onboard camera on your laptop you may have to put your laptop on a shoe-box or a stack of books.
Get Your Lighting from Behind Your Video Camera
There are a whole lot of great suggestions about how to position your lighting and video camera to look best on a video conference call. However, many people do not have a lot of choice about where they will be working, so getting the setup just right is not always a practical reality. However, if possible, do try to position a lamp behind your video camera to help reduce shadows caused by overhead light and dimness caused by lighting coming from behind you.
Get the Outlook Add-in
Do not send a meeting request and tell the participants you will send the Zoom login information later. If you use Microsoft Outlook there is a Zoom add-in that makes easy work of adding the Zoom information directly into a meeting request. While there are not a lot of options for removing all the alternative dial in numbers, you can at least select only US phone numbers. There is also a Chrome extension to add Zoom link and dial-in information into a Google Calendar meeting, and a Firefox extension.
Hold Down the Space Bar to Unmute
Most Zoom meetings and other video conference meetings are set up by the host to have all lines muted. Keeping your line muted helps reduce distracting noises. However, if you need to quickly unmute your line you do not have to use your mouse to click on the microphone icon. Make sure your mouse pointer is on the meeting (not in another application on your computer) and hold down the Space key to temporarily unmute your line. There are lots of other keyboard commands to navigate a Zoom meeting.
Always Open the Participants Panel
If you are the host of a Zoom meeting, make sure to click on the Participants Panel to launch it in a separate window. From that panel you can mute all lines or a specific line, add co-hosts, lower raised hands, and many other essential controls. As a participant you can raise your “hand”, request additional controls such as co-host or share your screen, and other useful features.
Zoom Virtual Backgrounds
If you are working in a room that you don’t care to share (now that we are all scarred by the Room Rater’s public critique of people’s rooms) and if your computer meets the technical requirements, you can add a virtual background. The virtual backgrounds work best with a greenscreen, but a neutral or white wall in the background will work. While you can amuse and dazzle your colleagues with virtual backgrounds from the Simpsons, the Batman’s bat cave, or the bridge from the Starship Enterprise, there are more business appropriate options or you can build you own with a picture of your firm’s conference room! Once you have picked some backgrounds, open the application, sign in, click your profile picture, followed by the Settings link in the drop-down menu and navigate to the Virtual Background tab and adjust your settings.
When your camera is turned on your facial expression and body language are displayed on everyone’s monitor. It may be easier to hide your emotions – surprise, disinterest, consternation – in person. Be aware of your expression. Are you frowning? Looking at your phone? Resting your head in your hands? Even though you may not mean to be signaling anything, your demeanor may be misread.
Add Your Headshot
If you choose to turn off your video camera you can add a headshot or still image so that people can see your likeness in place of the video. This is handy if you need to attend to something off camera. If you have a Zoom account just go add a profile image in your account settings.
Turn Off Your Self-View
If you find that staring at your own image is distracting, or you find a great temptation to fix your hair, you can turn off self-view. Just right-click on your video square and choose “hide myself”. You can toggle it back to “show myself” whenever you want. If there are a lot of people in the meeting this will also let you see more of them on the screen.
Gallery view lets you see everyone in the meeting at once, instead of just the person speaking. To turn that on, click the tab that says “Gallery view” in the top right corner. If the meeting has 49 or fewer attendees, you will see all of their screens displayed on one page. If there are more, you will have the option to move between multiple pages. Change it back by clicking “Speaker view” in that same top right corner. To see even more people you can turn off non video participants by going to Settings > Video > Meetings, and check “Hide nonvideo participants”.
Do Not Take Your Microphone to the Bathroom
People sometimes behave in extraordinary ways on video conferences. If you need to walk around turn off your camera and mute your microphone so you don’t share that with others on the call. Dress appropriately. Be aware that others may see your chat messages if you are not careful to direct them to an individual (and even then, like email, it is easy to choose the wrong person).
Test Test Test
Many lawyers may participate in multiple video conferences a day, on different platforms, on different machines, with different speakers and microphones. Try to arrive at least five minutes early to make sure all of your equipment works. If it is a very important meeting get on 10-15 minutes ahead, especially if you are the host, to make sure all equipment works and settings are in place. Even though everything worked an hour ago, you can’t assume that it will again.
The mass use of video conferencing for work, school, and play has been a sudden shift in behavior. Be charitable towards others and remember that few are working in an ideal setting. Video conferencing has strengths and weaknesses, but it does allow us to connect in a meaningful way.