How to Stage Your Zoom Background

How to Stage Your Zoom Call

May 22, 2020

Home Stagers, Short-Term Rental Stylists, and others in the design industry may be conducting business meetings from home through video conferencing platforms like Zoom. It’s especially important in our industry that we stage our own homes and ourselves to appear as professional as possible on video. For example, if you’re meeting with a potential new client and your home looks messy or unattractive, they will be less likely to want to hire you to decorate their own home or listing. There are several ways you can stage your Zoom background to put your best (virtual) face forward and earn staging clients.

Stage the Lighting

Natural lighting is the easiest way to look your best, but do not have the direct sun on your face. 

Use your phone and move around your house. Identify where in the home you don't have shadows on one side of your face, and the light is not coming from behind you and shadowing your entire face.

You can use a lamp or even your TV to improve lighting! If you have a smart TV, you can go to Youtube and search for a white screen which will help light up your face.  

If you are doing a lot of Zoom meetings, you may consider purchasing a Ring light. This is a light in the shape of a circle on an adjustable stand that can really make a huge difference in lighting up your face. It can be moved from room to room and can accommodate different heights. Many even have a bracket to hold your phone.

Stage Your Background

Now that you have established where the best lighting is in your home, take a look at what’s behind you. Is it a beautiful bookshelf or a dirty kitchen?  

You will need to weigh lighting and background options. You do not need a large area for your background. It may be easier to find a corner of one room, such as your home office, to always keep clean and prepared for Zoom meetings.

As a certified Staging Design Professional™, you will want to represent your home/background in a professional manner. If you’re speaking with a client, they will be evaluating you. They may be thinking, “I want my home to look beautiful like a magazine while it is on the market. Does the stager’s home look staged? Is it neat or cluttered, is it dated or stylish, is it dark or light and bright?”

Just like in staging, when we want our staged homes to make the best first impression, it is also imperative that we make our best impression in Zoom meetings. Click here for more ideas for staging an attractive work-from-home space.

We would not recommend using virtual backgrounds, just like we wouldn’t recommend using virtual staging. It can look fake and you can get a weird outline around your head from it becoming pixelated.

Eliminate Distractions

Place a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign up on the door to the room. Find a quiet place without distractions and let everyone in your household know you are on a VIDEO call. Keep out not just your human family, but your animals, too–barking, scratching at the door, running behind you can all be distracting.

I know I have been guilty of several of these infractions and y’all have probably seen them! My kids walking behind me while on Zoom, cutting my eyes at my husband while he quietly tries to reheat his coffee in the microwave! Times are changing; years ago, when a child interrupted a BBC interview, it became international news! Today, there is more patience since we are all in this together.

Stage Your Camera Optics

Review your camera perspective. Make sure the lens is perpendicular to the floor. If the angle goes up or down, it can make your walls distorted or warped. Line up the edge of the camera's view with a straight edge like a wall or window to get it straight.

Review what is your best angle. Most of us look best when the camera is directly in front of us at eye level or even slightly higher. It is natural to have your laptop on a table in front of you for easy typing. However, the problem is then the camera will be in an unflattering position. You don’t want anyone viewing up your nose!! 

Once the Zoom call starts, you will want the camera lifted higher. You can use a box, a stack of books, etc. Practice until you find your best camera height. Place yourself in the middle of the frame, without too much space above your head.

We use a private Facebook group to practice our set up. We can view each other there and tell each other if the lighting needs to be adjusted, or if we should change shirts, or if it looks like the plant behind us is growing out of our head.

If you need to excuse yourself during a long meeting, turn your audio and video off for a moment.

It’s best not to wear a headset with the microphone on a cord. The microphone can pick up a lot of distortion rubbing against your clothing. Some apps will feedback without the use of a headset or earbuds, however, so have some handy in case that is an issue. If you do a lot of video meetings, you may want to invest in a good microphone.

Be aware of the best perspective on the camera. Photographer Larry Becker says, “The cameras on smartphones and webcams are wide-angle. So if you get too close to it, you will look distorted. In other words, step back from the camera.”

Be sure and check that you have a strong wi-fi connection or you will look pixelated.

Stage Yourself

Look professional. Dress (at least on top) how you would if you were meeting a client in person. Be aware of which portions of your body is in the shot. We’ve all seen examples of a business shirt on top and shorts on the bottom! This may work, but check your camera angles beforehand. You may be surprised and find that viewers can see more than you thought they could.

Use eye contact. This can be tricky because it is natural to look at the person on the screen while they are talking. That is what you would do in person. However, it doesn’t translate on video. Instead, look directly at the camera, which will convey eye-contact.  

Look attentive. Don’t multitask, don’t touch your face a lot (this one is difficult!), don’t fidget in your chair, and be aware of your facial expressions. Look happy to be speaking to them!  

We’re not venturing into make-up tutorials, but make sure your makeup is professional. We’re finding that more powder is needed due to all the lighting directly on your face since it can be reflective. Light will also bounce off of sunscreen, which can really wash out your complexion.

Use good posture. Sit up straight and don’t be slumped over like you’re tired and don’t want to be there.

Do not eat on video, but it is acceptable to have something to drink nearby.

I use my hands to talk a lot, but this can be distracting on video. Limit your hand gestures and try to keep them in your lap. This is a tough one for me! One tip is to fold your hands together so it will take more effort to move them.

The movement of your camera and yourself can also be distracting. If you are using your phone, put it on a stand, rather than holding it in your hand. Avoid sitting in a swivel or rocking chair that creates movement.

Most distance meeting apps automatically boost the volume and highlight the person who is speaking. Your microphone will pick up the shuffling of papers or a cough, and the app may interpret that sound as a signal to push your volume and image forward. This can be very annoying for others and make it difficult to hear the person who has the floor.

With all these tricks under your belt, you’re set up for success for your next online consultation or other digital meeting.

Written by Staging Studio Co-Founder, Julie Young.

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