There’s a vague image in my mind of standing in the middle of our high-ceilinged, converted-industrial-space office at Adelaide and Spadina in Toronto listening to a news story about future technologies. I’m guessing this was the mid-90s and the newscaster was saying that soon all our phones would have screens and all our calls would become video calls. I said, out loud to our entire team, “If that happens, I’ll be done.” And I meant it!
Yet here I am, using Skype regularly and sending out calendar invites to both prospects and clients for conversations on Zoom. So it is always a bit disappointing when I show up for a call, my round, ageing face filling up the screen and the other person … has their video turned off.
Why are we not taking full advantage of video calls? What can we do to embrace this valuable technology?
Valuable information is added to our conversations when we include facial expressions. We can also accelerate the creation of trust and improve our ability to create clear and effective communication. If you are someone who struggles with phone phobia/fear/anxiety, know that lack of body language is a contributing factor, so adding video can be an antidote.
There are two things that often get in our way and prevent us from embracing video calls – how we look and our surroundings. It’s important for us to work at being less self-critical and create easy ways to become comfortable on screen. Here are some ideas from my own video journey:
- Let go of fussing about things you cannot change. For me, this includes my Irish-influenced skin that not only becomes a brilliant pink throughout even the most mundane of days but bursts into a radiant red whenever I’m curious, interested or enthused. By the end of any online discussion or webinar, I’m likely to look like I’ve been out in the sun way too long. Creams, lotions, medications and changes in diet – even heavy-duty foundations – nothing eliminates this aspect of my heritage. I’ve let it go.
- Choose what you most need to feel comfortable with. While I had a decade or so in my life when I didn’t own any makeup at all, that isn’t the case today. I absolutely require, for my own self-confidence, eyeliner and mascara. Even if you run into me on the weekend at the grocery store, I’m likely to have applied these two items before leaving the house. For you it might be something else. I have several friends for whom lipstick is their go-to cosmetic. Whatever it is, that’s okay. Keep it handy so you can quickly feel confident on a video call.
- In terms of wardrobe, focus on what can be seen on camera. Television journalists are very familiar with this trick. When I’m working from home, I dress so that I can easily incorporate a bit of yoga or time on the treadmill into my day. This means I often put a beautiful jacket on over a t-shirt for video calls and webinars. I might add earrings too. And scarves are very handy for creating a professional on-screen look while still enjoying the clothes I find most practical.
- When it comes to the background of your call, there are lots of choices. For my office at Many Hats, I had the good fortune of finding a Andy Warhol-inspired canvas of rotary phones on sale and it has a great impact. At home, I have a tiny self that displays my antique phones and my book, The Phone Book. Other options include using a virtual background or green screen so that you don’t have to put any effort into tidying up or asking co-workers to stop walking past your desk. This easy technology is supported by Zoom, as well as other providers, and the screen can be purchased from Amazon.
- Finally, one simple step can deal with both the background issue and your comfort about your appearance … share your screen. Whether you choose a website or create a slide with your logo, or use a photograph, when you share your screen, your on-camera image will become, roughly, the size of a postage stamp. You’ll still be visible but the imperfections that concern you won’t be on full-screen display.
Improving communication is essential to our success, so when the opportunity presents itself, say “yes” to the video call.
Do you have other tips and tricks for being camera ready? Do share them below.