Last week, in an hour-long video meeting, one person had the camera so close to their face that all the other attendees saw was his left eyebrow. When prompted to pull his camera back, he did so for a minute, then settled back to the previous position for the rest of the meeting. With the majority of our days spent in video meetings or online interactions, there is currently a need to develop Virtual Self-Awareness – being aware of how others see and experience us online. 

It has always been important to be aware of how others perceive us. Prior to the pandemic, we would pay attention to how we were dressed depending on the setting; how attentive we were to the people we talked to, and how our actions and behaviours impacted others. Since the start of the pandemic, while all this remains important, when all non-essential in-person exchanges were moved to video, we now also must manage how we appear to others on screen.

Virtual Self-Awareness

At this point in time, most people have experienced being on a call where they could barely see or hear the person on the other end. Maybe it was the lack of light, overwhelming background noise, or a bad camera angle but, either way, it was probably not a positive experience. Many people forget that just because they can see others clearly, it doesn’t mean others can see them. If we want to thrive in this new reality, it’s time to develop awareness about how we show up on other people’s screen. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you connect to your next video meeting.

Prior to Joining a Meeting:

Most platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams offer a preview of the participant’s video and sound check prior to joining the meeting. Even if you are in a rush, before joining, it is a good practice to review the following:

Check the Light

Is there decent light so that people will be able to see you on camera? If not, turn on a lamp or move in front of a window for better lighting.

Adjust the Camera Angle

Is the camera in a position that allows people to feel like they are speaking to you face to face? Below is an example of how you should be positioned on the screen.

Test Your Sound

Even if you use the same computer every time, take a second to confirm your sound is working. Also, notice if there is any additional background noise that others may hear on the other end. If you are in a noisy setting, be ready to acknowledge it upfront and let people know you will be on mute unless you are speaking. 

Review Your Space

Lastly, look at the video frame and see if there is anything around you that may be distracting, or that you would rather not show on camera.

During the Meeting:

Once you are in the meeting, it is good practice to remember the following:

Remember Your Camera Is On

As meetings drag on, people tend to forget others can see them. Even if your microphone is muted, people can see you typing, looking down at your phone, or anything else. A good of rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t do it in a conference room with your boss, don’t do it in a virtual meeting.

Look into the Camera When Speaking

When speaking, the natural tendency is to look at the videos of the people you are meeting with. However, what they see is what your camera sees. If you are looking at the bottom of the screen or at a second monitor, that’s what they will see on their end. If you can, move people’s videos as close to your camera as possible, so when you look at them, you are also looking into the camera.

Manage Background Noise

If you are in a meeting with the microphone on, be aware of the noise coming from your end. If you need to start typing, someone enters the room you are meeting in, or an ambulance drives by, be courteous of others’ ears and mute yourself.

Check your Camera from Time to Time

Periodically, check your video to make sure you’re showing up well. The light may change, your camera may move, and, it’s a good habit to check from time to time in case you need to readjust.

Think Before you Share Your Screen

Remember that when you share your screen, depending on the option you pick, people will see everything on your computer desktop. This may include your desktop photo, any tabs you have open, files, and more. As mentioned above, if you would not want your boss to see it at work, it should probably not be on your screen. 

Regardless of when the pandemic ends, video meetings are likely to be a major part of our business and personal communication for the foreseeable future. It is then paramount that we start developing a heightened sense of virtual self-awareness, to appear both professional and relatable and ensure people will look forward to hop on the next video call with us.

About the author

Forbes contributor Christopher Littlefield is an International/TEDx Speaker specializing in Employee Appreciation and the founder of Beyond Thank You. He has trained leaders across six continents to create cultures where people feel valued every day.

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