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8 Pro Pointers for Looking Excellent on Zoom

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Here's how to avoid the dreaded "shady face."

When you’re in a Zoom meeting, is it better to look directly into your camera or make eye contact with the other participants in their onscreen boxes?

What are some simple lighting hacks to avoid the dreaded “shady face?” And when you’re choosing a background, should you go with a brick wall, bookshelf or blank wall?

These and similar questions have become important as lawyers adapt to meeting with clients, notarizing documents, and even trying cases on virtual communication platforms.

“In our new normal of the COVID-19 era, many of us have turned to the webcam and video meetings and are spending our days on video conferences hosted by Zoom, Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime, WebEx and the like,” according to this USA Today article. “We want to look great!”

Below are eight pro pointers for doing just that.

You’ll always be in great shape when you have professional liability insurance coverage through Alta Pro Insurance. You get your very own on-call practice management consultant with Ask the Risk Pro. Want in? Here’s how to start.

8 Tips for Looking Great on Zoom

  1. Look sharp. “Comb your hair, shave your face or apply your makeup and think strategically about your clothing,” writes Jefferson Graham in the USA Today piece. “Wearing a busy plaid or patterned outfit will make the viewers’ eyes go numb. A plain, solid color will help bring out the best you. Steer clear of shirts that are bright white or dark black because they look like a blob on camera.”
  2. Dress as if you’re attending an in-person meeting. At least from the waist up.
  3. Get the lighting right. “Here’s where most people fail in web conferences,” according to Graham. “They have Shady Face, that is, half of their face is shaded or blocked in some way.” Ways to avoid this: place a lamp with a soft-white bulb in front of your face for even dispersal of light; use no side or back lighting; don’t sit in front of a window or you’ll become a silhouette.
  4. Know the ground rules. Ask in advance if there is a protocol for when, how long, and in what order participants will speak. Be careful not to talk over anyone, especially a judge. Keep your microphone on mute when you’re not speaking.
  5. Look straight into the camera. Place your camera at eye level, stacking books under your laptop if necessary. Looking down into the camera will give people a view up your nose. Not flattering. Looking up at the camera will make you appear to be positioned lower than everyone else.
  6. Use a simple, non-distracting background. “You want people focusing on your face, not on what’s behind you,” writes Graham. “Many people like to be photographed in front of a bookshelf, but sometimes the trinkets on the shelf will cause distractions.” Boring is better. Use a blank wall or one with a single piece of art on it.
  7. Make sure you sound good. Don’t be so far from the screen that the microphone doesn’t pick you up clearly. Eliminate background noise from children, pets, appliances and outside leafblowers. Consider investing in a stand-alone microphone. Look on Amazon or Craigslist for a good deal.
  8. Set up a back channel. Use text messaging, Slack or some other method to connect with co-workers while you’re in the conference. Be sure to turn your ringer off. Zoom also has virtual “breakout rooms” so you can chat with others while in a meeting.

If you practice in Wisconsin, Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana or Michigan, you can stay a step ahead of the competition by being a member of Alta Pro Lawyers RPG. You’ll get access to free webinars, the Pro Practice Playbook, Reminger ProLink, Ask the Risk Pro and more. Here’s how to join.

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