woman in curlers on video call

Photo: sam100/Shutterstock

I am the queen of video conference calls. That’s right. I hid three pregnancies, the chicken pox, and a hideous rash — all while videoconferencing my way into the ranks of the Mother Nature Network.

Here’s the lowdown on how to do it, and do it well.

Never wear anything that gives the illusion that you’re naked

This may seem like an obvious one, but after three years of working at home, I have realized that it’s not. The weirdest video conference call I ever did was with a green expert in Tallahassee. I was distracted the whole time. Why? Because her bare shoulders and upper chest were showing during the whole interview. I spent the whole call wondering if she was actually wearing any clothes at all as it appeared that she had taken my call just as she was jumping out of the shower. She finally zoomed out at the end of the call and I realized that, thankfully, she was wearing an off the shoulder, low-cut sweater. Another no-no? Wearing a see-through shirt. The lighting from the computer’s camera can be very unforgiving … and telling.

Don’t videoconference in pajamas — at least the upper half of them

I can’t count how many calls I’ve done in a smart-looking button down with a sweater over it on top, and Mickey Mouse flannels on the bottom. That’s the way to go if you spend most of your day in pajamas like I do. Just be sure to change before you run out to the store. Or don’t. That works too.

Before you videoconference, check your head

This means your hair, your teeth, your face, your nose — anything you would check before a date or an interview. There is nothing worse than ending a video conference call and realizing you had this afternoon’s tuna sandwich still stuck in your teeth, or needed to blow your nose, or have a huge pen mark on your face.

Don't offend your audience

A less obvious tip: Don’t wear graphic T-shirts that may offend the people you’re video chatting with. I learned this one the hard way after I sat through a whole conference call with a vegan dietician only to realize at the tail end that I was wearing an “I love animals … with ketchup” T-shirt. Also in this category? Don’t wear a particularly low-cut shirt when talking to a clergyman and don’t wear a bathing suit.

Mind the background visuals and noise

Other things to keep in mind are the other audios and visuals in the room that may be distracting to the person on the other side of that camera. For example, you definitely don’t want to hold a video conference call with your unmade bed in the background, or with your 2-year-old screaming about the poop in her diaper. I try to schedule conference calls during naptime. If it has to be when my kids are awake, then I pop in a video in the other room for the kids (no need to conference with The Fresh Beat Band singing in the background). Also, I tried to make the wall behind my desk as professional looking as possible — a corkboard with notes on it, a small piece of artwork, and a bookshelf are all it contains. The dishes from this morning’s breakfast are strategically out of view, as are my kids’ toys. It’s an art form, I tell you.

Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to videoconferencing success, my friend. Happy chatting!

— Chanie

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