Virtual Teams

Your video backdrop is your new elevator pitch

We have all heard that you have 30 seconds to make an initial impression and it can be hard to change the impression after this time. We also know about the importance of communicating our personal brand, particularly when working remotely.

For many of us, for the foreseeable future, our appearance on video will make up a lot of that initial impression. In our online course “Making your best impression on video” we focus on some practical strategies for doing this.

Over the weekend I was starting to plan my new home office furniture. I have worked from home for over 30 years, but the latest set of cupboards are getting old and the drawers are giving way. One important consideration for me was “what do I want my background to say”. A lot of teams have found that being able to see their colleagues in their home surroundings has helped them understand each other better.

I took a screenshot of how my background looks on video, both when it is zoomed in and at the widest-angle setting. It does not look too bad now, but it is a fairly conventional backdrop of bookcases and a door. Books are always a good bet because at least it shows you can read 😊

But if I really want to do this properly, I need to think about what image I want to project. I meet a lot of customers for the first time through video and thousands of participants per year. My background is not going to make 100% difference. However, if it makes 2% difference for thousands of people that could be useful for my business.

I set myself an objective that a significant proportion of the people I call will actively (and positively) comment on the background. I then asked myself what would need to be there to trigger these comments?

First, I looked for visually interesting furniture. I have gone for something asymmetrical and a bit more eye catching than the normal. I initially looked at some wavy sided, tilting bookcases that looked as if they had been designed by Salvador Dali. They looked great on the website, but eventually they made me feel seasick at the idea of constantly seeing them in the background of my own video.

Now I am thinking about what message I want to transmit through the books and objects on display in the parts of the furniture visible on camera and on the back of the door. What are the aspects of my personality and professional focus that I want to communicate? How can I make it colourful and interesting, but not too distracting?

It reminded me of the old “elevator pitch” idea, what would you say if you have 30 seconds to communicate the essence of what you do.  Maybe your video background is the new elevator pitch.

I have seen many people using stock images provided by Zoom or MS Teams – they can be interesting and provoke conversation, but the quality of them is not yet good enough, you can usually see they are fake when people move.  Blurred backgrounds keep the emphasis on the face and can mask unsuitable backgrounds but are a missed opportunity to communicate.

So, what would be in your background pitch? Why not take a screenshot of how it looks right now and ask yourself or a colleague what impression it creates? I do understand that not everyone has the luxury of a separate office but whatever your background, it does create an impression.

If you only have 30 seconds to create an impression, and a picture paints 1000 words, then it might be worth thinking about.

Find out more about our online course “Making your best impression on video

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