I’ve recently made a few reasonable adjustments to my work from home space that have made a big impact on the quality of my virtual presence and productivity and I think more people should know about them!
Like many of you, when the global Coronavirus pandemic hit, all aspects of life were forced into the confines of home. In my case, a small New York City apartment. Luckily – I guess? – for me, I had already been working from home since starting my virtual experience design company. Due to the nature of my field, I had discovered early on the simple mistakes I was making when meeting virtually.
Virtual Meeting Essentials
Regardless of the type of virtual meeting, there was one immutable fact: the top half of my body would be on screen and need to appear professional. At first, I thought I could just get away with throwing on a nice top and choosing a spot around the apartment that didn’t reveal all the laundry I was piling up in the corner. One less than stellar meeting quickly led me to my first breakthrough – the virtual background! Of course, I had heard whispers of this feature, but I had failed to realize its effectiveness until I tried it for myself.
My experience in digital media gave me the edge in terms of being able to put together a unique background with more expensive design software. But despite all that prior knowledge, I wanted a solution that was even quicker. The answer to my problem? Canva.com.
Using Canva’s free design service, I was able to quickly scroll through pre-made virtual background templates, a library of free images, and thousands of graphics. I chose a calming beach backdrop and added my name and company logo for a fully branded look.
With my new background, I was sure I had unlocked the virtual meeting expert level, but in reality that was only step one. Despite my wonderful new setting, I found that I looked dark and dull in comparison! Neither the location nor amount of apartment lights on could make me look equally as good as my background. The look was unfinished and unprofessional. So I took to the internet and was thus introduced to the social media influencer’s most trusted sidekick: the ring light.
I did the research, with physical and monetary constraints in mind, I found this ring light by Wonew for $30 on Amazon. I chose this one because it could stand comfortably behind my laptop and has an adjustable tripod for added versatility.
I was also looking for a ring light on the less expensive side because I wasn’t entirely sure whether it would work for me or not. After using the light just one time, I knew it was a worthwhile purchase.
The light uses a USB cord so it can easily be plugged into your computer, or the wall if you have a spare adapter. This particular ring light comes with three different lighting options with varying intensities for each. What I loved most about using the ring light was how it made me absolutely glow on camera! While I don’t think this is a feature of the light I purchased, I felt like any imperfections on my face were blurred and erased on screen. After regularly incorporating the ring light into my meetings, I felt like my virtual presence was becoming more impactful. My little rectangle clearly stood out amongst the groups and honestly, it gave me the confidence to speak up more frequently, which I hadn’t realized I was lacking.
My third and final adjustment was actually one that had never crossed my mind at the beginning of this journey, a laptop stand! I discovered this laptop stand for $20 on Amazon while I was looking for an external monitor to assist my smaller laptop screen.
It had been recommended as a way to clear up some desk space and offer relief to those experiencing neck pain from looking downwards at their screen all day. However, once I purchased mine, I noticed it also drastically enhanced my video appearance! In addition to the nice background and optimal lighting, the height of the laptop stand combined with my adjusted laptop screen showed me at a wider and much more flattering angle.
See the dramatic difference before and after!
Once I had the perfect background, lighting, and angles, I truly found my virtual meeting experience to be enhanced not only in the quality of my own video, but also the quality of my interactions. I felt more confident on my side of the screen which translated to those on the other end. I was more engaged and honestly more excited to participate.
As the world continues down this uncertain path, we will inevitably have to get more comfortable with changes to the traditional work environments of the past. Regardless of how the future looks, I am a passionate believer that we don’t have to give up on professionalism and quality in the process.
About the Author: Carolina Manent is the founder and owner of Apartment Nine, a virtual experience design firm helping businesses stay relevant with the ever-changing digital marketing tactics of the modern-day. She’s passionate about creating digital spaces for meaningful human interactions despite physical limitations.