When it comes to conference calls, video conferences take the concept to the next level. You’re on video, face-to-face with your caller(s), and you need to look presentable. While many of us are working remotely because of the pandemic, that doesn’t mean we can just show up to a video conference looking any way we choose. Remember that you’re still “at work” and you need to play the part. That means cleaning both yourself and your environment up and paying attention to what’s happening in the call.

In this guide, we’ll cover six important tips for looking professional on video conference calls. Remember these tips for your next video conference call, and you’ll make a good impression on everyone in the call!

1. Clean Up That Background

The first thing you need to do is to take a look at your background. Turn your camera on, and step away from it. What do you see on the screen? A plain, non-distracting background like a wall is the best background you can have. Don’t fall victim to the temptation of displaying your favorite posters, artwork, etc., in the background of your calls. These can be distracting or even offensive to someone in the call, and we’re operating in a “professional” environment, even if we’re not in the office.

Many conferencing services offer a cool feature that lets you set a custom background during your call. It’s good to avoid this as well because again, this can quickly become a distraction. Pick a room with plain walls, and point your camera toward one. There should be nothing behind you that can potentially interrupt the call. This also means creating a workspace for yourself free of distractions.

2. Cut Out The Excess Noise

Speaking of a workspace, you’ll need one to ensure you’re not creating excess noise in the conference call. There’s nothing more distracting to a video conference than a baby crying, kids running around, dogs barking, etc. The more background noise you have, the more unprofessional you’re going to look. Your colleagues may even become frustrated and put you on mute. That being said, you should always be muted anyway if you’re not talking, but you need to minimize that background noise for when it’s your turn to speak.

Creating your own workspace is the best way to do this. Choose a room that’s away from any sources of significant noise in your home, and preferably one with a door. A door can really help to dampen incoming noises, and potentially ward off unwanted visits from the kiddos or pets.

3. Dress As You Would For Work

There’s a general opinion that working from home gives you the freedom to work in your pajamas, make your own hours, and show up to meetings whenever you can. Let’s shoot that in the foot right now, because in most cases, that’s a quick way to lose your job. Remember, just because you’re at home, that doesn’t mean you can be anything less than professional. You need to wake up, follow the same routine you would if you were going into the office, and dress the part. This means showering, brushing your hair, and generally taking care of your hygiene.

This has a twofold effect: you’ll look more professional on your calls, and the routine will help you avoid some harmful effects of remote work. Remote workers report feeling more depressed and isolated during the pandemic, and keeping a routine can be helpful in alleviating those feelings.

4. A Better Camera

If you’re still using your old laptop from 2005 to connect to your conferencing calls, you probably look something like an 8-bit video game character on camera. Conference calls can usually be connected to via mobile devices, so if you have a smartphone with a decent camera, use that instead. If you’re pixelated and blurry, it’s hard to communicate properly, and it can become a distraction for everyone else in the call. That’s not to say you have to go out and buy a new camera, but it might be a good idea if even your phone’s camera is of poor quality.

5. Lighting

Even with the best cameras, lighting is everything. Make sure you have a light source that illuminates your face and avoid sitting with light sources to your back. This can create a silhouette effect, and your callers will see a dark shadow instead of your face. A well-lit room works, but natural light is always the best lighting. Open the curtains and let that mid-day sun in, just don’t sit in front of it with the camera facing that way!

6. Focus On The Discussion

Above all else, remember that you’re on camera. Focus on what the discussion is. Don’t browse social media, look at notes on another project, or have your phone in your hands. Not only does this look very unprofessional, but it’s also quite disrespectful to whoever is talking. You’re essentially saying, “I’m not interested” without saying anything. Body language says a lot, so be sure you’re sitting up straight, eyes forward, and mind focused on the discussion at hand.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, either. There’s nothing unprofessional about clarifying something you didn’t understand unless you’re interrupting the speaker to do so. Wait until it’s your turn to speak to ask any questions or bring up concerns.