Like a lot of people today, I work a lot from home. I have done so for a lot of my career.
Finding free space for a conference call in a crowded office is a constant challenge – my solution was to take these calls from home. This worked fine until people started turning video on for these calls.
At first, I struggled to find a space in my home that was ‘clean’ enough for the purpose (my wife and I have 2 young sons, so picture Lego on the floor and their laundry on the lamp…). I managed, with the preamble, “The office is too busy, so I am taking this call from home.” So I started experimenting with green screens.
When I left my last employer to pursue consulting and training business on my own, all of my calls were now from home! More than that, my customers were in very different sectors, ranging from schools to chemical and technology companies. So I started looking for different kinds of background images to use for my virtual office space on Skype or Zoom. I also needed backgrounds for video training sessions I had to record, sometimes featuring a company logo.
I found that the right background had an immediate positive impact on how I was perceived online, resulting in more business. For academic customers, I used a shot of a bookshelf, and for private sector, I used a background that looked like it came out of a furniture catalog (and it was perfect).
I used to put a suit on when I went to work, and here I was wearing one at home to make the right impression. Appearance matters, perhaps more now than ever in our pixel-driven age. When I used to go see a customer, they knew that I had invested time to get to them – that demonstrated respect for them, which they returned by giving me their time. On a video call, I think the customer does not always get the same sense of commitment. A clean and welcoming presentation on a video call does a lot to put the customer at ease – it’s like a digital suit.