I had two video calls with a colleague this past week – someone I work very closely with throughout the year. On the first call, he made a comment about my video background. Those of you with whom I’ve had a call in the past few months know that I use backgrounds themed to the topic of the call. For most general calls, I have a great pic of Niagara Falls that I use. But, this colleague mentioned my background as we kicked off the conversation, and I explained my reasoning for using it.
When we signed on for the second call, I noticed he had a new background, this one branded with his company name. When I asked about it, I didn’t connect it to the previous conversation, but he referenced it. Said he liked my thoughts on doing it, and went and found a background for himself.
I have been preaching this from the beginning of the Zoom/Teams/Duo craze during the COVID-19 shutdown, but if you don’t see the world through the eyes of marketing, it might not be evident to you. There’s a reason that advertisers paste NASCAR cars with logos. It’s because people are staring at them for hours on end. In our every day business pre-COVID, it was hard to come by that kind of screen time. Though, I’ve definitely tried, in one way or another… I’ve always been very big on portfolios as a promotional giveaway, because (1) they’re useful and (2) if you give one to someone and they use it for a meeting, they generally leave it sitting on the table in front of them for the full meeting. Your logo is visible to a room full of people for an hour. Hard to beat.
But the shutdown has created new opportunity in that now all of us are staring at screens for blocks of time that would make television advertisers drool on themselves. Think of the storytelling you can do just through your visual presentation on everything from one-on-one calls to “virtual happy hours.”
Here are some tips. Actually, no. They’re not tips. They’re opportunities that you’re completely missing if you’re not taking advantage:
Use Your SWAG
I’d be willing to wager that you have a box of polo shirts with your logo on them that you ordered when you started your business – those first few weeks of excitement with your new logo and vision. You need to be wearing those on these calls. Video conferencing has offered (many of) us a reprieve from business attire. Even some of the most staunch defenders of professionalism are taking it easy with the dress code. So, slap on that golf shirt. Get your logo on the screen and use it to tell your story.
One of the great things that’s happened is that the market for promotional items has become unbelievably competitive. There are lots of resources that won’t require you to have to by runs of 25, 100 or 1,000 of anything anymore – in fact, in many cases now you can get a single shirt made for yourself. It costs a bit more, but I cannot stress enough how powerful the marketing is on-screen. My recommendation is to make sure you have at least five (5) shirts with your logo on it, because each day of the week you could be on a call where that representation will be valuable. And think about getting some for your team, as well.
Brand Your Zoom/Teams/Duo Background
I’ve seen some folks on-screen who have done a great job with their physical backgrounds – bookshelves perfectly positioned with the right array of business books, or the screen centered on a well-chosen piece of art. Well done! But if you haven’t perfected interior design (I have not!), through the magic of technology you can really put anything you want behind you for your calls. I like to see this as a mix of company brand and personal brand. If you can get your logo behind you without it being noisy, try it. Otherwise, think about your audience. Who are you serving on this call, and what might they like to see behind you? What story does your background tell about you?
As president of World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara, I often have calls with counterparts around the world. Which is why I use the Niagara Falls background more than any other. I am fortunate to have access to one of the world’s most powerful brands right in my backyard, and including it in my presentation as I talk to people instantly creates not only familiarity, but a talking point.
Need instructions on how to change your background? Here you go:
Don’t leave your background to chance. Use it as part of your storytelling.
Strive for Professionalism
Lots and lots of opinions on this, especially with people working from home and being interrupted by spouses, children, pets, lawnmowers, doorbells, the microwave and everything else that can find its way into your video call. Everyone is dealing with this “new normal,” so I’ve found that people’s patience levels are pretty high, and there’s a good degree of understanding that things aren’t going to be Minute Rice perfect.
Which is why I titled this section “Strive” for Professionalism. Everyone is trying their best, and things will, indeed, happen. But do the best you can. That goes for everything from what’s in your background to what you’re wearing to how you behave yourself on-screen. Think about how you presented yourself in-person back before COVID – as long ago as that seems. What story were you trying to tell in every meeting you sat in, and every networking event you attended. You’re still telling a story. Just telling it differently.
Note that when you’re on video, everyone can see you. It’s pretty apparent when you’re doing something else – checking your phone, answering e-mail or talking to someone off-screen. Just remember, you’d never do those things in a face-to-face meeting. If you need to take care of something urgently, it’s not a sin to turn off your camera for a moment. Again, people understand, I’m of the mind that if you can easily do something better, do it.
While we’re sure to get back to in-person events at some point, rampant video conferencing is with us for the long run. We’ve learned how easy and convenient it is to use technology to connect, save time and get things done. But video also offers tremendous opportunity for both business and personal branding. Use the tools available to tell your story better!