Are Zoom Backgrounds the New Jewelry?
Updated: Jun 15, 2021
Back in the early days of the pandemic, when Zoom calls seemed like a novelty with an expiration date, I advised against using cute Zoom backgrounds during meetings. The Eiffel Tower or a beach at sunset would be too distracting, I said. It just seemed a bit too unprofessional.
But now that Zoom calls are our new normal, I’ve changed my mind.
Why the shift in opinion? Backgrounds have improved exponentially in just a few months. And as backgrounds have improved, so have their popularity — recently, about ¾ of people on Zoom calls I’ve participated in have used lovely, thoughtful backgrounds. If you use a site like Unsplash, which offers thousands of beautiful stock photos for free, you can tailor your backdrop to your personality.
I’ve begun to see Zoom backgrounds the same way I see dressing for a speech or choosing jewelry for a meeting. Using one is a chance to express yourself and create a human connection with your colleagues and associates. But, just as I would advise against wearing too-bold statement pieces in the board room, I suggest you use a little restraint.
Complement what you’re saying. Savvy users can turn backgrounds into visual statements that reinforce the energy and presence they bring to meetings. Recently, I was on a call that brought together a number of international colleagues to work on a common task. We all used backgrounds of flowers from our native countries — not intentionally, I might add! But this unplanned gesture reinforced the good nature and commonality of our cause.
Tell the story of who you are. Why not use a photo of your alma mater’s campus in full bloom to highlight your background or share a photo of a favorite landscape from your last vacation? Your backdrop can serve as insight into who you are and be a conversational icebreaker.
Think of it as an accoutrement. You can coordinate your background with what you’re wearing, just as you would jewelry — just be sure not to use the same color lest you render yourself a floating head.
Above all, make sure you are still the main feature on your screen. The point is to reinforce your words and your own special presence.
What’s your go-to background? I would love to know! Please drop me a line and share your favorite.