5 Tiny Tweaks to Make Before Calling Into a Zoom Meeting

updated Mar 30, 2020
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You have an important Zoom meeting in five minutes, and apart from preparing your presentation, you’re also looking for a decent background at home that would look presentable to your coworkers.

It’s a feeling we’ve all become familiar with since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, but it’s also a feeling we don’t have to bear with. We recently spoke to Catherine Baticulon, staff designer at Wingate Hughes Architects in Washington, DC, and learned just how to make your home office (or wherever you’re working from) look and feel professional without having to go out and buy new stuff.


Perhaps the simplest hack is not really a hack at all. It’s something we already know but tend to forget: lighting!

“Don’t position yourself under pendant lights or harsh direct light; this causes shadows. Best to find a space with ambient light. Note that direct sunlight can be too harsh as well,” said Baticulon, adding that white light works too, just don’t overdo it. “White light tends to wash out people whether in video or photo.”


It’s hard enough to hear and understand each other in a Zoom meeting with 10 people all talking at the same time. Don’t make it harder with lousy acoustics. According to Baticulon, try to find a spot that has more sound control.

“Higher ceilings and lack of textiles/soft surfaces (drapery, furniture, carpet) contribute to echo,” she said. So pick your most furnished space to avoid sound issues.

Foot traffic

You wouldn’t want to be remembered at work as the person whose spouse or children were seen walking around in their undies in the background. To avoid this scenario, Baticulon recommends you avoid high traffic zones including “the kitchen, anywhere near bathrooms and the front door.”

And if you’ve settled in a room for your video call, avoid becoming the next BBC Dad by notifying everyone in your household and locking the door just to be extra safe.

Proper seating

One reason why we all look so awful in Zoom meetings is how we sit. Picture this: Your room is dark, you’re hunched over your laptop, the screen’s lighting is harsh, and the camera is this close to your face. Hardly flattering.

Baticulon says that your environment can mimic a professional setting starting with where you are seated. “Proper seating, plain white or solid-colored walls, and being able to position your laptop or desktop at the right height in order to achieve the proper video angle could make a big difference,” she said. “I have noticed that working on a bar stool or anything counter-height has been a good alternative to standing desks.”

Personal versus professional

The boundary between the personal and professional blurs easily, especially for those working from home. Baticulon suggests you clearly define the distinction between the two to avoid looking unprofessional.

“Homes are indeed personal spaces and you will definitely share a little more than usual when working from home. Remember to curate and organize: Having photos, artwork, books, and even travel memorabilia in your background is completely understandable. “

She added: “Be cognizant of over-clutter. You should still be the focus so less is more and make sure there is a balance of negative and positive space within the frame. Your background will reflect a lot about you, even without you knowing. Best to know your audience and remember to keep up the professionalism.”

Or, you can just disregard (most of) the above and add a virtual background. West Elm and Modsy have some good options.