How to present yourself: In the Working From Home world
Let’s face it, those who can WFH are among the luckier ones in the current – and ongoing for too long – pandemic. The set-up may suit some, and not others, depending on the domestic situation and physical space; but it has made us all re-think priorities and re-write our wish-list.
Up-to-date connectivity and technology (which one is confident using) are key, so much so that some politicians are suggesting these should be made basic citizens’ rights, much like clean water and efficient sewage. Personally I would also suggest that a decent desk and good chair to work at, hopefully with enough space, light and quiet, are too.
But I’m still struggling with presenting myself on video calls, conferences and the dreaded family Zoom meeting. Why, you ask, seeing as I’ve been doing business TV interviews for over 20 years. That’s because I’m not in a proper studio, with specialist lighting, technicians, and sometimes scriptwriters. All that’s now up to me now; and because I know what it should look like, I fret.
First things first: try and find an ultra-quiet space with minimum sound echo. My daughter, a pro at this, sometimes records podcasts and radio shows huddled under a thick blanket. Then consider the lighting; daylight is best, overhead electric lights harsh and ageing. The light source should be in front of you, never behind as it’ll blur and obscure your face, reducing facial expression.
Then the killer question: what should your background be? To what extent are you happy to show all and sundry where and how you live. The amateur day-trader’s idea is sitting in front of a bank of very large, usually black background, computer screens. Others go for the ‘tasteful’ scene with pot plants, a mantlepiece and maybe a framed photo or picture.
Most opt for the bookshelf or the suggested green-screen backgrounds offered by some vendors (think exotic palm trees or snowy mountain peaks), which are a minefield. Are the photo-backgrounds covering up a multitude of sins? Will the books detract from what I’m saying. Will I look silly or boring if I’m placed in front on a bookcase with almost no books and just a few rather dubious nick-knacks? Or you might get caught out like ECB president Christine Lagarde did with a very large sex cult creationist’s book lying side-on with the title laid bare. Or, as Foster Books’ Stephen Foster (a specialist in renting books for film sets) says: ‘’if I have a bugbear it’s the people who are trying too hard – turning the book so the front board is out’’.
Which reminds me of the fashion some years ago when interior designers used to buy books by the metre – preferably gilt and leather-bound – even if they were only old Encyclopaedia Britannica volumes, in order to create a sense of heritage and old-school ‘bookish’ family.
I, on the other hand, hate multi-coloured spines on my shelves, and I certainly won’t group my reference books by colour. Instead, I’ve opted for a style I first saw in designer India Hicks’ (descendant of the Mountbattens) Bahamas holiday home. All books were covered in brown paper to deter the little critters.
You might be interested in scrolling through Room Rater @ratemyskyperoom on Twitter to see who’s got ‘the rotten pineapple category’, or Bookcase Credibility @BCredibility.
Tags: background, conference, lighting, Video
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