We’ve all heard the expression that first impressions last. So, what if you “meet” someone on video for the first time? How can you make a good impression then, and is the impression of equal importance? Of course, it is. What people see when they watch that little video frame, is all they know about you. And yes, the environmental impression lasts on video too.

In this article, I’ll share a few simple ideas on how you can smarten up your video background at home.

We’re living in a time of E-meetings and Zoom calls, Skype and Facebook lives have replaced our meeting rooms and coffee shops. Conferences, presentations and even networking events are now taking place in your own living-room and people you’ve never met are suddenly invited to see what your private bookcase and kitchen looks like.

If you’re in business and you’re representing a brand, you should of course make an effort to scrub up a bit, and this includes your environment too.

How do you smarten up the background then?

DECLUTTER


Decluttering is the first and simplest way to create a better background. If you have toys, food leftovers or even just messy stacks of paper and books behind you, people are going to read this as your personal behaviour and think you’re messy and disorganised. So, declutter, just remove piles of things to the side of the video frame and please take your drying pants off the radiator behind you! Remember that people will only see what’s in the frame, so anything behind the camera will remain secret.

A neutral, clear background won’t give a bad impression, but if you try too hard or have the wrong things visible, it might be more damaging than you think.

Of course, any branded products that stand out should be removed, such as known fizzy drinks or even plastic cups and water bottles, as they can be an eyesore for environmentalists.

BLACKOUT BLIND

An easy way to create a professional backdrop, is to get a blackout roller blind. You could fit it on two screw hooks in the ceiling and you’ve always got a neutral background that you can pull down. They of course come in all colours so you can choose something neutral – or why not something in line with your brand! Avoid really strong colours though, as they could get quite overpowering and also reflect colour on your skin, which isn’t ideal.

Beware that you need light in your face though, so if you don’t have any video lights, you need to fit the roller blind so you’re facing a window with light coming in when you’re filming.

PAPER ROLL AND STAND

This is a more advanced way to get the professional look, but you can order studio backdrops from around £40 online. You’d need to fit it on a rope from the ceiling, or you can buy a backdrop stand online. Make sure it’s wide enough to cover the whole frame, video is wider than a still photo, the crop is 16:9, which is the new HD format.

GREEN SCREEN

If you’re new to video, I would say – no, don’t try green screen. Working with a so called chroma-key background is what many people do to make it look like they’re in a fancy office or on a tropical island. This is what they use in the big films to create exciting scenery in a studio.

You can order the type of green colour backdrop you need online, but it’s quite tricky to light it so it looks realistic, so unless you’re quite techy and prepared to experiment a bit, I’d say, don’t go down that route.

ZOOM BACKGROUNDS

You may have noticed on some Zoom calls already, people have really nice backgrounds, but their faces look like they’re half invisible aliens. This is again what happens when you try and experiment with backgrounds that don’t actually exist, without having the correct setup. However, if you have a plain neutral wall behind you and good light, this option can work.

PROPS

I have a specific place I go to when I do my video calls from home. I’ve simply painted a wall dark blue and added some plants, a comfortable armchair with a lovely cushion and put some fancy candles on a shelf behind me. People always ask where I am, if it’s a conservatory or if I’m in Morocco. It’s a corner of my living room. It’s great, because I know it’s always ready for action, it’s inviting and makes me feel more comfortable in front of the camera too.

No matter what, make sure you’re in line with your brand values to give the best impression you can.

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Mi Elfverson is a business vlog expert and the founder of The Vlog Academy, supporting thousands of people to communicate better on video, get more confident in front of the camera and connect on a deeper level with a larger audience. Educated at Stockholm Film School, New York Film Academy and New York University, Mi has 25 years’ experience in high-end international film and video production. From Stockholm to LA, New York to London, Mi has worked as a production manager and casting director with global brands and renowned Hollywood films, ranging from Kellogg’s adverts to James Bond films. Mi launched The Vlog Academy to share her expertise with business owners and organisations, helping them to increase their online visibility and communicate with confidence via video. She soon saw that women needed their own support platform as they had different questions, different fears and different needs. This prompted her to launch Eye Storm, an online programme, teaching women how to use smartphone video to become more visible online and be seen as the go-to expert in their field. As a director and vlog coach, Mi’s forte is to calm the nerves of people who have never been in front of the camera, to make them feel relaxed and more conversational, and be able to resonate on a deeper level with their audience.