Unclutter your video appearance!

Videoconferences can be too revealing. Not just for people who forget to switch off their camera/microphone during breaks, only to blow their nose trumpet-style or even poke it (believe it or not, I still witness such moments)! Interior decoration or disorder can also be an issue.

I do not like to blur my background (most videoconference programs have an option to do that) because I tend to move and gesture a great deal, especially when facilitating. A blurred background can make limbs disappear when I move, or any objects that I hold. But I still want to have an uncluttered image on video, which is hard to achieve when there are shelves in the office or the desk is a bit messy.

My office holds some artworks that I do not want to have at home – and that I am not too eager to share with everyone I talk to on-screen. The picture to the left shows what the office looks like when I walk into it on a sunny winter day.

Now, the middle picture displays my most uncluttered background for videoconferences, and the right hand one an intermediate option which includes my cheerful yellow door. The latter is a selfie and my arms are quite short; in real videoconferences I tend to be more remote from the screen so that there is more empty space around me – I feel that introduces a nice sense of calm. It also provides a good background for my wild gestures!

This simple trick is to place the videocamera right on top of the (external) computer screen and rotate the screen to the only empty spot on my office walls. As you see on the picture to the left, the position of my desk is already slightly oblique, so that I can look out of the window without getting blinded by the (occasional) sunshine. If you have an external video camera (as opposed to a camera built into your screen), you can experiment with its place on the screen, shifting it more to the left or more to the right. Notebook/laptop users can use (or build, for instance with a cardboard box) a camera stand/tripod, to place the webcam at a comfortable height (eye level or above, unless you want people to peek into your nostrils) and turn it to the place where you have the best background.

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