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A Zoom Refresher Course

Notes from my Familiarity Breeds Contempt presentation

When this Zoom world started we were all struggling to understand the technology, overcoming our fear of being on video and getting used to seeing our faces staring back at us during conversations. We were over thinking our options or just giving up and showing up. After 6 months most of us have relaxed and that’s good. However, like your Uncle after Thanksgiving dinner, sometimes we can get way too relaxed. You all know what I’m talking about…

Here are some things to remember about setting up you online meeting space


People trust you when they can see you. Make that happen by

You can use a window if the light isn’t too harsh, use a white curtain or a bedsheet to soften the light. Just remember, the sun moves so that perfect 11:00 am light might not look so good at 1:00pm.

  • Lamps, or video lights if you have them, give you a constant and controllable light source.

  • Have your front light slightly above and to the side of your seat.

  • You need to have the room lit but avoid harsh back lighting. Silhouettes do hide a multitude of sins but they also hide you. The difference between good lighting and bad can be a small shift of the camera. Try out various angles.

  • Watch out for overhead lighting, especially in darker rooms. It can create dark shadows under the eyes. Front fill is very important in those situations.

Camera Position

Nobody knows what your setup looks like unless you show them so don’t worry about how you set up, just make sure the camera is at a flattering height and you can be far enough away from it.

  • Your camera should be at face height or slightly higher.

  • It shouldn’t be pointed at your chin or up your nose. I think we can all agree on that one.

Where to look

Yes, you should be looking straight ahead. You are talking to the person/people in the other box. It helps if you are looking at them.

  • If you are talking to a Zoom room full of people look just below the camera when you are speaking.

  • If you are talking to one person, move the zoom window so their box is below the camera. You will be looking straight ahead and looking at the person too. Simple, right?

About the Camera

I’m asked a lot about what type of camera you should use. Unless you are hosting a daily video show or hosting tele-med sessions, even if you are, your computer camera is probably fine. The lower resolution can be flattering.

If you want to invest in a video camera, make sure to position it well.


What’s behind you is so important. The kitchen or bathroom is never a great idea. How many of you have completely lost your train of thought as you peered into the refrigerator that the child, spouse, someone had opened and couldn’t decide what to eat. Admit it, you just wanted to yell, pick something and close the door. It is hard for people to focus on your words when they are trying to figure out what is going on behind you.

I love being in the studio because my work is behind me. But the shelf and tables are clear. A cluttered book shelf or an area with a lot of distractions will be just that, distracting. A clean wall is better or a simple screen.

If you are using a virtual background, make sure you are well lit and you background is simple. Zoom is trying to isolate you from the scene, so the easier you make it for them, the better.


I started my Zoom-i-Fication Conversations with this topic: Zoom behavior. If you wouldn’t do it in person, don’t do it here. This is probably where familiarity is really the culprit.

  • No wandering through the house

  • No checking your teeth for food

  • No chewing with abandon

  • No yelling at your <insert child, pet, spouse, etc…>

  • If you have to handle something excuse yourself and turn off the video and audio

  • If you need to move to a new location but can still participate in the discussion, just turn off the video.

  • Don’t stay hidden or muted for long though, then it will look like you aren’t interested in the discussion and it appears rude.

  • Please don’t wander around taking the camera with you. If you do, please make sure you’ve sent the viewers Dramamine before the call.

This is you, making an impression on a client or, even more important for first impressions, a potential client or vendor. Putting your best foot forward in Zoom is the same as when you’re meeting in person.

If you have questions about how to create the best environment for your Zoom space, contact me at or call 201-301-3556.

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