19 March 2020 06:33

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Whether we're using Slack to keep in touch with colleagues or programs like Zoom to hold virtual meetings, connectivity is available at the touch of a button. But whether you're strategizing with colleagues or just catching up with friends, virtually welcoming people into your home comes with its own set of anxieties and evolving etiquette. Lizzie Post, of the Emily Post Institute, as seen video conferencing from her home office. Courtesy Designer Miles Redd, seen here using FaceTime, recommends employing a punchy background for video chats. "[With my colleagues,] we eat on the phone or talk to our dogs and children; whatever's going on, we work with it.

"I think it's OK to look a bit 'at-home.' I envy the generation that knows their angels and lighting; it's something I have never be able to master, but I try to make up for it with my backgrounds." "For finding a corner in your apartment or house for video conferencing, I always think bookcases are a good backdrop," interior designer Katie Ridder advises. "If people get tired of listening, they can always peruse the book titles." She also recommends setting up in a corner rather than near a window, noting, "back lighting is never pleasant on a screen." * Don't hide the dog: It's OK to look a bit "at-home." That way you and your home are at your best." (Some programs, like Zoom, also offer filters for video conferencing.) For T&C contributing editor David Netto, bringing dog Dusty into the frame is key for any meetings taking place over video. Post advises that when you're connecting with coworkers, it's important to make sure you're doing so from as quiet a space as possible. "We all know that when you're talking to someone, loud noise can get in the way of you being able to hear them or feel like they're concentrating on your conversation," she says. And if a colleague's home life bleeds into work a bit, do your best to be forgiving.

It's e specially bad when you're working from home, in clothes you might not normally wear to the office, in a space that might not be as clean as you'd like it to be, with kids and partners and pets and roommates claiming pieces of your attention—not to mention the increased coronavirus-related anxiety that we're all experiencing right now. I've been working from home full-time since 2012, so I know all the video chat secrets. My laptop camera will focus on the light streaming through the windows, because it's designed to think the brightest thing in the room is the most important one—and my face, which is actually the most important thing in the room, will go dim. So figure out where you need to position yourself—and your laptop, phone, or tablet—to make sure the brightest light source is directly in front of you. (If you've got a lot of time on your hands and want your video chats to look even more polished, you could set up some side lighting.

Ideally, you've got your video conferencing device on a surface that is roughly desk-level; you don't really want to take work meetings with your laptop on your lap, because that'll make you look all schlumpy and will do weird things to the underside of your chin. You've probably seen people apply this technique on Instagram; by giving your face a little more visual space on the screen, you'll look both more attentive and more photogenic. If you wear earbuds or headphones, your boss's voice will go directly into your ears and your microphone won't catch it at all—not to mention that if you've got noise cancellation headphones on, you'll be less likely to catch whatever your roommates are arguing about in the other room. In other words: if you and a coworker are talking at the same time, the app might pick one audio stream to share with the group and, like, keep the other one silent. I've done meetings in which we were asked to literally raise our hands if we wanted to speak; that might be a bit overkill, but at least it keeps you from crossing the audio streams. Some video conferencing systems automatically mute non-talking attendees (and by "automatically" I mean "when the meeting leader chooses to enable the feature"). If you proactively mute yourself, you'll keep everyone from having to listen to dogs barking, toilets flushing, kids arguing, the fact that you keep clicking the little button on the top of your pen out of coronavirus-related anxiety, or whatever other noises are currently permeating your home. Those are all of the tips I've got to help you with your upcoming virtual meetings and video conferences; if you have other tips to share, the comment section is open. Also, if you have a funny video conferencing disaster story to share, I'd love to hear it—and I'm probably not the only one. Working from home probably means you aren't exactly wearing a full face of pristine make-up. But some platforms actually offer beauty filters, such as Zoom (go to the bottom left-hand corner, click 'Video Settings', and check the 'Touch Up My Appearance' box). We know, not exactly important in times like these, but we'll take any tiny stress-relievers we can get right now. Set up a new video conferencing corner in a tidy, neutral corner. When it comes to virtual meetings, the delay between speaking and others hearing means you have to be even more careful with interruptions as the conversational flow can be easily muddled.