Aug 2020 Blog Cambria

Five Tips to Achieve a Perfect 10 on Web Conferences

During the pandemic, we’ve all found small joys (or obsessions) to help distract us from reality. Many have begun baking sourdough bread. Others have rediscovered analog entertainment via puzzles and reading. My obsession became Room Rater (@ratemyskyperoom). Introduced by a colleague, I pour through Room Rater’s Twitter account on the daily. Room Rater critiques the background of individuals on web conferences (e.g. Skype, Zoom, etc.) and issues ratings from 0 (hostage video quality) to 10 (top marks). Through this obsession, I quickly realized I needed to elevate my own background to ensure I was portraying a professional image in my own daily web conferences.

As we enter the sixth month of the pandemic and we’ve all settled into our WFH routine, no one has an excuse to not elevate their web conference backgrounds, showcasing their best selves (given the circumstances) and a smidge of personal flair. Using the lessons learned from Room Rater, I’ve created five tips to elevate your presence on a web conference from hostage video to a perfect 10.

1. Filters Are Your Friend

Let’s be honest, who is taking the time to put on makeup and get a professional blowout? Likely very few. Let’s use technology to your advantage on this front. Zoom provides the option to enhance your appearance via the Video Settings dialog. Select “touch up my appearance” to give yourself a bit of a glow up, smoothing out skin tone and softening lines.

2. Lighting, Lighting, Lighting  


We all know the adage about real estate, “location, location,   location.” The equivalent for web conferences is “lighting, lighting,   lighting.” Never set up for a call with a bright window as your backdrop. All we’ll see is a shadowy outline of you as if you’re in a   witness protection video. Set up with lighting on your face. The cheapest solution is to face a bright window, setting up your camera between you and the window. If a perfectly placed window is not available, consider investing in a ring light. I picked up an inexpensive ring light from Amazon. The light accommodates use on laptops and phones, is lightweight, and sits on an adjustable tripod making it able to accommodate a variety of setups.

  Figure 1 Poor Lighting

3. Fake it Till You Make it with Virtual Backgrounds 

If your WFH setup simply cannot be upgraded and your laptop has a solid graphics card, go forth with a virtual background. Virtual backgrounds provide privacy, can mask less than desirable WFH setups, and you are able to insert a little humor into your work day.

4. Work That Angle     
      Following a key secret to good selfies, elevate your webcam so that you are looking up at the camera and keep your chin down. Everyone looks better at this angle. Also, we want to see something interesting behind you, not a shot of your ceiling.

Figure 2 Poor Angle

 5. A Curated Background      

If you are looking to impress Room Rater, you’ll need to begin working on that killer IRL (that’s “in real life”) background. Books, art, pillows, flowers or plants, these are all elements consistently mentioned in rooms scoring 10/10 from Room Rater. After working for months on one side of my desk, I realized Room Rater would score me at 0/10, full hostage video. Although I had solid lighting, my angle and background were abysmal. Moving to the other side of the desk, I instantly upgraded my rating with a high contrast bookshelf against beautiful teal walls, a collection of books and objects d’art, with personal mementos mixed throughout.

   Figure 3 Hostage Video          Figure 4 10/10
 Using these five tips I’ve designed a professional yet inexpensive setup for my daily web conferences. I feel more confident in my meetings and I know I am delivering a professional image to potential clients, my colleagues, and customers.

Cambria Happ, MPA, CAE is an Executive Director at McKenna Management, Inc. She brings 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector including association management, higher education, and museums. Her professional areas of expertise are governance, association management systems, membership and business operations. Cambria is a Certified Association Executive (CAE). She holds a Master of Public Administration Degree (4.0 GPA) and a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from The George Washington University.