Expert Tips for Stylish and Professional Video Calls
As we work and socialise digitally, it pays to look good on camera. Here’s how three Houzz pros make a good impression
Professional advice from: Catharina Stålnacke of PureCathis; Heather Brackin of Home Life Style; Rie Horiguchi of Interior & Lifestyle Design RH+
Interior designer Catharina Stålnacke is based in northern Sweden, but uses digital tools to work with clients all over the world. She recommends tailoring the choice of platform to the client.
While it depends on the situation and job, Catharina says Zoom and Microsoft Teams are often good choices. However, “sometimes it’s easier to just FaceTime people, if you don’t need to share mood boards or plans,” she says.
“For some clients, even that’s too much, so I just use email – whatever works best for them!” she says. “Just make sure you have no technical hitches during the meeting and that the internet connection works well.”
“When you’re on a video conference, it’s important to keep the room clean and decluttered,” says interior designer Heather Brackin, who’s based in Tokyo.
“First, be aware of the camera angle and where you’re sitting. If your bookshelves are in the background, for example, it’s a good idea to straighten the books and arrange them neatly. I don’t really recommend showing family photos, because they can be too private for business meetings.”
Interior designer Rie Horiguchi, also in Japan, agrees. “Check to see whether there are items that could show too much of your life, such as piles of papers, laundry, a half-tidied kitchen or any miscellaneous things in the background.”
Catharina goes for a background that’s “as neutral as possible, with good natural light. You can download backgrounds,” such as Houzz video backdrops. “It’s also important that the visible space is tidy,” she says. “Imagine that the client is actually sitting opposite you at the table. Make sure the camera is placed at eye level.”
Catharina and Rie both point out that virtual backgrounds are an alternative. But there are also a few things you can do in the physical world to pep up your surroundings on camera.
“If the background feels too plain, try placing art posters or a well-designed calendar behind you,” Rie says. “It’s a good idea to put tall plants in as well. If it’s too difficult to manage, you can always use a virtual background.”
Heather agrees. “If the wall is just pure white, it may be too simple,” she says. “If you feel you want to add something to the wall as a backdrop, a little greenery or art can soften the atmosphere. The positioning of the plants is also important. Having them slightly to the right or left in the screen is better than placing them directly behind your head – you don’t want it to look as if they’re growing out of your head!”
But there are advantages to simple backgrounds. “I try to choose as neutral a spot as possible, as I want clients to focus on what I’m communicating rather than the things I have around me,” Catharina says.
“It’s important the light is behind the camera, rather than behind you,” Catharina says. “Natural daylight is preferable over electric lighting, too.”
“First impressions are, as usual, very important. Be calm, collected and representative,” Catharina says. “Take the same attitude as you would in an in-person meeting – have a clear agenda and listen to the client.
“Be aware of your body language,” she adds. “Your own style is very personal, but your job as an interior designer is to find the client’s style.”
“I’ve heard many people say it’s difficult to concentrate on work and video conferencing when they have children at home,” Heather says. “One way to find a quiet space is to avoid the living room or dining room and put a small table in the bedroom.
“If it’s a bedroom, of course, sit in a position where the other person in the video conference can’t see the bed,” she says. “Avoid having a door in the background, because there’s a possibility that family members may enter by mistake.”
“It’s a different feeling, but one we have to get used to,” Catharina says. “I think a personal meeting is always more rewarding, and it can be hard to present materials, colours and products [digitally]. But the end results are often the same, and it’s good for the client to have the email trail with all the information in it for the future.
“I think digital meetings and remote working are the future,” she says, “as it’s now easy technically and you can have a much wider client base.”
What would you recommend for making a positive impression in a video call? Share your tips in the Comments.