Body Language 85 Zoom Boom 2 Lighting

May 18, 2020

This is the second of four short articles highlighting the differences from in-person body language and body language when using a virtual platform.

The topic of this article is the lighting and background that is evident in the picture when you are using your video camera.

A common mistake is to sit between the camera and a window, especially on a sunny day.

You will show up as a dark blob in the foreground, and no facial detail will be available to the other participants.

If you have too much light in front of you, either from a window or the computer screen, it can reflect off your glasses and make it hard for people to see your eyes. The cure for this is to screen out the excess light or purchase anti-glare glasses. Another solution to this problem is to wear contact lenses.

I have made videos using the rims of glasses with no lenses in them. That is a good solution when you are alone and just talking at a screen, but when you want to participate with other people in a meeting, you need to be able to see them clearly.

If you have an overhead light, it can be overpowering and make you look washed out or reflect off a bald head so you look like a light bulb. Here again, the solution is some form of light screen so you are surrounded by indirect, but adequate light.

It is important to experiment with the lighting so that other people in the meeting can see your face. Try to create a professional looking environment rather than an obvious bedroom, basement, or attic when working from home. The same rules apply when you are working in an office setting.

Avoid overly complex or messy backgrounds that distract attention from the facial area. Whether at work or at home, try to avoid having the camera pointing toward a high traffic area behind you.

Sometimes having other people in the background is unavoidable, because you are supporting a meeting while in a coffee shop or at the airport. In these situations, people will understand your dilemma.

Many people choose a virtual background, but these do not work particularly well unless you are using a green screen behind you. The picture you input will show as a still or moving image, but when you move, the shape of your head will be grossly distorted until you remain motionless for a few seconds. This movement can be very distracting, although it sometimes provides some comic relief.

What to do

The best approach is to spend time and energy on your setup so that it shows you in the kind of way that reflects professionalism. Have an area set up with the camera and proper lighting and background. Make provision for having meetings in the morning or the afternoon where the challenge of sunlight can be dealt with easily.

For example, I have a window above my work table. If a meeting is in the morning, the shade I use provides just the right amount of light. In the afternoon, if it is a sunny day, there is too much light, so I have a sheet of feather board I can quickly place in front of the window to block the excess light.

Recognize that not all participants may have access to good quality bandwidth where they are located. Expect that some members of the group will need to call in. In these cases, you will have to go by tone of voice and the words that are used to determine the mental state of the individual. There is no video image.

In some cases people will have a picture but use the phone for audio.  Remember to assign the phone number to the appropriate breakout room or the person will not be heard in the breakout.

Consider also your attire. You want to dress as you would if you were at work in a meeting. If you would not wear a colored polo shirt to a meeting in your office, then don’t show up in one for a virtual meeting. If you dress down just because you are working from home, it does not reflect well on you for business discussions.

Even though the Zoom environment seems more informal, you always want to look your best and display a professional demeanor.


This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”


Body Language 84 Zoom Boom 1 Eye Contact

May 11, 2020

This is the first of four short articles highlighting the differences from in-person body language and body language when using a virtual platform.

Clearly, having the ability to see the faces of individuals, particularly in a group setting, is far superior to having a conference call where people cannot see each other.

However, it is wrong to suggest that the virtual experience is just as good as actually being in the same room as the other people. It is not.

This series of short articles will highlight areas where we need to recognize the limitations, even while we enjoy the benefits of the various platforms for virtual meetings.

The first area is eye contact. The most critical connection between people when interfacing in person is eye contact. When you look at another person’s eyes, you can detect how sincere and authentic the person is.

We read the eyes of other people all the time without even being conscious of the depth of information contained in them. We may have a first meeting with an individual and come away with a cautionary feeling about him by the way he made eye contact.

In “The Gambler,” Kenny Rogers sings, “He said, Son, I’ve made a life out of readn’ people’s faces, knowin’ what the cards were by the way they held their eyes.”

Most people in organizations do not take it to that extreme, but we do take away a huge amount of data by watching other people’s eyes.

In a virtual setting, it is often difficult to even see the other person’s eyes. First of all, if the person is wearing glasses, the glare from the reflection of the screen or ambient light at least partially blocks a clear view of the eyes.

Second, people rarely look directly into the camera when working in a virtual meeting. They are focusing their attention on the pictures of the other people or data displayed on screen. Depending on where the camera is placed, that may cause the person to rarely show his eyes.

Direct eye contact between any two people in a virtual meeting is extremely rare.

Third, when there are many people in the meeting, each image is so small that it is hard to see the expression in the eyes. You can gather some information, but it is not nearly what would be seen if you were meeting in person.

What to do

If the information in the eyes is less than ideal, you need to substitute other factors to understand what is going on with the other person. Tone of voice will let you know if the person is feeling happy, angry, sarcastic, confused, or several other emotions.

In addition, pay attention to what the other person is saying. Is she being negative, grumpy, and hostile, or is she buoyant, happy, and flexible?

Body position can give you a clue to the attitude. Is the person sitting up straight or slouched over holding her head up with the palm of her hand?

Facial expression is another tip off to what is going on with the person. Even though the eye contact may not be ideal, you still have the ability to read what is going on. Look for clues in the configuration of the mouth and the eyebrows.

You can ask open-ended questions that call for the person to reveal how she is feeling at the moment.

I will explore other differences or compromises in future articles.


This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”