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💡 Invincible Tip - Ditch the Blurry Background (Issue #454)
Be your authentic self on video calls
Those virtual backgrounds sure are fun for Zoom calls, huh? You look like you’re working on the beach, live in a swanky apartment, or have a view of the Eiffel Tower outside your window. I remember when they first became popular during the pandemic, when so many of us were working from home.
Using a fake or blurred background isn’t a great idea. Special thanks to Nick Kolenda for sharing this finding.
Researchers at the Alberta School of Business, University of Alberta, studied the optimal backgrounds for video chats. They focused on customer service and advertising, but I’m sure this applies to any videoconferencing calls you have with people in a professional context.
In videoconferences with customers, employees prefer to use nonrevealing (vs. revealing) backgrounds because they believe that these backgrounds create a more competent and less warm impression. However, their background choices are miscalibrated. Customers prefer interacting with employees who use revealing (vs. nonrevealing) backgrounds because they perceive these employees as warmer, but not less competent. These increased warmth perceptions increase anticipated service quality, and the use of revealing backgrounds in Facebook ads increases click-through rates. However, the positive effects on customers’ perceptions and judgments reverse when backgrounds reveal negative information. (source)
A real background increases the perception of your warmth.
A blurred or fake background does not make you seem more competent or professional.
As always, don’t have things in your real background that might negatively impact people’s perception of you (e.g., a bottle of vodka on your bookshelf).
People want to see that you’re human. They like knowing more about you. They don’t want to think you’re “hiding something,” which may make them feel you’re untrustworthy.
Another reason to avoid those backgrounds? They just don’t work very well!
The visual artifacts are so distracting. It’s hard to pay attention when half of someone’s head disappears while they’re talking. It’s strange to see a person’s hand vanish when they gesture. The tech isn’t good enough yet.
So, I know many people use the backgrounds because they don’t want everyone looking into their private homes. I get that. That’s one reason I have my Zoom calls in my office and turned my desk so the camera sees a wall behind me.
If that’s not an option for you, consider using a privacy folding screen. I used to have one of those, too. A few of my clients and community members use them, and they work well. You can find thousands of styles on Amazon or your local home and office furniture store.
Hi, I’m Larry Cornett, a Personal Coach who can work with you to optimize your career, life, or business. My mission is to help you take complete control of your work and life so you can become a more “Invincible You.” I currently live in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with my wife and our Great Dane.