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Video calls: What does your backdrop say about you?

For someone as interested in interiors (nosy!) as me, watching all these news interviews with people from their own homes has been a fascinating bi-product of the current situation. Seeing hard-nosed reporters in their genteel living rooms or bouncy presenters in uber-modern kitchens has given tantalising insights into the person behind the persona.

This ‘nosiness’ extends to all of us doing video calls from home. You may not be a TV presenter, but whether you like it or not, your home is now your TV studio and your backdrop says it all about you.

Remember the TV show Through the Keyhole? It’s not just about seeing ‘who lives in a house like this’, there is a deeper issue of what message people are choosing (consciously or unconsciously) to send by selecting where they position themselves for these calls.

This isn’t about what looks prettiest or most impressive, but what links to your personal brand, in relation to what you stand for, what you’re saying and your personal style. You can connect all those things by how you present your work space and what you choose to sit in front of!

Now, of course, some may suggest that this is completely irrelevant at a time of global crisis – surely it’s what’s being said that is important? However, if what is being said is so important, avoiding anything that distracts from your message is more crucial than ever.

There are three key questions to ask yourself before going on camera.

Firstly, what’s the purpose of your call?

If it’s a team meeting, this is an opportunity to connect more with your colleagues by sharing a little more of yourself. For example, I could hear my husband and his team on a Zoom call yesterday laughing and sharing where they were connecting from, clearly enjoying the insights into each other’s homes and gardens. But their existing relationships meant that this didn’t then distract from the matter in hand.

However, things could be very different with clients or potential new consumers.

Secondly, is there a mismatch? As the hugely successful entrepreneur and brain scientist Jeff Stibel states, “Your environment should match your intentions, as it often tells the true story without uttering a single syllable”.

Thirdly, are there any distractions? If we link this with the Timothy Gallwey equation from his seminal book ‘The Inner Game’, Performance equals Potential minus Interference (P = P – I), we can see how our environment (if not positioned correctly), could be a serious interference.

You can’t avoid the fact that you are at home, so how can we optimise our video set up to be congruent with our intentions, personality and brand?

Things to consider when assessing your video environment

Switch on your video software, take a snapshot of yourself and look at the following.

1. How your body is positioned

Make sure your physical positioning allows you to present the right body language to your viewers – if you are leading a conference call, for example, you may find that standing or using a firmer chair helps you keep the energy high and avoid becoming too relaxed.

2. Subliminal messages from photos or artwork

What photos and artworks do you have behind you? Think carefully about the images and iconography the viewer can see and ensure they are enhancing you and your message. Choose the ones that support that message and help to create an atmosphere that the viewer will connect with.

3. Colour

Consider colour. I’m not suggesting that you repaint your room for a temporary situation, but do bear in mind the colour of your backdrop so that it creates the right energy for and around you, because it does have powerful associations. Which one suits the work you’re doing? And is there a colour that will create an unconscious connection to your branding?

4. Objects

What objects can be seen around you? Full bookcases will present one image, a pile of cuddly toys will present another, fresh flowers yet another and an empty space something else. I make no value judgement about any of these, but which would optimise the image you want to present?

As Stibel goes on to say,

“Spend a few minutes assessing the subliminal messages in your environment and you can effortlessly prime your brain for whatever you’re trying to achieve — or at least make sure it’s not primed against you”.

There are lots of things to consider when you are setting up your workspace at home. One of the questions I ask clients who are creating an office is whether they conduct live video sessions or record video for social media. If they do, they need to consider how they will position themselves for optimal impact.

Are you coming across the way you want on video? Let me give you a free assessment.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know how we’re being perceived by others on camera. If you’d like me to take a look at your video set up and give you some pointers on how to optimise it, email

This article was first published in The Coach Space



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