Editor’s note: This post is adapted from a video series presented by our partner, Winning by Design. You can find the full series here

With the rise of COVID-19, working from home has become the new normal for many of us. And while it’s the right thing to do to help prevent the virus from spreading further, you can’t afford to have your team be any less effective as a result. That’s true not just in the work that they’re performing, but also in terms of how they conduct meetings.

Meetings are an essential part of business. And whether they’re routine staff meetings or a big sales meeting with a prospect or existing client, these days they’re all becoming virtual. But that doesn’t mean you can afford to let your guard down or take things any less seriously. In this post, we’ll look at some pro tips you can follow to ensure that all of your virtual meetings are just as polished and professional as the ones you’re used to leading in person.

Virtual meetings 101

Virtual meetings are nothing new. Companies all over the world have been holding them for years. You just might not be used to conducting them from home. Yet no matter what space you’re working in or what equipment you’re using, there are some simple tips you should follow to make sure you’re making the most out of your virtual meetings:

Show your face

The key to effective virtual meetings is being able to see facial expressions, so make sure you turn on your camera and have it set up properly so that people can actually see your face. The camera in your laptop, tablet, or phone should be fine, but if you think the quality isn’t good enough, there are plenty of low-cost options online that you can order and use instead. 

Whatever camera you’re using, position it at least two feet from your face to avoid an unflattering look. Keep in mind that the angle of your camera is also important. You’ll want the camera to be just above eye level so that you and everyone else in the meeting are looking at each other, not up or down at one another.

Get the lighting right

It’s no secret in the broadcast industry that lighting is often the hardest thing to get right. The most common mistake people make on video calls is having too much light behind them, which makes them look backlit. You need to be more brightly lit up than the background behind you, so make sure you’re not sitting in front of a window. Another good idea is to use a light source, like an anglepoise lamp, and position it at a 45-degree angle to your face. That way your facial expressions will be clear and you’ll enjoy more flattering light.

Use a virtual background

You want your home office environment to look as professional as possible when you’re doing video conference calls. Rest assured that anyone you’re talking to will be looking around the screen at whatever’s behind you, so make sure what they see is appropriate. One way to do this is to enable a virtual background using your conferencing software, such as the ‘blur’ function that obscures everything behind you. If you don’t have that capability, just make sure your background is plain, and that there’s nothing moving behind you or that could otherwise be a distraction.

Dress for online meetings

Even when you’re conducting a meeting over video, it’s important to look the part. How you dress on camera reflects how professional you are, and dressing down just because you’re working from home doesn’t always make a great impression. Wear the same type of clothing that you would for a face-to-face meeting and, when in doubt, dress a little bit more formal. Also consider what’s behind you. Wearing all white if you’re against a white background or all black if you’re against a black one could make you look like your head is floating in space. Experiment with colors so you can achieve the perfect contrast.

Set expectations with the other participant

No one likes to be surprised, so setting up the right expectations for a productive video meeting will keep things on track. A client or colleague might be thrown off if they were expecting to do an audio call and aren’t prepared to be on camera. Make it clear to everyone in your meeting invite that you’re hosting a video call. Then, when the meeting begins, be the first person online so that everyone can see you so that it’s more natural for them to turn on their cameras too. And remember, if they happen to switch their camera off unexpectedly during the call, don’t worry. Just continue as normal.

Proceed with confidence

We’re lucky to live at a time when virtual meetings are possible. But even so, don’t take them for granted. By following the advice outlined above, you’ll be in great shape to run a very successful meeting no matter where you happen to be working.