Alan Bell - 13.05.2020
Zoom Cloud Meetings™ has become an indispensable tool for keeping people connected during these challenging times. Within the Zoom application, there is a feature that allows users to pick a virtual background that you (as well as the person on the other end of the video call) can see behind you. From a business perspective, using such a background can be important in how you communicate with an online world, for instance:
- Working from home: sitting on a sofa, at a dining room table or in your car, for example. A virtual background can mask your surroundings, particularly if they are messy or there are distractions;
- Setting the tone: The right virtual background can set the tone for a meeting. Is the purpose for business? Or pleasure? Or both?
- Conversation point: The background could be used as a topic of conversation, to emphasise a point or to get your message across;
- A reflection of your personality: Your personality or how you are feeling can come across in the type and style of virtual background that you use. What image do you want to project?
To quote Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon,“your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”.
On that note, what image do you leave on screen when your Zoom video feed is muted?
Zoom Cloud Meetings already supports a static picture or video. Indeed, several off-the-shelf backgrounds are included within the application including the examples below:
You have no doubt seen or tried one or more of these images yourself?
Whilst you might consider them to be a suitable background at first glance, the key question is whether they support or add value to your personal or business brand? The reality is that they are generic, and from a branding perspective they do not add value. As a result, an opportunity to market yourself, your brand or what you stand for is being missed.
Assuming you want to take advantage of this branding opportunity, you have several options:
1. Search online for something more suitable. There are a plethora of sites offering generic images and there might be something close to what you need.
2. Upload an appropriate photo or video from your own collection.
3. Create your own background that may, for example, include your logo and contact details.
4. Utilize a third party that understands branding to create your background image for you.
Before you take any of those steps, and if you haven’t previously tried one of the Zoom provided backgrounds, it is important that you check that your device or system is capable of running a virtual background in the first place. There is no point in spending the time and energy creating something if your device cannot support it.
Is your system or device up to it?
You can check this by opening the Zoom application on your system or device and clicking on the setup icon, top right. See Fig.1 below.
Clicking on the icon reveals a pop-up window (Fig.2). This window provides a menu option to use a virtual background with some background images displayed.
Select one of the backgrounds, and if your system or device supports it, the background will display behind your image as in my example with the Golden Gate Bridge.
At this point, you may find that the image displays perfectly, or you may need to tweak some settings to improve the quality. These are considered below. Alternatively, you may see a message that says your system or device specifications are not capable of running a virtual background. If this is the case, it is worth comparing your system or device specifications with the prerequisites from Zoom’s own website:
If your system or device meets or exceeds these prerequisites, it is a reasonable assumption that the virtual background should work, and if it doesn’t, it could be as a result of other factors which we discuss below. However, if your system or device does not make the grade, it may not be capable of running such backgrounds.
Our experience shows that some older or more basic devices - particularly some older laptops and phones/tablets - lack the graphics capability to run the virtual backgrounds effectively. It is possible to play with some settings within the Zoom application itself such as enabling/disabling HD or disabling the “I have a green screen” option. (If enabled, and you don’t actually have a screen). These may or may not work and it is something that you should try. If nothing improves whilst trying these settings then you could give up on the idea, or if you have access to an alternative device then try that instead.
If the virtual background does work, but you want to know if you can improve the quality of the image that you are seeing, then read on.
Tweaking your settings
From personal experience, changing settings in the Zoom application can help. However, there are several factors that can affect what you see on your screen:
- Lighting: As a regular Zoom user you will no doubt have seen someone whose face is in shadow because the light is behind them, right? Or they might have a window to one side with the sun streaming through so that one side of them is lit much more than the other? Or they just looked washed out? The fix for this is to try the HD setting and also to switch on an overhead light or bring a lamp close to where you are sitting. At the same time, use what you see on the screen to do a visual check to confirm that you look like yourself. You might also consider closing your curtains or window blinds or alternatively, find a different well-lit location to do the session from.
- The Technology: Sometimes the visual or audio quality can be poor, irrespective of whether a virtual background is being used. This can be as a result of the settings or capabilities of the technology you are using such as the in-built webcam in your laptop, which begs the question, do you ever clean your built-in webcam? Or it could be the quality of the network you are using. An external webcam can help in this regard and there are plenty of options available online. You could also check what others are using during the Zoom call.
If your quick check confirms your device is working well with a virtual background, then your next consideration is the purpose of your background and the branding message that you want to present. We will be covering this in our next Blog.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear if these Zoom tips and tricks work for you. Or better yet, do you have your own tips or tricks that you can share?