It’s week three of WHF, but it seems more like week 23.

Even though I operated my business, Maureen Sullivan Media, from my home office before Coronavirus, I often used the hashtag #working from anywhere – because on many days that’s what I did. Now, we’re all homebound 24/7 and it’s a different reality, even for those of us who are used to working from home.

Last week, I jumped into the world of Zoom. My work life now feels like I am zigging, zagging and zooming, as I adjust to the new reality.

I was asked to participate in an upcoming Zoom meeting about working from home. The speaking part, I’ve got that – the being on video from home part, not so much. I needed to get up to speed and fast. I downloaded the Zoom app and read a few articles on the Zoom blog.

My good friend, the graphic designer, Aileen Casey, invited me to join her Glastonbury, CT BNI group on Tuesday morning at their first virtual meeting. There I was, at 7 a.m., barely awake, sitting in my living room with my iPhone propped up on the table in front of me, a large window behind me. I could tell from the tiny photo of me that appeared in the upper right hand corner of my phone that my Zoom skills needed work.

David Joslin, president of the BNI chapter and owner of WebLight Media, led the meeting. He looked so professional, the lighting was just right, as was his background. He wasn’t sitting smack in the center of his screen like someone on Hollywood Squares. I admired his composition – I learned a long time ago in photography classes, not to center your subject.

It was then that I knew this week’s column would be on video meetings from home. There are several platforms available, but I am going to concentrate on Zoom, because it’s much easier to learn one new thing at a time, but the advice for how to do it right applies across the board.

If, for the foreseeable future, meetings are going to happen virtually, I want to get this right, so I sought out the advice of people who could offer tips on lighting, how to dress, makeup and the tech basics.

I started with David Joslin, because I aspire to Zoom and look as good as he does doing it.

“You dress for success at your in-person meetings, right? Then why not look your best on your virtual meetings as well?” David says it’s not as easy as it sounds

He shared this advice, “Break out of the center shot. Remember the standard photography rule of thirds,” and offer this link for reference: http://slrlounge.com/glossary/rule-of-thirds-definition/

And:

Adjust Your webcam framing so it’s inviting, don’t get too close and fill the screen with your face. Pull back a bit and add some personality.
Keep your camera at eye level
Move your camera around to find the best position.
Make sure you are looking at or near the camera.
Reduce your overhead lighting
Add more sidelights to improve your webcam video
Clean up your video’s background.
Put items behind you that reinforce you as a person or business
Add light to the background area
Built-in computer webcams are not very good. Buy a better webcam – I use the Logitech HD 1080p.
Computer microphones are not very good either. Buy a USB microphone.
Dress for the occasion ( more on that later in this column from stylist Debbie Wright.)

When all else fails, David says, “use the Zoom Virtual Background option – a Hawaiian beach may be better than your parent’s basement! “

My friend, videographer David Horgan, owner of Horgan Associates says it’s best to use soft light from a lamp or even outside light as your “key” or main source. Backgrounds should not be busy, as they will be distracting. Sound, he says, will always be better in a carpeted room or one with several pieces of soft furniture. And he says to stay close to the mic so you don’t get room echo.

For wardrobe styling tips I turned to Debbie Wright. We have worked together on many fashion events and projects. She offers her suggestions on how to stay “comfortable and fabulous” while connecting virtually.

“I am pro pants. You never know when you might have to hop up and you don’t want those gym shorts to steal the show. My suggestions: black slim bottoms, leggings or joggers will work just fine and send a signal that you are polished and prepared.”

“Top off your look by selecting SOLIDS! Minimize the prints and patterns to avoid distraction. My suggestions: blues, browns and saturated colors like emerald green complement all skin tones and will get you camera ready.

“Be you and be mindful of how you want to be seen. This is a time when we want to connect with each other and bring our best selves to the surface, making this world better than ever before.”

And finally, makeup. While Debbie points out that while wearing minimal or no makeup may feel liberating, when it comes to preparing for a Zoom meeting, some coverage can give students a boost of confidence.

If you normally wear makeup to the office, you probably want to maintain that same look virtually.

Makeup artist Crystal Wrisley Vazquez, owner of Crystal Vazquez and Company says that moisturizer is always the first base – Zoom or not.

“If you want to skip foundation, use concealer under your eyes to brighten and touch up any areas that may be discolored. Mascara does wonders to open up your eyes. And to brighten your face, add a bit of color to your lips and cheeks.”

I have been practicing my virtual meeting skills by hosting Zoom meetings with friends and family – the bonus is I get to connect with them and see them face to face even if for now we can’t get together in person.

Armed with these new tips for virtual meetings and connections, I am ready to up my game. After all, I have a little extra time.