Social distancing. Working from home. Telework. Remote work. Virtual Parties. Video Conference Calls. Virtual Meetings. Oh my!
These are all things that existed pre-Rona. But, no one could predict this would be the new standard for so many businesses, students, and families around the globe with zero to no warning. We’re all trying to figure out how to have shared experiences without physically sharing space.
Since the Stay At Home ordinance was activated here in Chicago, my freedom to organize inside of homes and speak in front of crowds has been temporarily canceled. Like many others, I immediately began to connect more online, socially and professionally. I sent surprise video birthday hugs to children, caught up with friends, danced to my favorite DJs, worked out in my kitchen, linked up with my entrepreneurship network, took business and coaching calls to support new projects, continued to release KonMari®-themed Facebook Lives within my membership Club, and tidied with clients from the comfort of my home.
It’s been an adjustment. But, the one consistent thing that came out of all this is the question, “why didn’t we do this more before?”
Millions are navigating working from home for the first time or increasing their virtual presence and offerings. For the last three years I’ve been virtually home tidying with my clients and co-hosting a weekly KonMari® podcast. This means I’ve had hours of fun and hours of troubleshooting countless tech issues. So, I’m here to share my top tips for making your virtual experiences – from day parties to team meetings – spark joy.
Manually update your video conferencing software
If you’re using video conferencing software frequently, make sure to download the associated app directly to your devices instead of accessing it via web browser. It’s not guaranteed that your software will automatically update, so make sure to double check. For Zoom, I use and the “Settings” menu. There’s a “Check for Updates” option where you can make sure you have the latest version and full functionality.
Check the height of your camera
Whether you’re using a laptop, monitor, or phone, your camera lens should be at eye level or slightly higher. Use a monitor riser to steady and raise the device or a box, yoga block, or books to lift your laptop to optimal height. If your camera is too low or on your lap it will appear like you are looking down at your team/audience. Too high can look uncomfortable or unnatural as well. You want everyone to see your beautiful face, not just your chin or the top of your head!
Wipe that lens
Have you ever noticed your digital image is looking a bit cloudy these days? Along with cleaning our phones and laptops regularly, it’s important to wipe the lens with a cloth before EVERY use. I’ve made a habit of doing this before I take photos in client’s homes or selfies. Same applies to video. Make sure you address both camera lenses (outer and front-facing).
Look into the camera when it’s your turn
It’s super tempting to look at yourself or the person you’re talking to on your screen while you’re speaking during a call. But, unfortunately on the other side of the call it looks like you’re looking away, instantly breaking eye contact and connection. It’s a hard habit to break, so I suggest putting a sticker or a piece of washi tape adjacent to the camera to visually remind you where to look.
Note, this only applies to the moments when you have the floor. It’s OK to watch the person who is speaking and the chat box until it’s your turn.
Pay attention to what’s behind you
This requires a bit of KonMari® magic! To instantly get up to speed on KonMari® 101, check out our most popular episode of Spark Joy podcast. Determine how much of your home office or living space will fall within frame. Quick tidy by considering “does what’s behind me spark joy?” Remember, the goal is for you to be an extension of a home office that you honor. Have fun with it! Add some things that represent your character, editing when necessary to convey a sense of order, professionalism, and joy.
I’ve been podcasting for over two years. When we invite a guest on, we don’t require them to get a fancy mic. However, we do ask that they consider moving to a room with soft surfaces (curtains, carpet, rugs, plush furniture, etc.) to reduce a tinny/hollow sound or persistent echo. Make sure to surround yourself with something soft the sound can bounce off of to ease their listening experience.
Note: For Spark Joy podcast we record in our closets, which works great for everything but a video call unfortunately.
Check your mic
Have you ever joined a video call and heard a persistent scratchy sound while a co-worker was talking? This occurs when you use wired headsets with the microphone built into the wire. Because the microphone falls near your neck, things like scarves, shirt collars, and certain movements get picked up loudly in everyone’s ears and it’s a VERY uncomfortable sound. This doesn’t mean you have to ditch your favorite headphones. Just make sure you pin the wire to your shirt so the microphone stays in place without rubbing fabric.
Headphones are a must
Whatever your preference, something should be over or in your ears at all times during a video call. Otherwise you’ll become a victim of feedback, which is when participants hear their voice through your speaker on a slight delay. It can cause a persistent echo or periodic static.
Note: Make sure your headphone/mic combo is connected! It’s always best to glance at your audio settings during EVERY call to make sure your input and output on your laptop/phone have synched with the audio device you’re using.
Find your light
Make sure to position yourself facing towards a window or an interior light source. The light should be shining on your face, rather than behind you and diffused if possible. I’m really lucky, because I have a big window in my office, which allows my video calls to look great from roughly 7am-7pm. If you’re not as lucky or you need to take video calls in the evening, you can purchase a portable clip-on ring light to bring you out of the dark.
Update your profile picture
Within the settings section of your video conferencing app you can update the photo associated with your account (typically under “Profile”). This is a quick and easy way to freshen up your conferencing platform and make it look more professional. Use a headshot or non-selfie photo where again, you’re looking into the camera! This photo will pop up as a thumbnail as you toggle your camera on and off. Therefore, the profile photo you select also serves as a visual reminder that your camera is indeed off, to help you avoid any major teleconferencing fails.
I hope these tips help you work (and have fun) from home with more joy. If you’d like more tips on all things Marie Kondo, KonMari® and decluttering, take The Tidy Pledge here to receive x2 monthly tidying tips that add value (not clutter) to your inbox.
Looking to extend the conversation even further? Listen to 160+ episodes of Spark Joy podcast while you tidy, or catch me LIVE on Facebook weekdays at noon central starting March 30 for Tidy Up: Home & Life Office Hours edition.
Be safe, be well, get tidy!