by Gillian Armour

As independent fashion, image or style consultants, we do quite a bit of networking online either with clients or with other groups (and sometimes even in e-Learning). One of the dangers of working from home is that you can become a bit too casual. Coming to work in your sweatpants every day might seem great, but there are times you will need to ditch that casual look and project a more professional appearance. The video conference is one such time, and new technology makes meeting with clients and viewing projects easier than ever.

Software products like GoToMeeting and AdobeConnect allow people to meet in person no matter where they are physically located. That is great news for home based consultants, freeing them from the traditional office and putting them on even footing with their larger competitors. If not handled properly, however, a video conference can be a disaster for someone who works from home. If your office does not project a professional appearance, others on the call may question your commitment to the project, or even your professionalism. Taking the time to clean up your surroundings, and yourself, will go a long way.

Check the Background

Cleaning up the background is one of the most important parts of preparing for any video conference. Others on the call will be spending a lot of time looking behind you, and what they see can make a big difference. Tidying up the area behind you is even more important if you do not have a traditional office in your home. If you work out of a bedroom or spare room, you might need to set up some draperies or temporary partitions to make the space look more like an office. Keep personal items out of sight, since they can detract from the professional appearance you are trying to create.

Place the Camera Properly

The placement of the camera is an important consideration, since it will affect the camera angle and what others on the video conference see. It is generally best to place your webcam on top of your computer monitor, since that position gives the best field of vision. Take the time to test the view from your webcam and make adjustments if necessary. You want the camera to show you from the waist up for the most professional appearance. Experiment with several different seating positions until you find the one that shows you in the best light.

Wear the Same Thing You Would at the Office

Since you are only visible from the waist up, you might think that the dress blouse and blazer with sweat pants is the perfect outfit, but it is best to dress as you would if you were meeting face to face. Dressing professionally will make you feel better, and that can help you project a stronger and more professional appearance. You should maintain a collection of quality business suits, even if you work at home. You can skip the high heels, but the rest of your outfit should be ready for the office.

Check the Sound

The video portion of the video conference is important, but the sound is just as critical. Be sure to test the sound of your own setup well in advance of the meeting and upgrade your microphone if necessary. If you do not already have one, a quality headset is a great investment. If you spend a lot of time on the phone, a headset will make those conversations more comfortable and make video conferences more comfortable and effective at the same time.

Whether you hold a video conference from your home office once a week or once a year, it is important to prepare for each one as you would a job interview. You want to put your best foot forward and project a professional appearance to your colleagues on the other end of the line. The professional appearance you project will go a long way, and it could even help you grow your business.

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