One of the biggest issues with working from home is that of professionalism. While it’s true that I do a lot of my work in my pajamas, it’s probably not something I want to mention to a client when we’re meeting over the phone.
When most of your meetings take place on the phone, it’s not a big deal. Just shut the door, use a noise-canceling headset, and hold your meeting. No one’s the wiser.
The rise of video and fast Internet speeds around the world are changing the game, however. There are a number of tools like ClickMeeting that are designed make it possible for you to conduct online meetings that have an “in-person” feel, and collaborate on a more personal level. In those cases, it’s vital that you transform your home office into a meeting room that you can be proud of.
The first step is to test possible camera angles. If the camera built into your computer doesn’t offer high quality, you might need to purchase a new one. There are plenty of great webcams that can help you project a professional image, even from your home office.
Once you have the right webcam, check out what is within the range of the camera. You don’t want messy storage visible behind you, or other unprofessional signs. You can test what your webcam “shows” others by signing up for Google Hangouts and then opening a Hangout just for you.
Pay attention to how different angles of the room look. Choose a view that is less cluttered than others, and that looks as though you could make it professional with a few touches. This will be your “meeting room” every time you need to have a video conference with someone.
Create a System for Cleaning Up One Area
Now that you know where you want to aim the camera during an online video meeting, it’s time to clean up that area and make it professional. Get rid of unnecessary clutter within the camera’s view. When in doubt, go minimalist. If you have a degree in a professional-looking frame, or if you have a piece of nice artwork, you can include that in the background. But, for the most part, make sure that most clutter is invisible, including electric cords.
Even if you don’t keep that area of your home office spotless all the time, you should have a method for cleaning it up quickly. Once you know which area you will focus on, it is fairly easy to clear out the unwanted items and set up a professional-looking area that others see. I can get my home office space ready for a video meeting in about 10 minutes. I may be surrounded by clutter, but, as far as the webcam shows, my home office is a professional meeting room.
Acquire the Right Tools
When you are in a meeting, you need to have the right tools to ensure that things go smoothly. While you can use programs like Skype and Google Hangouts to have video conversations with participants from around the world, there are better tools available.
Some of the tools that allow you to have effective conferences, with features like screenshare and the ability to collaborate from wherever you are, include ClickWebinar and Join.me. These tools allow you to better run a meeting, enhancing your professional image, even when you run the meeting from your home office.
You should also consider buying a better microphone if your computer’s mic is inadequate. In many cases, though, a simple headset is just fine. A headset or mic that will pick up your voice clearly, but doesn’t pick up other noises in the background is an essential tool for the meeting held in a home office. You don’t want the sound of the TV bleeding through in the middle of your meeting.
Set Clear Boundaries
Finally, if your want your home office to double as an effective meeting room for online video conferences, you need to set clear boundaries. During your meeting time, you need to make sure that others in your home know not to disturb you. I shut the door to my home office to signal that I’m not to be disturbed.
If the meeting is especially important, consider hiring a sitter to take your kids to the park so that you are assured of complete quiet. Turn off the phone ringer, and get rid of other distractions. The final piece of the puzzle is making sure that you are able to commit your attention to the meeting so that your professional behavior mirrors your newly-professional home office surroundings.