Gone are the days when congregating as a group required huddling in close quarters (and thank goodness, current health crisis considered). With the help of technology, meetings can happen anywhere. Be it from home, on the train, or while you’re on a treadmill, connecting with colleagues and clients has never been easier.
Video conferencing platform Zoom is one of the more popular online ‘offices’ for remote workers—a cohort that has rapidly expanded in recent weeks. By way of Zoom (and Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Skype and the like) millions upon millions of us are conducting our professional dealings from our personal spaces.
We don’t all have the luxury of a home office, and those that do aren’t likely to see it grace the pages of Vogue Living. Truth be told, many of us are setting up shop on our kitchen tables and living room couches. A recent study of young professionals saw a whopping 80% admit to working from bed (not great for productivity, just so you know).
Luckily, Zoom has a feature to render our disorderly, private or just plain dull surroundings easier on the eye. It’s called ‘virtual backgrounds’, and it’s taking video conferencing to new and visually pleasing places.
In this article, we will show you how to use your Zoom virtual background and pass on some simple tips and tricks to make your meetings more engaging, productive and (most importantly) fun while you’re working from home.
What is Zoom?
Zoom is a video conferencing service you can use to virtually meet with others via video, audio-only or both. A free subscription allows you to host meetings with up to 100 participants, and these live gatherings can be recorded for future viewing.
A ‘Zoom meeting’ is a video conference that can be joined via a webcam or phone. A ‘Zoom room’ is a physical hardware system that allows companies to schedule and launch Zoom meetings from their conference rooms (this requires a paid subscription).
You can download the Zoom Client for meetings here.
Zoom’s help centre features a long list of the technical prerequisites for using virtual backgrounds across PC, Mac, Linux and iOS devices. Generally speaking, if your system is new (or new-ish) you shouldn’t have any trouble accessing and using Zoom’s virtual backgrounds, including its recently added video backgrounds.
Older versions of operating systems may still be able to access Zoom’s virtual backgrounds feature, but could require the use of a physical green screen to get a good result.
Here’s how to add and change your Zoom virtual background:
- Sign in to the Zoom desktop client.
- Click your profile picture, then click Settings.
- Check ‘I have a green screen’ if you have a physical green screen or block-color backdrop set up. You can then click on your video to select the correct color for your green screen or backdrop.
- Click on an image to select a virtual background or add your own by clicking '+' and choosing if you want to upload an image or a video.
How to add a virtual background during a Zoom meeting
While in your meeting, find the pop-up menu next to the ‘Stop Video’ option at the bottom of the video window and select ‘Choose Virtual Background’. This will take you straight to your virtual background settings.
Best practices for Zoom virtual backgrounds
Prepare your (actual) background
- To achieve the best virtual background effect, Zoom recommends using a high-contrast, solid-color backdrop, preferably a green screen (Amazon has a good selection). Whatever you use, go for a matt, non-reflective background.
- Keep your background surface close to you.
- Don’t wear clothing that’s the same color as your background or the virtual background.
- If you are using your computer or phone camera, ensure that it’s unobstructed and smudge-free.
- Higher quality cameras result in a better virtual background, so ideally you’ll want to use an external webcam.
- Try to keep the lighting uniform across your shot (no dappled light) and not too bright or dim.
- Avoid windows, and be aware that the sun will move during daytime meetings.
- Positioning a lamp in front of you ensures a more professional look. Better still, invest in an LED Ring Light.
- Use high-quality, high-resolution images.
- Zoom recommends using background images with an aspect ratio of 16:9 and a minimum resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels.
- Zoom recommends using background videos (MP4 or MOV file) with a minimum resolution of 480 x 360 pixels (360p) and a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (1080p).
- If your background image includes text, uncheck the ‘mirror my video’ option in your video settings.
An easy and quick way to create a high-quality image for your virtual background is to use a Canva template. Select from a range of professionally designed Zoom Virtual Background Templates, or adjust the aspect ratio of any template to 1280 x 720 pixels and add, remove and customize elements to your liking.
10 ways Zoom virtual background tips and tricks
A top-notch backdrop can vastly improve the look, productivity, and outcome of your meeting. Here’s how:
1. They keep your private haven private
We can’t all be Marie Kondo. Using a virtual background will ensure that your unmade bed, unwashed dishes and underpants drying on the heater stay under wraps.
The Office Space Photo Zoom Virtual Background conceals all manner of household clutter.
2. They’re an ice-breaker
Those new to the virtual meeting space may feel a little awkward at first, especially if they’re not accustomed to seeing themselves on camera. A quirky virtual background can serve as a talking point to get things rolling.
Dog lovers are sure to enjoy the Turquoise Dogs and Paw Print Cute Zoom Virtual Background template.
3. They can ooze professionalism
Want to show your colleagues and clients that you mean business? Go for a boardroom or sleek office background setting, or incorporate your branding by way of your company logo, fonts, and color palette.
Customize the Green Boxes Professional Zoom Virtual Background for a slick, on-brand look.
4. They can create a feeling of calm
Bring a bit of peace and tranquillity to the (virtual) workspace by using a calming color as your virtual background. A blue or pastel shade should do the trick, as will a soothing scene (sky, sea and sand are always winners).
The Tropical Happiness Zoom Virtual Background will send your attendees to a happy place.
5. They can inject some fun
Who said meetings have to be boring? A cheeky or humorous backdrop will add a little personal flair, lift spirits and spark instant rapport with your colleagues.
Try the cheerful Green and Yellow Avocado Fruit Pattern Zoom Virtual Background template.
6. They minimize distractions
We’ve all seen those bungled news interviews where someone’s kid runs through the shot. A virtual background holds attention by blocking out busy spaces and unexpected interruptions, making for a more focused and productive meeting.
The simple Rainbow Gradient Pink and Purple Zoom Virtual Background template will keep eyes squarely on you.
7. They can provide some escapism
The beauty of virtual backgrounds is that you can hold your meeting anywhere – at the beach, on the moon, or the set of your favorite movie or television show (Central Perk, anyone?). They can also provide some context by indicating where meeting members are based.
Take a trip to London with the Big Ben Zoom Virtual Background template.
8. They can identify meeting members
No need for daggy name tags. A virtual background can introduce you, your job role, email address, social handles, most beloved snack and any other details you care to share with the group.
Customize the Orange Window Zoom Virtual Background to make it your own.
9. They can support and highlight information
What better way to illustrate your point than to put it front and centre? (Assuming it’s not obstructed by your head, of course). Including a simple message, list or infographic in your virtual background will ensure your viewers get the memo.
The Green Classroom Blackboard Zoom Virtual Background template makes it easy to educate your meeting attendees.
10. They make for a memorable meeting
Humans retain more information when they are visually stimulated. A compelling backdrop will better engage meeting members and keep your key points and messages front of mind.
It doesn’t get more motivating than the Pink Red Blue Aqua Geometric Slay The Day Zoom Virtual Background template.
Whatever look or setting you’re going for, be sure to preview your virtual background and nip any issues in the bud before starting or joining a meeting. Now, go and give your next Zoom conference a backdrop worth gathering around.
Check out all of Canva's Zoom virtual background templates here.