My 5-Year Journey To Look Professional On Video Calls

I’ll let you in on a secret that I think is true. Anyvoo was partially born out of trying to make me look a little more professional on video.

Lance, the founder of Anyvoo, and I work together over at Nectafy, a fully remote content agency. Nectafy helps companies grow using content marketing. Being a remote company, we need to meet with our clients over Zoom all the time. If we look like slobs on video, it’s a poor reflection on Nectafy. Just like you wouldn’t visit a client in person with a tank top and flip flops, we don’t want to have dirty dishes or unmade beds in our video backgrounds.

So today, I’ll take you through my five-year journey to look professional on video while working from home. It took me FIVE years. Whether you just started to work from home or find yourself in one of my situations from years one through four, you can jump the line right now and start presenting well on video.

Here’s how I got there.

Year 1: My first home office video background

When Lance hired me, I lived in a four-bedroom apartment with my brother and two friends. We were all in our early- to mid-twenties and we didn’t exactly prioritize décor and environment.

This was my first desk setup.

Year one desk setup

The problem was that I took this picture because I thought it looked like a nice place to work. You can even still see that Target tag on my new desk lamp.

And this was the background, behind my chair.

Arcade hoop

Luckily, I was savvy enough to know showing an arcade hoop on a video call with a client wouldn’t present well. So for every meeting I had, I would flip my chair around to sit on the other side of the desk. People would look at the white wall and white blinds instead. I would look at the hoop.

Year 3: My portable, popup background

You’ll notice I don’t highlight anything from year two of working from home. That’s because it was much of the same. I did move to a new house with a dedicated office, which was a big improvement, but I still hadn’t put any thought into how I look on camera.

In year three, my wife started working from home as well, so we decided to travel for a few months since we could work from anywhere.

At this point, Lance had an amazing, permanent backdrop that he built out of wood. It looked great on video calls. Since I would be in a number of different apartments and hotels while traveling, I wanted to provide a consistent background for meetings. It would be too distracting to explain where we were each week or month.

Lance got to work on replicating his home office background on a foldable, photography backdrop that I could use for my calls.

Here is the backdrop in an apartment in Slovakia.

Year three backdrop I took to Slovakia

And here it was set up on my wall while we were at home.

Year three backdrop in home office

It worked great. But we also ran into some problems. Right off the bat, you can see that it’s really tall but not at all wide. I had to sit extremely close to my computer to have the video frame show only the backdrop. It was cumbersome. When the stand started to break down after about a year, it was no longer useful for travel.

Lance stepped in again to help.

Year 4: A step backward

Lance found a different photography backdrop that was much wider this time. It fixed the issue of needing to sit too close to the screen.

Here was my next generation video background.

Year four video background - pipe and drape

Yes, it’s upside down. I chose this picture because this thing was not easy to set up. I had to read directions each time, and if I didn’t pay attention, it could end up like this.

But there were even more issues with this one than the first one.

  • It was hard to assemble
  • The fabric did not pull tightly to the sides, so it would ruffle (that’s why you see the waves in the fake wood)
  • It was heavy and therefore really hard to travel with
  • It took up a ton of space in our home office

I was happy to finally get rid of this for an Anyvoo backdrop.

Year 5: Hello, Anyvoo

At this point, Lance had put so much work into finding a good solution for everyone at Nectafy, that he decided to build his own. That is how the company, Anyvoo, was born.

Here I am today with my Anyvoo backdrop.

Year five Anyvoo backdrop

And here is our team on a Zoom call.

The Nectafy team with Anyvoo backdrops

Lance set out to solve all of the issues with the previous backdrops we tried, and he did:

  • Light weight
  • Easy to assemble
  • Fabric pulls tight so it doesn’t wrinkle or wave
  • Wide enough to fit perfectly in the video frame, but no more (to minimize the space it takes up)
  • Double sided so we could have different backdrops for different calls or companies

And see that backlighting behind me? The option I went with has that built into the design. It looks great, and there is no backlight.

The importance of video professionalism.

The Anyvoo backdrop is the most important product in my home office equipment list. It’s the one tool that allows me to present professionally from home or the road. As more and more people start to work from home, products like Anyvoo will be the new business casual. And the best part is, you can wear gym shorts and still look great!

Henry O’Loughlin is the Director of Marketing at Nectafy and the founder of Buildremote, a consulting service that helps you systematically build a profitable remote company.

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