Ban the zoom backgrounds?

In this weeks Guest Blog, DIB Birmingham Chair, Kim Leary discusses Zoom and how people are ready for live events to resume.

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So I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t based on a huge amount of research but more on a gut feeling.

The one thing we can say about Zoom and Teams is that it’s given us a window into other people’s homes. There’s something very personal about this and I’m sure we’re all guilty of checking out our colleague’s interior choices. 

For this reason alone I completely understand why someone might want to hide their room, especially from their nosey colleagues. But during a recent conversation at Wine Down Wednesday, we discussed the difference it makes between having a fake background and not.

It quickly became apparent, that particularly in a networking environment, we might try to avoid the “corporate background” person for fear of being sold to. Not only that but we felt less of a connection to them and were less drawn to a conversation with them. Ouch. 

I found this fascinating and did a little more research. The Harvard Business Review conducted a survey last year of 500 business women and men. They found that:

“When it came to backgrounds, showing the actual room behind the speaker was the most popular choice,”. “If you’re striving for authenticity, trustworthiness, or expertise, a blank wall or virtual scenic background do not offer much in the way of gravitas or sincerity. Opt instead for showing the room you are in – but ideally, choose a contained space, and consider what’s on the wall behind you.”

“Across the board, virtual scenic backgrounds averaged only 7.5 percent of the vote – suggesting that they’re best saved for your next virtual happy hour, not your next work meeting,” 

So my question is, will you consider ditching the virtual or branded background at the next networking event you attend?

Words by Kim Leary, DIB Birmingham Chair & CEO of Squibble

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