Communications Insight For More Inspiring Leaders Your Online Background Matters...

Your Online Background Matters...

 18th Oct 2020

Thanks to Covid 19, online backgrounds have been all the rage in recent months.

Chances are, you’ll have seen countless variations.

I’ve observed presenters in outer space… above the Golden Gate Bridge… or, in one case, parked in front of an immaculately sculpted, pristine cocktail bar.

What’s clear is that when communicating online, your background does matter.

A significant portion of the workforce has, in effect, entered domestic television broadcasting.

But compared to a ‘real world encounter’, this new channel of communication is:

  • More narrowly focused
  • More intense
  • More intimate

When speaking online, we face two enemies:

Distraction and Fatigue.

So, what can we do about them?


Tip 1 – Go Real, Not Virtual

If you possibly can, avoid using a virtual background.

Yup, I’ve said it.


Because too often, your image will be pixellated by the background.

If you want to appear like a Ring Wraith, watch Lord Of The Rings.

Even if the picture is clear, you risk triggering a question in the mind of some, more cynical, observers:

“What’s he or she hiding that they don’t want me to see?”

Find a wall (preferably blank - see below).

Ensure there’s some decent light.

You’ll come across just fine.

**An exception to this relates to Confidentiality (see below). If there’s detail in the background that you really cannot allow the other person to see, then fine. Equally, if there are other people in the background and you’re wanting to preserve a sense of confidentiality for the call, then OK. Even better if you can find a private space though.


Tip 2 – If You Must Go Virtual, Have A Good Reason

A client of mine works in the same room as his fiancée.

To preserve a sense of confidentiality for market sensitive calls, he has opted for a virtual background.

Fair enough.

By contrast, I heard of one senior executive who reportedly had a photo taken of their workplace office…

And then used that as their virtual background.

Not so good.

That’s just trying a bit too hard, isn’t it?


Tip 3 – Have A Talking Point

If you’re going to have something behind you, make it one thing and be happy to talk about it.

Great tip this, suggested by a friend of mine who works in a leadership role in big tech.

Another good example is a client of mine who’s clearly a fitness enthusiast.

Giant ‘Ironman Event’ poster on her wall.


It’s clear, it’s personal and it’s a talking point.

It certainly sparked my interest…

The trick is to keep it simple. One talking point is plenty.

Clutter your background with too much clobber and you’ll distract people.

Remember the real focus needs to be you.

Not your book shelves.


Tip 4 – Plain Is Good

What if you were to have… nothing at all?

No distractions.

Just you.


 In 2019 I had the pleasure of working with Simon while pitching at the final of The Venture, the most important competition for social entrepreneurs. Simon not only helped me to deliver a perfect pitch to an audience of 2,500 people, he also helped me to improve my body language and storytelling abilities.

I am very certain that I won that contest thanks to Simon's help."


Javier Larragoiti Kuri I Founder of Xilinat, Researcher, Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Mexico, Global Winner of The Chivas Venture 2019

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