During the past couple of weeks, people who never worked from home learned how to use Zoom to engage with fellow workers, clients, and business prospects.

As you can well imagine, the learning curve was steep and some people had to be reminded that Zoom is a place for all the world to see. Let’s just say the experience wasn’t smooth or uneventful for everyone.

In an instant, Zoom has become a big part of the future of work. And we must do our best to manage our time with it, and the technology, supremely well.

I started my career in broadcasting. And during my undergraduate years at the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, I anticipated a career in broadcast production. The lessons from my time there—and most especially the instruction I received in my TV Directing course—inform how we all should be using Zoom and the Zoom Room. Here are five key practices to follow:

  1. Dress your set. Before starting a Zoom session, make sure that you and your participants “dress the set” or the environment for a professional look. One of the best hacks, recommended by our frequent podcast guest Carla A. Fleming of Pivoting Strategies, is to place a book-filled bookshelf in the background. If that cannot be done, just neaten up your environment—add some table art or plants for balance, but don’t overdo it. You want your fellow Zoomers to focus on you and what you are saying, not a lot of visual distractions.
  2. Lighting is key. In broadcasting, we used three-point or back/fill/key lighting design to make the person in the shot look good. We don’t have access to broadcast-quality lighting, but a good overhead light plus a desk lamp shining at least 100 watts of candle power should do the trick. Under-lit “sets” are terribly distracting for participants in a Zoom session.
  3. Dress professionally. Not only will wearing your usual office wear put you in a professional mood, it will tell your fellow participants that you take these Zoom sessions seriously. To that end, establish an informal dress code so that everyone knows what is expected.
  4. Achieve good sound quality. DO NOT rely on your laptop’s built-in mic and speakers which, together, produce poor sound quality. Instead, invest in an inexpensive plug-and-play microphone and headphones. If you are participating in a Zoom session from your iPad, then you can actually get away with using your Bluetooth-enabled ear-pods or the standard wired version.
  5. Watch the clock. Broadcast and cable TV shows run on-the-clock. Make sure that you, or an appointed person, acts as the official keeper-of-time-and-schedule. That way, your time in the Zoom Room will be effective and enjoyable.

Subscribe to The Tightrope Podcast where you get podcasts.

DAN SMOLEN is founder of The Dan Smolen Experience, LLC. He is also the executive producer and host of The Tightrope Meaningful Work Podcast.  Please comment here to let us know how we are doing, and, to offer suggestions for future guests and topics.

Media credits: Zoom Room, Dan Smolen; Broadcast Control Room, iStock Photo