Thanks to the coronavirus (COVID-19), many of us are now working from home and finding ourselves with a calendar full of virtual meeting requests.
If you are new to the work-from-home (WFH) club, these virtual conference calls can be intimidating and sometimes tricky. With a new video platform popping up seemingly every day, you may find yourself downloading the Zoom app for 1 meeting, Skype for another, Slack for another, and so on — until you run out of time or space.
Whether you are meeting with colleagues about a project you are working on or hosting a virtual happy hour with your socially-distanced friends, getting familiar with the video app will help make your experience better.
And if you want to change your background, calls could get a little more fun!
What Is Zoom?
Even if you aren’t telecommuting, you have probably heard of Zoom as it has exploded in popularity since the pandemic hit.
Zoom is a free, cloud-based video conferencing app for your computer, smartphone, tablet. The app allows users to easily set up virtual meetings (with video or audio-only) without an account, so users only need a link and a password to start their meeting.
If users want a more robust experience with longer calls, recording options, professional meeting options, and more, there are multiple paid versions.
The frictionless experience has made Zoom the go-to app for online gatherings in 2020, both professional and personal, despite competitors like Skype being in the video calling field for over a decade.
Tips for Your Next Video Conference Call
Since working from home is new for many of us, some pointers can come in handy for the WFH newbie.
Before we get into the fun stuff (like changing your virtual background), here are some basic tips to improve your video call game.
Choose Your Background and Lighting Wisely
If you have been on the internet at all in the past few months, you have surely seen some video call fails courtesy of new Zoom users (tip: don’t bring your computer into the bathroom with you).
If you are setting up for a call, especially a work call, be sure to appear professional.
It is probably a good idea to keep your camera stationary (not in the bathroom) and make sure the lighting is in front of you, not behind you, so that you are visible to the camera.
Close Other Apps
Depending on how old your computer is, running a video application may slow down its performance and make your call choppy.
It is generally a good practice to close any other apps that will not be used during the call and disable any pop-ups, especially if you plan on sharing your screen.
Check Your Internet Connection
Even if you have the fastest computer in the world, if your internet connection is weak or slow, your call is doomed.
If you aren’t sure if you have a solid connection, you check your internet speed easily online.
If your internet speed isn’t fast enough (generally you will need at least 1-4 Mbps), try moving closer to the router and asking other users to reduce their video usage or downloads while you are on your call.
We’re not here to judge — we love to travel in comfort, so sweatpants are generally fine with us. But some calls may require a bit more professionalism than others. Your annual budget meeting may be a bit more formal than a happy hour with friends. Just be sure to read to the room!
Test Your Audio and Video
Once you have checked off all of the previous to-dos, now you can check your audio and visual connections.
Depending on the app you are using, an option for testing your connection will pop up as you are logging in to your call.
If you are using a new computer or recently updated some software, it is generally a good idea to do a quick test before joining the call. You can find out the step-by-step instructions for Zoom here.
Position Your Camera
Depending on the device you are using, your camera may not be located in the most flattering position.
For example, some laptops have the webcam located at the bottom of the screen, which means that everyone in your meeting is looking up at you… or depending on how you are sitting, up your nose.
If necessary, stack your computer or tablet on something so that the camera is eye-level… and remember to look at the camera!
Upgrade Your Equipment
Although your trusty old laptop may have a webcam built it, it may not be the best option — especially if you will be attending video conferences regularly.
Investing in an external webcam with an upgraded microphone can go a long way in improving your video call experience.
If you want to take your calls to the next level, consider adding a ring light so that you don’t need to be shifting around your home’s lighting just to avoid awkward shadows.
Let Your Family or Roommates Know That You Are on a Call
Finally, it doesn’t matter if you have the perfect video call setup if you are constantly being interrupted by family or a roommate making noise in the background.
Simply letting people know that you are on a video call will help prevent that potentially awkward moment of someone walking behind your after they just got out of the shower — it happens more than you might think!
How to Change Your Background
One of the cool parts of having a video call is that you can digitally alter your background.
If you don’t feel like cleaning up your home office or just want to add a fun tropical vibe to your next online meeting, just swap your background with one of the great travel-inspired options below.
Despite Zoom being the most popular of the video conferencing apps of the moment, there are plenty of others that offer similar services. Here is a quick introduction on how to change your background in some of the most popular programs.
If you use BlueJeans for your virtual calls, you will need to download the Snap Camera desktop app by Snapchat to change your background.
In addition to changing your background, Snap Camera can add filters, virtual makeup, and even accessories to help brighten the mood of your meeting.
Once you have downloaded the app, just launch BlueJeans and select the camera option that will now show you all of your new, fun options, including the ability to add your own backgrounds. For the full instructions, click here.
Webex is another big name when it comes to corporate video conferencing. If you want to blur or change your background, it is quite easy.
Before you join a call, just click on the Change Background button and either blur your background or replace it with an image.
For full instructions, click here.
Google says that the option to blur or change your background will be “available soon.”
Since Google has not launched a background feature, Google Hangouts users rely on Snap Camera for their filter needs.
Once you download the Snap Camera app, open the Google Hangouts setting option, choose your new camera, and go. You can even create your own Snap Lens with one of our travel-inspired backgrounds below.
For full instructions, click here.
If you find yourself hosting professional webinars, you probably don’t want to be adding silly Snapchat filters to your video.
However, a nice background change may help keep your audience engaged. GoToMeeting users can use SparkoCam to get this option.
For the full instructions, click here.
Many companies use Microsoft Teams, so knowing how to change your background can be helpful to many employees with messy home offices.
Whether you want to just blur your background or swap it out for one of our travel-themed backgrounds, the process is easy.
When joining a meeting, there is a button next to the microphone labeled Background effects. Just click and choose your style.
For more details, click here.
Skype is (was) probably the most recognized name when it comes to video chatting. The service is packed with features, including the option to alter the background of your video call.
During your call, just click on the …More menu and then Choose background effect and upload one of the photos below.
You can find the full instructions here.
Finally, the instructions we have all been waiting for… how to change your virtual background in Zoom!
There are a few different options, but if you are already in a Zoom call, just click on the upward arrow (^) next to the Start/Stop Video button and click Choose Virtual Background.
You can find the complete set of instructions here.
If you are looking to add a little wanderlust to your next conference call or just create a more tropical feel during your next virtual happy hour, we have the perfect virtual backgrounds for you.
Just save these travel-themed images on your computer and then add them to your favorite video conference app during your next call.
Airplanes are some of the most beautiful and technological marvels that humans have ever created. Until you can get back on board, here are some aspirational aviation backgrounds. If you are ready to fly, be sure to read our post on how to pick the best seat with SeatGuru.
American Airlines Boeing 737
Emirates Airbus A380 Fleet
JetBlue Airbus A320 Cabin
JetBlue Airbus A320 Even More Space Seat
Helicopter Flying Over Rio de Janeiro
Qatar Airways 777 Qsuites
Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 First Class Suites
United Airlines Boeing 787 Cockpit
United Airlines Polaris Business Class Seat
Strolling through airports is one of our favorite pastimes. If you need to scratch that same itch until your next flight, you might enjoy some of these backgrounds. And if you really want to revisit some of your favorite airports, check out our guides here.
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport LED Light Tunnel
Hamad International Airport, Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Centre, Doha
JFK Airport, JetBlue Terminal 5, New York
JFK Airport, JetBlue Terminal 5 Check-In Kiosks, New York
JFK Airport, TWA Hotel Pool, New York
Singapore Changi Airport Rain Vortex
Working from home certainly has its perks, and for some, that might mean being able to work from the beach. If you can’t feel the sand on your toes, you can at least pretend with some of these gorgeous backgrounds. And if you are looking for some of the best beaches for your next trip, check out this list.
Beach in the Maldives
Beach Umbrellas by the Ocean
Cave Beach in Indonesia
Ocean During Sunset
Although Americans can’t easily visit Europe or other exciting destinations at the moment, they can at least visit virtually. We have picked out some beautiful photos of our favorite cities from around the world so you can add a little flair to your next meeting. And if you are looking for a virtual getaway, check out our list of popular attractions from around the world with virtual tours.
London, United Kingdom
New York City, United States
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Sometimes we just need a little extra magic in our day, and there is no better place to get that magic than from Disney. Scroll down and pick one of your favorite backdrops for your next conference call.
If you are looking for some virtual magic, be sure to experience our list of virtual Disney rides from around the world.
Monorail at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Orlando
Epcot at Walt Disney World, Orlando
Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Orlando
No need for elite status to get an upgrade here. Scroll down for some of the best views at some of the best properties in the world. Ready to start planning your next trip? Don’t miss our list of most popular Ritz-Carlton locations from around the world.
Burj Al Arab, Dubai, U.A.E.
JW Marriott Khao Lak Beachfront Resort, Thailand
Park Hyatt Saint Kitts Christophe Harbour
The Ritz-Carlton South Beach, Miami
St. Regis New York
The right credit card or Priority Pass membership has made accessing elusive airline lounges even easier for frequent flyers. If you want to reminisce about grabbing a drink before your dream vacation, pull up a chair to one of these virtual lounge backgrounds.
American Airlines Admirals Club Phoenix
SilverKris Lounge at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3
United Airlines Polaris Lounge
Many travelers are loading up their RVs for a road trip to one of America’s great national parks. If you dream of crisp mountain air and serene lake vistas, these are the backgrounds for you.
Blue Lake and Snowy Mountains
Mountains by the Lake
Snow-Capped Swiss Mountains
Whether for business or pleasure, these travel-themed backgrounds should help create some wanderlust during your next virtual conference call.
From Google to Zoom, we’ve got you covered with instructions on how to take your meeting to the next level and hopefully inspire your next vacation.