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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Feb 9, 2024


Research demonstrates the background we choose for video calls has a significant impact on how trustworthy and competent we appear. This week we explore how to boost your first impressions on a video call in three simple ways.



Hello and welcome to episode 218 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we share practical tips to improve your leadership. This week we explore how to boost your first impressions on a video call in three simple ways.

Your choice of background on a video call has a greater impact on how you’re perceived by others than you might expect. You might be tempted to choose a novelty background to communicate a sense of fun, or a home background to reflect that you’re not in the office. But there are risks with these choices.

Selecting a novelty background or a simulated home background saw ratings of trustworthiness drop. Blurring a home background resulted in better ratings of trustworthiness for the person, but the best ratings were for a background with plants or a bookcase.

The research also found that facial expressions, not surprisingly, also mattered. Happy faces were rated as more trustworthy than neutral or sad faces.

Ratings of competence also varied by background, with bookcases, plants and blank walls leading to the highest ratings. Novelty backgrounds, home backgrounds, and blurred backgrounds saw lower ratings. Again, happy facial expressions resulted in more positive ratings of competence.

Interestingly, women were seen as more trustworthy and more competent than men across all backgrounds in the experiment. Our gender impacts the first impressions we make on a video meeting. Men will likely benefit from additional efforts to demonstrate trustworthiness and competence during the meeting.

Here are three simple ways to boost your first impressions on a video call:

  1. Keep backgrounds professional.  Avoid a home or novelty background when you can. Blurring a background is better, but choosing a virtual background with a bookcase or plants helps to boost first impressions.
  2. Demonstrate warmth. Smiling helps perceptions of both trustworthiness and competence. Try to maintain your interest in others on the call and keep your facial expressions positive and engaged.
  3. Build confidence in your competence. Research suggests it’s always best to start with warmth and build perceptions of your competence over time. Being helpful, responsive, on-time, and interested can all boost how confident you appear.

Give these practical ideas a try on your next video call.


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