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How to have a great Zoom background

You own the foreground. Do not obstruct it with objects, plants, or pets (if possible). Become and remain the subject of your own story!

Don’t be like Waldo on Zoom, of “Where is Waldo?” fame. English illustrator Martin Handford created a pop culture phenomenon by “hiding” the titular character in extreme crowds (with zero social distancing!) and elaborate natural backgrounds. Waldo can be unreasonably difficult to spot to the point of losing interest in looking for/at Waldo. You don’t want to be like Waldo on your Zoom screen!

Own the foreground

Let’s make one thing clear. You own the foreground. Do not obstruct it with objects, plants, or pets (if possible). Unless a particular object, plant or pet is a focal point of a specific portion of your presentation.

Your background

If you physical environment at the time of your call is not sufficiently adequate for a business interaction, proceed to the Virtual Backgrounds section on the Zoom site and download one.

Сhoose a contrasting, preferably monochromatic solid background. White and grey backgrounds are often the safest. They work well with other colours and they keep a formal atmosphere.

If you are light skinned, opt for darker walls. If you are dark skinned, go for a brighter one.

If you are dressed in bright colours, go for a neutral background. Brighter colours can work if geometrically “blocked”.

Things to avoid

If you are using your actual physical space, avoid heavily patterned wallpapers. Accessorise your background lightly. Framed images and keepsakes can add personality and atmosphere, but they can also overwhelm and distract.

Avoid doorways and high traffic areas. People or vehicles moving through the frame deemphasise your presence. Every. Time. To emphasise this point to the extreme degree, look up a story about Spanish journalists Alfonso Merlos and Alexia Rivas which went regrettably viral [1].

Become and remain the subject of your own story!


  1. Ewan Somerville. “TV anchor accused of cheating after ‘lover’ appears during live news report.” Evening Standard. April 30, 2020. Available at
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Power Dressing in the Zoom Era

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