Backgrounds in Online Meetings Telling Stories

Backgrounds in Online Meetings Telling Stories

Backgrounds in Online Meetings Telling Stories 366 222 Shlomi Ron


What’s the deal with all these backgrounds people are using in online meetings?

As our social interactions have moved to Zoom and other online meeting platforms, I have recently noticed the interesting use of virtual backgrounds – as a rich canvas to broadcast our personal brand stories.

There are a couple of archetypes that stand out:

  • The Authentic

    No virtual background: “No time for nonsense, see me in my natural habitat!”


  • The Explorer

    Grab a photo from Zoom’s default library: “Hey, that Northern Lights video is so cool!”


  • The Artist

    Upload a photo/video from her personal library: “Hey, I live in Miami, I took this beach photo, so this is my visual business card!”


  • The Gadgeteer

Use a proper green screen and lighting with their own uploaded photo/video and branding: “I am a pro!”

That’s cool but what does it all mean?

What backgrounds are you using for your online meetings?

Interestingly, during the first two months of lockdown, where many have discovered Zoom and its easy-to-use virtual backgrounds, the novelty effect has pushed more people to play The Explorer or The Artist.

Like yours truly per above. Early on, I had to share my favorite Miami’s hangout: Matheson Hammock Park 🙂

I’d say, this bodes well with that period’s growing feeling of closure and the need to project life outside the screen.

As we’re moving into Reopening, and the novelty effect dried out, The Authentic model that initially started more as a signal of a less techy person, is now coming back as a more effective storyteller.

Just you in your real-life room.


You may have noticed that uneasy feeling when you have an online meeting with people and all of them use no artificial backgrounds.

So, if you pop up your fancy beach vacation background, you’ll immediately stand out as different and attract comments.

In this sense, backgrounds have become the “new visual dress code” that implicitly signals the level of group belonging.

That beach background may be good when you meet with your close friends for a relaxed online happy hour vs. a serious business meeting with a client where your Authentic model projects more transparency and trust.

The other reason for the recent comeback of the Authentic archetype is because it offers you a more strategic stage to communicate your personal brand story about who you are or wish to be.

With long meetings, people get bored and they naturally opt to explore closer your personal slice of life you decided to share with them, and based on these visual cues tell themselves a story about who you are.

What books you have on your bookcase as this story suggests, the lighting, color template, cleanliness vs. clutter, salient objects, art on your wall, pets, and even sound disruptions.

What background should you choose?

What I recommend, before you hit that video button to show people a window into your world, plan ahead based on the nature of the meeting.

Ask yourself:

  • Is it work-related or lighter social gathering?
  • What was the visual dress code the last time you attended?
  • What are your goals for this meeting?
  • What impression are you looking to project?

And right before going live, take a look at what is the dominant “visual dress code” other members are using and decide accordingly.

Need help developing your visual storytelling strategy? Schedule a meeting.

Shlomi Ron

Shlomi Ron is the founder and CEO of the Visual Storytelling Institute, a Miami-based think tank with a mission to bring the gospel of visual storytelling from the world of art to more human-centric and purpose-driven marketing. A digital marketing veteran with over 20 years of experience working both on the agency and brand sides for Fortune 100/500 brands such as Nokia, IBM, and American Express. He started VSI to combine his marketing expertise with his passion for visual stories stemming from his interests in classic Italian cinema and managing the estate of video art pioneer, Buky Schwartz. At VSI, he helps brands rise above the communication noise through visual storytelling consulting, training, and thought leadership. Select clients include Estée Lauder, Microsoft, and Cable & Wireless – to name a few. He currently teaches Brand Storytelling at the University of Miami’s Business School. Thought leader and speaker at key marketing conferences. He is also the host of the Visual Storytelling Today podcast, which ranks in the top 10 best business storytelling podcasts on the Web. His book: Total Acuity: Tales with Marketing Morals to Help You Create Richer Visual Brand Stories. Outside work, he is a nascent bread baker, The Moth fan, and longtime fedora wearer likely to jive with his classic Italian cinema interest.

All stories by: Shlomi Ron

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.