By now everyone is pretty familiar with the virtual background feature in Zoom. Let’s face it, when you started at UTS you probably didn’t envisage inviting teams of people from work into your home on a daily basis. Maybe you’ve already used the feature – to hide your messy bedroom office perhaps? Maybe you’ve used a virtual background to humorous effect, or as a means of self-expression. Or perhaps it’s a tool for breaking the ice and engaging with students?

Lifting your virtual background game

Do a quick online search and you’ll see lots of organisations, such as the BBC, have created Zoom-ready backgrounds. These backgrounds can be uploaded to your account for free, moving your virtual background game beyond the Golden Gate Bridge stock image to, say, the inside of the TARDIS from ‘Doctor Who’.

TARDIS set from the BBC series 'Doctor Who'

But – going beyond privacy, humour, and self-expression – virtual backgrounds can also be used to enhance the multimodal presentation capabilities of Zoom. Enter: custom backgrounds.

Using custom backgrounds

With so many lessons being recorded and delivered on Zoom, custom backgrounds are a great opportunity to distinguish yourself. For example, consider business settings. Here in the Postgraduate Learning Design media team, we’ve noticed how guest lecturers who’ve been brought into a class via Zoom use the virtual background feature to display their business name or logo.

And, beyond the online classroom, you can use these same techniques in your meetings. For instance, you can distinguish yourself in large groups by displaying your faculty or department on your virtual background. This can help others in meetings know where best to direct a question, or to listen to your message more closely instead of searching for you on staff connect. Or, if you’re in a meeting including an external audience you could even display the UTS logo on a custom background (make sure you’re using the correct branding).

DIY custom backgrounds

You don’t even need to be a Photoshop whizz to create your own custom background, thanks to the unicorn of Sydney start-ups, Canva and their recently released Zoom background tool, which you can use to access a library of editable backgrounds.

Background template you can use as a Zoom background
Simply select one of the many free background templates…
…and with just a few keystrokes you have a custom Zoom background!

Where possible, position yourself in a natural light source like a window. Virtual backgrounds work best when the real background is a plain surface, ideally you want to avoid bookcases curtains etc.

Have fun choosing and using your virtual backdrop!

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