News article

Why your choice of Zoom background might stop prospective clients from trusting you

This time, four years ago, the country was grappling with the Covid-19 crisis and your client meetings were forced to move online.

Fast forward to 2024 and while many meetings have reverted to a traditional face-to-face format, the proportion that takes place remotely is almost certainly higher than before the pandemic.

Indeed, if you tuned into our webinar with Rory Sutherland last month, you’ll know that he believes remote meetings are still a massive marketing opportunity for advisers and planners.

So, this makes new research from a team at Durham University very interesting – especially when it comes to meeting new clients, who naturally don’t know you already.

Your virtual meeting background can reduce trust

Durham University research found that your choice of background affects how you are perceived.

Get it right, and it’ll enhance trustworthiness and the perception of competence.

Get it wrong, and you’ll reduce both.

This is particularly important when it comes to meetings with new prospects who haven’t yet had the chance to build a trusting relationship with you.

The research showed 167 adults a man or a woman with six different backgrounds:

  • A bookcase
  • A blank wall
  • House plants
  • A novelty image
  • A blurred home
  • A simulated home.

Unsurprisingly, the research found that novelty images being used as backgrounds reduced trust. A simulated home background had the same effect, with the research team suggesting this might be because people using such backgrounds were perceived to be hiding something about their homes.

And, while the research didn’t draw this conclusion, it’s not hard to see how a simulated office background could also reduce trust.

In contrast, using plants, a bookcase, or a blank wall as a background increased trust. The same was also true with a blurred background.

Your background choice also affects perceived competence

It isn’t only trust levels that your background will affect – it also affects how people perceive your competence.

Blurred, home, and novelty backgrounds all reduced the perception of competence, while bookcases, plants, and blank walls had the opposite effect.

What should your Zoom or Teams background be?

The research shows that your choice of background on remote calls is important, especially with potential new clients when you’ll want to appear trustworthy and competent.

As Rory said during our webinar, investing in how you appear on Zoom is the modern-day equivalent of an expensive Italian suit!

So, what should you use? You have two options.

Firstly, you could curate an impressive physical backdrop. For example, when I’m presenting on a webinar, I have a well-stocked bookcase behind me which also includes some strategically placed trophies.

Secondly, you could use a bespoke virtual background which includes your logo and some social proof, for example, your Google/VouchedFor score. These are very easy to produce and upload to Zoom.

If you choose this option, make sure you test the virtual background on a variety of screen sizes. Only last week we had a call with an adviser who chose this option, but half his logo had been chopped off, which didn’t look great.

Yardstick can design a virtual background for you

If you don’t have the time, skill, or inclination to design your own virtual background, we’re here to help.

All you need to do is email or call 0115 8965 300 and we’ll put you in touch with our branding team.

Finally, thanks to Helena Wardle of Money Means for sharing this research with us.

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