An Easy Way to Look and Feel Better On Zoom

I started taking a late-night comedy writing class in September. That means I’m learning how to write monologue jokes based on real news headlines à la Stephen Colbert or Conan. How about this one,

Microsoft pulled its underwater data center out of the Scottish sea, which means the Loch Ness Monster has lost its favorite chew toy.

This class is offered through The Second City, where many of today’s comedy greats have honed their craft. Normally, I would have had to be in Hollywood to take the class, but under the current circumstances, I’ve been able to Zoom to class and have classmates from across the U.S. and even one in Canada. Connecting through Zoom is a great thing, but I started to feel self-conscious about letting all these talented people look directly into the inner workings of my apartment living room.


They could see overstuffed bookshelves and my husband walking around behind me as he unwinds after his workday. Since the start of the pandemic, I have been participating in Zoom meetings, and I did realize people could see all the stuff behind me. I think I was holding out hope that this video meeting thing was going to be short term. I thought to myself, We should be at a local restaurant right now having a lunch meeting–not connecting over a computer screen.

I was resentful of having to change how I do things, so I did little to figure out a new arrangement, and as a result, people could see all the stuff behind me. It took experiencing a little embarrassment to get me motivated. After the first comedy writing class session, where things out of my control happened behind me, I decided to do something about how I presented myself.

I bought a woven rattan room divider off Wayfair. I had it set up behind my chair at the next class session. The teacher called me out on it saying, “I remember seeing a room behind you and someone walking around. That panel is so smart!” Other than me being slightly allergic to the rattan, which smells like a cornfield, the panel works. I do feel better knowing that whatever’s going on behind me is blocked from myself–which helps with my concentration during video calls—and the people I’m on the call with don’t have to choose where to put their attention when I’m speaking.

So my message is if you’ve been waiting to make a change or investment in your business that could help you professionally consider going ahead with that change—as long as it makes sense to you, of course. It could be a small change that makes you feel more comfortable, and that will be enough to make a noticeable difference in your life.

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