Hari Patience-Davies shares four ways to get people to turn on their cameras and be more comfortable on screen.

Virtual calls aren’t going away anytime soon, but a surprisingly high number of people still aren’t turning on the camera/video  during web-conferencing calls. Be it Zoom, Microsoft teams, Google Meet or more, here are a few ways to encourage people to embrace the webcam.


If turning cameras on during Virtual calls isn’t something your team does naturally you can always ask.

“It would be great to see everyone for this – can you all turn your cameras on please?”

A polite request should cause no offence, especially if you don’t make it an order. Remember there may be a legitimate reason they can’t turn on the video – maybe it overloads their broadband or the webcam is broken?

But if someone is consistently making excuses – and not good excuses – it may be worth scheduling a 1-2-1 meeting and asking what the problem really is? It may be something practical you or your company can help with, by offering an equipment upgrade or figuring out another location for them to work from.

Make it fun

Organised fun can sometimes be the opposite, but especially when there are so many teams working from home it’s worth trying to find something frivolous to bring people together. I’ve worked in teams that did Hat Day or Mean Girls day (“On Wednesdays we wear pink”) and what’s the point of all this cross-call costuming if people don’t turn their cameras on? Some gentle encouragement might be required – or maybe a small prize for best team costume or creative use of a background prop – that can help people get over their fear of that webcam.

If your team are concerned about their real life messes being on screen then maybe make the competition about shared virtual backgrounds or Snapchat filters (which can be implemented in some but not all virtual conferencing systems). After all the point is to see them, and if they’re too embarrassed to turn on their webcam became because their dirty laundry (figuratively or literally) is in shot, a virtual background is the perfect middle way.

Explain the technology

If people are feeling uncertain about the web conferencing technology they are using maybe finding and sharing a YouTube how to video about the particular software your team is using will make them feel more confident. Or you could provide instructions on how to blur the background or upload a virtual view? Someone people won’t know how to do this trick and will be happy to have a guide.

It’s also worth reminding people some of the other tricks and tips that Zoom, Teams and Skype have to offer.

Did you know Zoom has an “improve appearance” feature? It can smooth out your video feed, photoshopping you live on camera. Turned up to the maximum it can look a little Uncanny Valley, but as the settings are a literal sliding scale you may be able to find a filtered look that makes you feel more comfortable on camera.

One thing I would advise is showing people how to “hide the self view” – if they are at all anxious about their appearance, turning off the self view and not having to look at a video of themselves talking or presenting will help. People don’t always know that options like this exist so it’s worth sharing a how to guide to make it easier for them to learn the software.

Lead by example

Set your camera to be always on, make it your default in all settings. Show your team it’s not scary but normal, and slowly, people will follow you.

It’s important not to be seen as ordering people to turn their cameras on – many will be working in a space they never expected to be on show to their colleagues, and accepting reasonable requests for privacy is good.

Try and set boundaries – “I understand you don’t want to have your camera on all day, but please could you turn it on for this one meeting. It’s okay to blur the background if that makes you more comfortable.”

It’s worth recognising that there’s no sure fire way to get everyone on camera and happy about it – so recognise that this might be a slow process, but every small step you take is one step closer to your goal.


Image by Matthias Oberholzer on Unsplash.

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