How do you create a virtual background in zoom? 

You may have been on a call where somebody had a fancy-branded background or they used virtual backgrounds in some clever way and you may want  to be creating your own. In this video, I’m going to share really quick how to do it but also I’m going to unpack some really creative things that you can do with virtual backgrounds as well as give you a bunch of free virtual backgrounds that will help spark more connection and engagement in your meetings. 

My name is Chad and my job is to help people turn their virtual  meetings and experiences from feelings and emotions like this to inviting people to fall in  love with virtual meetings and to see the power to meaningfully connect in virtual meetings because so often we live in this land of Zoom burnout. 

BLOG NOTE: The following is an adapted and edited transcript of one of our daily YouTube tutorials. We know sometimes it is easier to scroll through written content which is why we are publishing here. Because of that, there may be typos or phrases that seem out of context. You’ll definitely be able to get the main idea. To get the full context, visit our YouTube channel here. And if you want to watch the video on this topic specifically, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post to access it as well.

Really quickly, let’s just dive into the tech of getting a virtual background set up for like 60 seconds. Then we’ll talk about how to make your virtual backgrounds really serve your purpose. Because they can be misused. Real quick, if you want to actually set a virtual background, you just drop down to this little where it says “stop video” depending on what device you’re on. It’s a little bit different, perhaps. You get to just choose virtual background and you have a couple stock images that Zoom gives you from San Francisco to space. You can set video backgrounds, you can be hanging out at the beach. But you can also right here, add your own images or videos. By the way, if you’re using most people’s webcams are going to be in a 16×9 format.

Create a file. You can do this in Canva or any photo editing software free or paid, 1920 by 1080 pixels. That’s like presentation mode it’s like what you’d create a Powerpoint slide. 1920 by 1080. You could even create a Powerpoint slide and download those as images and then upload  them straight into Zoom. That’s essentially how you do it. Personally, our team uses Canva to create virtual backgrounds. If you just want some meaningful useful virtual backgrounds, I’m going to give you some right now and also show you some creative ways to use virtual backgrounds more effectively. Because I think sometimes or oftentimes virtual backgrounds are used ineffectively.

Using Virtual Backgrounds more effectively

You may want to set a virtual background you’re like, “Oh, such good ambiance hanging out in the northern lights. It’s so lovely.” I would say that not only is this distracting to people but Virtual backgrounds can create a level of inauthenticity. I really advocate in my work working with some of the top organizations and universities on the planet. I advocate using virtual backgrounds as wallpaper, temporary wallpaper. Thinking about the purpose of why you might use them. If you want to spark some interaction, there’s a really great way to create some interaction. 

Before splitting people into breakouts, rather than fumbling around with screen sharing to share a prompt or a question, you can just have that prompt or question right there. If you’ve got tech staff that are helping you produce a virtual event or something, you can have them have little labels or something so that people can see so the virtual backgrounds are meaningful in some way. I’ll also use them to create connection at scale and so really cool to just be able to say, “Hey, this is my son, Otto. I would love to invite you to wear his hat he just loves… Has this ability to be curious and learn in a way that as adults we’ve lost.”

Do you see how I’m using that virtual background just temporarily? Because  also, unless you have a green screen and even if you do have a green screen… Like, it looks kind of weird. It’s like you look like you’re not even a real person. I think that not only is distracting but I think it can be disconnecting. The one time that I would invite people to or say that I think it’s fine to use virtual backgrounds is for whatever reason, you might be self-conscious and you might not want people to see what’s actually in your background. You might also have kids. And virtual backgrounds are a great way to hide kids.

Back to this idea of how to use them. First of all if you like these question prompts, these are inspired by the deck of We! Connect Cards that we create which is a deck of cards with a whole bunch of questions intended to spark meaningful conversations. If you want to download a whole set of these questions to use as connection before content, icebreakers a little bit of mix up for your group. Feel free to download them. The url is Even though I work with some of the top organizations and companies on the planet to help them make connection and engagement easy, I also have this belief that information should be free.

To recap: My invitation or challenge to you is to use virtual backgrounds temporarily rather than permanently throughout a call to turn your own virtual meetings from sleep worthy and cry worthy to invite some engagement and give people the experience of like, “Ooh! That was kind of creative. I like it.” Now that said, I’m showing you these ideas. One of the things that I really invite people to do in addition to virtual backgrounds is just create analog backgrounds. What I mean by that is oftentimes, if I want to share an idea with a group fumbling around with screen share is clunky, it takes time. And when you screen share, it maximizes content and minimizes connection.

Sometimes I just love to create just to hold up an image to the screen to make a point. If I’m about to give the group some productive silence, just to think about their response to something. Really great way to create a background without actually changing any tech so that oftentimes I’ll lay out my agendas with physical items and props that help me sort of cue the group and walk them through an experience. As far as imagery too, really useful to be able to say, “Hey, what we’re about to do is an activity that if you feel like you’re stuck, or as a team you  eel like you’re stuck, we’re going to share a couple exercises that’s going to help unblock you in that moment.”

In summary, use virtual backgrounds not to make you awesome but to shift the focus and create a better experience for the people who are in your meeting. Hope  this was super useful. Got loads of free ideas.  irtual backgrounds that you can download at the link below. If you like these cards and you want to create your own analog background, they’re  called We! Engage Cards and you can find those in our Connection Toolkit. You should totally have an awesome day. Don’t use virtual backgrounds in stupid ways.



No time for a workshop?

Use this FREE “Getting Started" Kit.

You’ll get a downloadable PDF that has:

  21engaging questions that build trust

  12 creative uses for the questions

  A link to video tutorials for group activities

  ✓ A 10-page excerpt of Ask Powerful Questions: Create Conversations that Matter by Will and Chad

You have successfully joined the movement of people around the globe filling their communities and organizations with conversations that matter! After you confirm your subscription, you'll receive a PDF with 12 powerful questions and some ideas on how to use them. #askpowerfully