Don’t settle for boring video chat meetings. 11 ways to make calls more fun

Logo Tech Tips CNET

Video chat apps have become an essential part of our daily work – and personal life – over the past couple of years. But watching your own face framed by your messy living room or ordinary home office on the screen can get boring — for you and for them.

Fortunately, popular video chat and conferencing platforms such as ZoomFacetime and Google Meet offer ways to spice up your chats with fun features and settings. We break down the tips for each application below.


1. Change your Zoom background, use filters and avatars

Virtually transport yourself to the beach, outer space, or anywhere else you can imagine by changing and customizing your background during Zoom calls. You can read our step by step guide on how to change your zoom background on the desktop and mobile app, but basically you’re accessing Settings > Background & Effects > Virtual Backgroundand select or download the one you want from there.

You can repeat the same steps and choose Video filters for Snapchat style filters or Avatars which can turn you into a cute animal.

Demo of changing your background on a Zoom call

What’s more fun than teleporting into conference calls from space?

Screenshot by Alison DeNisco Rayome/CNET

2. Buckle up carefully in a meeting

Not that we’d ever recommend doing it, but if you wanted to create a custom background that’s just a loop of yourself nodding in a meeting, you could technically do it, like David Zhou by Mailchimp tweeted.

To get the video background option, follow the instructions for customizing your background above and just add a video file instead of a photo. You may need to make sure your Zoom is updated and you are experiencing Minimum System Requirements. If you want to try something different, here’s how CNET’s Jesse Orrall pre-recorded themselves in video meetings to see if his colleagues would notice.

3. Turn your Zoom mic on and off with the spacebar

Want to feel like a DJ working in your pajamas from his kitchen table? Mute your microphone, then press and hold spacebar whenever you need to talk.

4. Look your best with a Zoom beauty filter

If it’s one of those days when you think you’re not looking your best, Zoom has an answer: a feature called Touch Up My Appearance. Basically, it’s a softening filter, like you’ll find on Instagram, FaceTune, or your phone’s selfie camera.

To activate it, go to Settings > Video and check the Touch Up My Appearance area. From here you can use the slider to change the intensity of the filter.

Two phones using FaceTime

FaceTime has come a long way since its launch.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple FaceTime for iPhone and Mac

1. Chat as Animoji or Memoji in FaceTime

If you have created a personalized Memoji avatar, you can use it to replace your face during a FaceTime call. To do this, start a FaceTime call, tap your phone screen, and tap the Effects button (it looks like a star and is located at the bottom left of the screen). Tap the first icon that appears at the bottom of the menu to choose the Memoji or Animoji you want to use and you’ll see your face replaced with that choice. Press the Effects again to stop using the character or to switch to another.

2. Add filters and effects to your FaceTime chats

Make your FaceTime video call a little more interesting by adding filters and effects, just like you would on Snapchat or Instagram. To do this, start a FaceTime call, press the display and press again Effects button. You will see different options in terms of effects, features and stickers that you can use during your call – which will remain in effect throughout the call or until you decide to remove them.

3. Blur your background on FaceTime

Again, no one wants to worry about a messy workspace while on a call. To blur your background on FaceTime, tap the Effects button then press the profile style button in the upper left corner of your screen. This will automatically blur your background.

Google Meet

1. Add filters and effects to your Google Meet

When you start or join a Google Meet video chat, you can add fun Snapchat-style backgrounds, styles, and filters. Explore, tap the glitter icon on your self-view window. This will open an Effects menu. You can choose cozy animated or static backgrounds like a library, a greenhouse, a fairy house in the woods and more. In the same menu, you can add different styles like black and white, or fun animal and cartoon filters. To add your own background, tap the plus icon and upload a photo.

2. Blur your background on Google Meet

To blur your background during your Google Meet video chat, tap the icon glitter icon again to open the Effects menu. Choose the first icon for a more blurred background, or the second icon for a slightly less blurry background.

3. Adjust for poor lighting

You can also bypass poor lighting conditions with Google Meet. Press the three dot button at the bottom of your screen, choose Settings and activate Adjust video for low light.

4. Enable subtitles

If you need extra help following a meeting, Google Meet has the option to turn on live captions. To activate them, press the three dot button at the bottom of your screen, choose Settings and activate Live captions.

For more information see seven zoom mistakes to avoid and how to set up google meet.