Matt Buckley escapes a Zoom meeting by changing his background

With what’s going on in the world today, more and more companies are looking to Zoom to have virtual meetings. This allows companies to meet remotely, but it also gives you the opportunity to skip meetings without your boss even knowing.

Yes. There’s a feature in Zoom that allows you to put in your own backgrounds. When people discovered this, they started playing with it and realized you can pet in video loops of yourself listening as the background. It was first discovered by high schoolers looking to cut class. Now, it’s being looked at by professionals wishing they could get some time away from a meeting.

Here’s how these people are using the features:

Changing the background on Zoom

It is really simple to change the background on Zoom. Zoom features a tool called Virtual Backgrounds. The way the tool works is like a green screen without an actual green screen. If you have a compatible computer, which most of us do, you can swap out your real-life background with a picture or video. While most people switch out the background with pictures of places like the Eiffel Tower or the Golden Gate Bridge, you can also use this feature to get out of a meeting.

Use green screen for conference calls
In the Virtual Background tab, you can change the background of you frame. Image courtesy: Zoom

How to change your background in Zoom

  • 1: Open Zoom
  • 2: Click your profile picture, then the Settings link
  • 3: Go to the Virtual Background tab
  • 4: In the tab, choose to upload your own photos or videos
  • 5: If you don’t see that option, click “I have a green screen”. Go here if you want to learn more about setting up a green screen for video calls.

Preparing your loop

You need to have a picture or a video of yourself to be able to pull this off. The best way to do this is to record a video of yourself right before the meeting. It is important that you get the right lighting and positioning in the video as it will appear when the Zoom conference starts. It might be tempting to film a video of yourself hours before so you can have it ready, but you could run into continuity problems. For instance, if there is natural light where you are, it could look different if you shoot too early.

Also, be aware of anything in the background that might give it away that you’re playing a video loop. For instance, if your cat walks across the room while you’re filming the loop, your cat’s walk will be caught in the loop. If your boss sees your cat walking across the room even just a couple times, it will be clear that you’re up to something.

Start off the meeting being there, greeting everyone, and if you have an opportunity to duck out during a long stretch of talking, place in your photo or video. Of course, a video will look a lot more natural, but a picture can work if you don’t often move much or there’s a large group of people in the meeting.

Here are a few examples you can use for reference:

How should you act while filming?

It’s important that you film yourself in a loop with believable movements. You don’t want to film yourself doing anything too drastic, like taking a sip of water. Sure it will look fine a few times, but after your coworkers see you take the same sip 30 times in half an hour, that will look suspicious. It’s best to attract the least amount of attention. Give a few occasional head nods, look like your listening, and keep looking at the camera. All your coworkers will be paying attention to the speaker. They won’t be looking at you unless you give them a reason to.

The getaway

So you have your video placed. Now, you have to make a seamless escape. While you might want to zoom out of there with a sudden movement, it might be best to quickly, yet smoothly bend your way out of the frame. This is riskiest part of the entire process; however, you have to make it as seamless as you can so no one will notice you left.

David Zhou makes a seamless escape
Try to make your escape as seamless as possible. Image courtesy: David Zhou


While you might think you’ll be able to pull all of this off, just know that if you are caught doing it there could be huge consequences. Also note that it is better try and pull this off if you’re in a big group Zoom call. If your meeting in a small team, you are very likely to be caught because everyone will be able to focus more on each person in the call. Also, if your boss or one of your coworkers asks you a question, you will for sure be caught. This is risky, but it is possible to pull it off. Just don’t make a habit of it.

Image courtesy: Kate Buckley


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