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Hold your next Zoom meeting from Venice Beach, even if it's closed, with backgrounds courtesy of Visit Sarasota County.

SW Florida

Miss Sarasota best beaches? Slide them into your Zoom background.

Idyllic backgrounds can still color your video conferences.

You can’t visit Siesta Key Beach right now, but co-workers in your Zoom meeting don’t need to know that.

A global pandemic has shut down Southwest Florida’s beaches. But it has dramatically increased use of video conferencing as Floridians work from home.

So the team at Visit Sarasota has decided if they can’t get people to the beach, they’ll bring the beach to their video feeds.

A gallery of Zoom backgrounds does that, letting a shell-laden beach in Nokomis, a lifeguard station on Lido or a mysteriously crowded volleyball match on Siesta serve as the backdrop for your next office chat.

A gallery of free photography perfectly sized for Zoom windows can be downloaded from the Visit Sarasota site.

Brittany Guertin, Communications and Content Manager for the destination marketing organization, said the idea erupted as staff worked from home amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally, Vice President Erin Duggan noted the expansive library of scenery photos the organization had on file.

“The question was [posed,] what if we uploaded these into a library promoted as a Zoom background?” Guertin recalls. “It was pretty easy. We just picked the ones we had that would work best.”

But Guertin said the true magic came when Content Coordinator Adam Cellini put on a tropical shirt and took some enthusiastic test shots.

That in turn inspired Executive Assistant Shantel Norman to put on a beach kimono and take some sample shots of her own.

The gallery landed on line with a quick explainer on setting backgrounds, and quickly the organization had 149 downloads.

Sarasota County closed all of its beaches on March 21. But that just means there’s as great a zeal as ever for images from the beach.

The pictures don’t only serve as Zoom backgrounds. They can also be used for PowerPoints and other print functions.

And it’s largely just a repurposing of photos the tourism bureau already had on hand.

The organization has continued to seek ways to boost brand awareness of Sarasota County even if it can’t encourage guests to come into town. That includes sharing video libraries, links to social media tours of top sites and virtual resources to enjoy environments or cultural treasures in the region.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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