Most of us are spending a lot of time talking to people via some form of video link these days. If my experience is anything to go by, seeing yourself on screen in this way for the first time can be a bit of an eye-opener – and not in a good way!
Fortunately, I’ve since discovered some simple steps you can take to help you look your best and create a great impression.
The dress code
Obviously, what you wear will depend on the purpose of the video call and what impression you want to make. For the purposes of this article, I will assume we’re talking business.
In general, when working from home, a more relaxed style of dress is perfectly acceptable. However, clothes should be clean, uncrumpled and uncontroversial so as not to distract from your message. This means no inappropriate slogans, that might cause offence, and not too much flesh on display. Remember, you may be at home but you are still in work mode. If in doubt, take your lead from what more senior colleagues are wearing.
If your video meeting is with people outside your own organisation, you’ll probably want to dress a bit more formally than with your normal work colleagues. As with face-to-face client meetings, it’s good practice to dress at least as smartly as your client.
Looking your best
Your audience is only going to be seeing your top half, so this is where to focus your attention.
If you’ve had your colours analysed, opt for one of your best shades in a fairly bold block colour; prints can be a bit distracting on screen and stripes can cause strobing.
Give particular consideration to your neckline as this is mainly what will be seen. Avoid anything too low that might reveal too much cleavage, particularly if you are prone to leaning forward and check that you haven’t inadvertently left any buttons unfastened. However hot the weather, avoid off-the-shoulder necklines – with just your face and shoulders visible on screen, they can make it look like you’re not wearing any clothes!
Jewellery can be used to add interest to your outfit but avoid anything jangly that will distract – layered bangles are particularly bad for this.
Hair & make-up
Make sure that the front of your hair looks OK. The back doesn’t really matter as nobody will be seeing it.
Wearing a little make-up will make you look that more polished and healthy on screen, particularly as webcams tend to wash you out. Keep eye make-up quite light but use a little more blusher than usual and maybe a slightly stronger shade of lipstick. Cameras pick up on shine so if your skin is oily, dust on a little face powder to mattify it. Likewise, avoid highlighter as this can look shimmery and unnatural over webcam.
Setting the scene
Do be aware of what can be seen in the background. If you’re new to working from home, you may not have the luxury of dedicated office space but, keep the area around you that will be seen on screen as neutral and uncluttered as you can. If possible, try to avoid unwanted intrusions from pets and children by shutting the door but don’t worry too much if you have a “little visitor” during your call, people are generally more understanding during these difficult times.
Lights, camera, action!
Try to position your webcam at eye level so that you can look directly into the lens. You can buy laptop stands to raise your laptop to the right height, but a pile of books will also do the job. The temptation is to look at the little image of yourself on screen or at the person you’re talking to, but the most effective way to make virtual eye contact is to look into the lens. Any key points you want to put across in the call can be attached to the outer edges of your monitor so that you can refer to them easily.
Ideally, place your webcam in front of a window so that natural light falls on your face as this is most flattering. If you can’t do this, switch on the lights and, if possible, have a lamp at your side – a lamp on each side is better still.
Most importantly, be sure to take a look at yourself onscreen ahead of the call so that you can check out your appearance, positioning and what can be seen in the background, and make any adjustments as necessary.
If you’re using Zoom, the best tip of all though is to go into video settings and turn on “touch up my appearance” What a God-send!