Thanks to technology, we can conduct business with anyone, at anytime, anywhere in the world. While face-to-face meetings are still relevant and important, our phones, computers and tablets make connecting with colleagues, clients and prospects highly effective. With videoconferencing on the rise –many of our executive clients report using it at least once a week – it’s important to add video interaction prep to your list of business skills worth mastering.
Here are 4 secrets to help you project a professional image when the camera starts to roll.
Whether you are dialing in from home or a formal office, make sure you have a neutral, non-cluttered background so that people can easily focus on you and what you have to say. I recall with great fondness the summer my husband and I both worked remotely from Cape Cod. Every Monday, he had a standing videoconference call with a client. He'd wake up, take the painting off the wall in our cottage dining room and then set up the table in there as his command center. When it was time for his call, he'd put on a light blue button-down dress shirt over his shorts, sit down in front of the blank wall, dial into his videoconference meeting and get to work. With the walls a soft beige color, the blue shirt worked well. If your background is light, wear something dark. If it is dark, wear whites and brights. You want to avoid blending into the background and losing your on-camera clout.
The Eyes Have it
Be sure to place the camera at eye level so that you are centered on the screen during the call and easy to see. When I am using my laptop, I place books underneath it until my eyes are at the same level as the camera lens. I then settle myself at my desk and avoid fidgeting. You want to be looking into the camera when you are speaking and at the face of others when it’s their turn. Resist the urge to look at yourself in the smaller frame in the corner of the screen. Although many people use headsets and earbuds during their calls, I personally find that video chats without headphones lend themselves to a more natural and connected vibe.
Match the Occasion
Some think that videoconferencing doesn’t require the same level of polish and prep that an in-person meeting does. This is a mistake, especially as the quality of this medium continues to improve. It really does feel like you are in the same room with others. You might think that things like stains and wrinkles are less noticeable, but they can be quite visible. Why risk it? Of course, if you are working remotely and your call is with colleagues, nobody expects you to be formally dressed, even on a video call. What you want to avoid is looking like you just rolled out of bed or off the treadmill and are not focused on the business at hand. Show respect for yourself and others by wearing well cut business shirts, tops, sweaters and jackets even if you are wearing sweatpants and flip flops out of camera range. Grooming also matters. If your videoconference is more formal, follow suit. Common sense rules.
Finally, the outfit you choose should make you feel confident and comfortable while not being distracting. Use color and patterns effectively. Too much of a strong pattern can diminish your presence on camera. Smaller patterns used as an accent with solid colored clothing is typically best. The camera loves blues, greens, and also pinks, reds, purples and browns. Bulky fabrics can add pounds. Also, to avoid being over-exposed, dress on the conservative side. Plunging necklines, crop tops, tank tops and spaghetti straps give the impression that you are out of touch with business protocol. To keep you cooler, choose natural fabrics. Women, avoid over-sized earrings that move around a lot when you speak. Likewise, jewelry such as stackable bracelets that make noise with hand movements should also be avoided. You want people to instantly connect to what you are saying, not to what you are wearing.
The Last Word
Dressing for videoconference success does not have to be complicated. Make it a practice to give yourself a few minutes before each call to check your appearance one more time before signing on. Keeping a brush or comb, lipstick and other basic make-up essentials along with a small mirror at your desk can help. If your team will be on the call, discuss wardrobe as part of your prep. Using videoconferencing effectively is a way to make strong first and lasting impressions. Practice (and prep!) makes it easier – promise!