First off, I hope you, your family and friends are healthy and well and that you are taking good care of yourselves and one another.
With the outbreak of COVID-19 we’re experiencing unprecedented challenges that are confusing, unpredictable and at times, overwhelming. Our day to day lives are already undergoing profound change, and the way that we do things in our businesses and workplaces is shifting on a daily basis.
Pivot might well be a word we become very familiar with in 2020.
And while there’s so much more I could say here, my gut tells me that a positive distraction that spotlights something that we can control at this uncertain and unsettling time, might be very welcome.
Like how we show up at work. But this time from home.
Dialling in is fast becoming the new norm and while some might think that video-conferencing doesn’t require the same level of polish as a face to face meeting, it’s in times like these that it’s more important than ever to hold your presence and continue to deliver YOU as if you were in the same room as your colleagues or audience.
Given that over the coming weeks and months video-communication will likely become a business practice that sticks long after COVID-19 has passed, there’s never been a better time to work on your video presence, which includes your style and appearance from the waist up.
Here are 7 steps to get you off your video L plates and on the fast track to a work from home video-pro:
1. Put your pants on
Although I chuckle (perhaps a little too hard) at the idea of ‘no pants Wednesday’ (and the epic wardrobe malfunction that could potentially follow), the most valuable advice I’ve read recently is that we need to maintain structure in our days when we’re working from home.
Getting up and getting dressed is critically important to ensuring that we set ourselves up for continued success.
Although I’m not suggesting you go full scale corporate suiting in your boudoir, I do recommend that you continue to dress in a way that aligns with workplace norms, despite being seated in your WFH space.
It’s important for your sense of self to make the same effort with your appearance when you’re working from home, whether it’s on-screen or off.
As a small business owner, I find myself in my home office at least two days a week. And I’m infinitely more confident and set up for greatness (yes greatness) when I take the time to dress in a way that aligns with who I am and how I want to serve my clients. If I’m making an important call or mapping out a future workshop I know I operate in a much higher gear when I’m dressed for it. And the dog tells me he appreciates me making the effort.
Even if the only human you’ll see today is on the other side of a video call, you owe it to yourself to put your pants on and dress as if you’re heading to the office.
2. Context is critical
It’s important to think about the context of your video-communication.
Do you need to appear business-like and professional? Is the subject matter you’re discussing serious and is it important that people see you as reliable and trustworthy?
Or perhaps the business setting is less formal and you want to appear friendly and approachable, and a little more relaxed and conversational.
In the same way that you’d prepare for a face to face meeting, ask yourself how you would like people to see you and consider whether what you’re wearing is appropriate for the subject being discussed and the audience?
3. Feature your face
With your pants on it’s time to talk about waist up style and how to maintain connection with your colleagues/audience despite being remote. The best way to do this is to bring attention to your face.
Choose your neckline wisely.
V-necks are fail-safe. They open up your upper body and naturally direct focus to your face.
Round necklines are also a solid choice but avoid anything too low or too high. Consider adding a necklace to break up the expanse of fabric if high is all you have.
Avoid collared shirts which can overpower you on camera. And steer clear of them completely if you’re wearing a jacket as the collar can easily get caught awkwardly and end up being a distraction (more on that below).
Statement necklines can work to accent your face but exercise caution when it comes to fuss and frill. Clean lines are always preferable on screen.
Finally, beware the infamous newsreader neckline! Although truth be told, newsreaders are generally a fabulous source of inspiration for on-camera dressing.
4. Structure your silhouette
On screen and off, a jacket is the piece that hands down guarantees the structure you need to look and feel polished and put together. Every time.
Showing up on screen with a jacket instantly increases your visual presence by framing you vertically and can be used to effortlessly switch up your level of dress from smart casual to business casual or business professional, depending on the jacket style.
Block colour dresses are another go-to technique to structure your silhouette on camera and enhance visual presence. And while there’s nothing wrong with going sleeveless (in tops or dresses) a sleeve will serve to create the silhouette definition you ideally need on camera.
5. Dial down distraction
There’s nothing more distracting for your colleagues/audience than a jingle jangle bangle or earrings that sounds like wind chimes. Best to ditch them.
If you’re keen to add interest and personality using accessories just make sure you go for the strong silent types.
If you wear glasses, make sure you think about whether you’ll be taking them on and off throughout the video call and how distracting this might be. While you can’t necessarily dispense with them it’s worth considering prior to the call how you can work with them.
Of course, some distractions are not so easy to dial down. Good luck to the home schoolers out there (myself included).
6. Consider your colour and pick your print
Solid coloured fabrics are without question the most straightforward and effective choice for telecommuting. The camera loves mid-tone blues, greens, pinks, reds and purples.
Of these, try to stick to colours that look good on you with rose, eggplant and teal all universally flattering on and off screen.
Avoid overly bright or extremely dark colours which can interfere with image quality. Or in the case of white, cause an on-screen meltdown.
Colours that are too close to your skin colour will leave you washed out from the waist up and anything that blends with the background may give rise to an undesirable floating head effect.
While solid colours are all-round winners, some prints are worth donning, especially if you use them to position yourself and your brand.
Know that large scale prints can wreak havoc with your visual presence on video, overpowering you and distracting your audience. But if ‘go big or go home prints’ are your signature style, there is something to be said for the important role they play in conveying the real YOU. And with the current state of the world, my approach to this is that things that make you feel your most vibrant, dynamic and hopeful are definitely stylist approved, even if they’re not technically correct.
For the true style sticklers amongst us, small to medium sized patterns used as an accent against solid coloured clothing are typically best. Avoid busy patterns like check, fine stripes or plaid which can be dizzying and distorting.
7. Prepare to press play
Finally, it’s useful to have your lipstick, hairbrush and a small mirror at your desk so that before each call you can make a final check on your appearance, at the very least, from the waist up.
What else do you do to ensure you’re tele-conference ready and prepped for presenting with polish and confidence?