Since our COVID-19 lockdown began, our only interaction with the outside world – apart from the occasional, hurried trip to the grocery store – has been virtual. FaceTime, Zoom and Skype have quickly become a normal part of our everyday lives, keeping us connected to our friends and families as well as colleagues and clients. As a result, you may have found yourself thrust into a virtual meeting for the first time; surreptitiously attempting to control an unruly section of hair, wishing you had worn something other than a stained sweatshirt and trying to not feel awkward while your face stares back at you.
Studies have shown that three key elements make up our communication and how we are perceived when interacting with others. Believe it or not, your visual presence (your appearance, posture, eye contact and body language) makes up a whopping 55% of your communication, while your tonality (how you vocalise a sentence) and words (what you say) account for 38% and 7% respectively. With this in mind, it’s time for all of us to up our video conferencing game. The team from Image Innovators SA is here to share some expert tips and tricks to help you present the best version of yourself and keep people engaged in your next virtual meeting.
Colour me confident
It goes without saying that you should dress appropriately for the audience you are conference calling with (a nice T-shirt might be OK when you’re chatting with teammates, but if you’re on a call with a new client or an executive, you probably want to put in a little extra effort). First impressions are lasting, and one of the most important aspects of first impressions is colour.
There’s a wonderful quote by Coco Chanel that reads, “The best colour in the whole world is the one that looks good on you.” When worn correctly, colour has the power to make your skin glow, banish dark under-eye circles and make you look more rested and healthy – especially useful if you’re using a low-quality camera that’s washing you out.
Apart from its effects on appearance, colour can also have a major psychological impact on the wearer and those around them. Yellow, for example, evokes optimism, energy and imagination and is thought to improve memory, while red is associated with power and leadership but can come off as arrogant or aggressive in large quantities. Understanding the emotions different levels of colour may trigger can help you present yourself in a certain way or get a message across without saying a word.
On your next conference call, opt for a blouse in a solid shade or simple print (busy patterns can look distracting on camera) in colours that complement your skin tone and colouring. Colours that work for you will promote ease and confidence, even if you’re slightly out of your comfort zone. Don’t know which hues suit you best? An image consultant will be able to help you out with a quick virtual colour consultation.
Accessorise with care
Looking great on a video call is all about dressing up from the waist up. Once you’ve found a blouse or top that looks appropriately professional and flatters your colouring, add interest to your look and draw attention to your face with some clever accessorising. The trick to wearing add-ons without looking OTT? Choosing accessories that suit your face shape.
“If your face is longer than it is wide, you have an oblong or rectangular face shape,” explains Image Innovators SA’s CEO Kyla Blackwood-Murray. “You’ll want to minimise the length of your face by adding a fringe, wearing reading glasses – even if they’re just for effect – or adding volume with your hair to the outer sides of your face. If your face is as long as it is wide, then you have a round or square face shape. Lengthen your face by adding volume to the top of your hair or wearing smaller earrings or a long, v-shaped necklace. The trick is to create the illusion of a balanced face.”
Unfortunately, working from home doesn’t mean wet hair and a splotchy post-shower face are acceptable look for your morning meetings. But you don’t need to go full glam for the camera, either! With a few tweaks to your usual get-up-and-go routine, your face will be Zoom-ready in no time.
As previously mentioned, laptop cameras are often lower quality so it’s easy to appear washed out and flat on-screen. Counter this by adding dimension to your face, focusing on your cheeks and brows. A bit of bronzer and highlighter will define your features and keep you from looking pale, while defined brows will portray emotion easier. Remember that dark things appear smaller on video, so don’t be too heavy-handed when applying eyeshadow!
Clever camera tricks
When it comes to positioning your laptop for a video call, the most crucial aspect to consider is lighting. No matter how great your makeup or how perfectly your royal blue shirt suits you, if the lighting is off you aren’t going to look your best. Open up all your curtains to let the natural light in and position yourself so that the largest source of light is either right in front of you or less than 45 degrees off from where you are seated – never behind you. Your screen can also be a source of light, so you may need to lower its brightness.
Ironically your lap is not the best place to put your laptop when having a video call. For the most flattering angle, elevate your computer off your table using a box or a stack of books so that the camera is at or slightly above eye level. Be sure to sit back from the computer; webcams are wide-angle cameras, so if you sit too close to them your face will be distorted!
Finally, ensure that the scene in the background of the shot is clean, neat and non-distracting – your home is an extension of yourself, after all. It’s best to keep the background simple and plain, if possible, like a blank wall or an uncluttered shelf. If you don't have an appropriate space in your home, Zoom has a great little feature that allows you to insert a virtual background – problem solved!