Dress for Success on Zoom
Natural lighting is best by far so position your device by a window if possible so you are facing the light. If you don’t have much natural light you can buy a ring-light which will even out light/dark and boost your skintone!
You want to be the focus on a Zoom call so ensure the background is clutter free or represents your industry ie books if you’re a teacher, mannequin if a dressmaker etc If the background is messy or you can’t find a room with a clear space you could invest in a room divider, they’re not expensive, they fold away and they can act as a neat backdrop wherever you are. I have even done a Zoom call in my bathroom using my room divider when there was really noisy roadworks outside and it was the quietest room in my house – no one was any the wiser, once the room divider was in place!
This is one of the trickiest as many people don’t have specific offices at home and are sharing space with other family members and pets during this time. I have attended Zoom calls and workshops where people’s dogs have been barking and jumping on the table and kids have been putting on a show in the background! It’s difficult but if you can try and find a quiet space where you can focus on the call and if needs be you could invest in a microphone and earphones so the call is more private.
Are you sitting comfortably! This is important especially if it’s a long call or you are running the call or workshop. Make sure you are a decent height and when the call goes live your head and shoulders are in the centre of the screen. You may need to play around with the height of your screen/video camera, try adding solid books underneath or cushions to your chair if necessary. And remember if you need to stand at any point perhaps to demonstrate something, check to ensure your audience can see you and your head isn’t cut off by the top of the screen!
As with anything the more you practise the simpler it will become in getting set up and everything in place. Ensure you know how to run the call if you are managing it, can you add people, share screens, mute guests etc. You can practise by setting up a video call just for yourself and seeing how you look, check the lighting and ensure you can share documents etc. If you need to leave the room or ask your kids to be quiet make sure you know how to turn the sound/video off first!
Whether you are a guest, colleague or running the call your responsibilities and expectations are different so really think about what you want to achieve from the call. Write questions down in advance, get together everything you need.. pen, paper, glass of water/coffee etc. Aim to arrive at the call 5 x minutes before so you don’t arrive out of breath/flustered before you’ve even started. And if you are running the show you could prepare with some breathing and voice exercises to aid your nerves and get that voice ready – you wouldn’t start a workout without warming up in some way and it’s exactly the same here. There are some great tips and techniques out there from actors and other professional speakers – it really helps you focus on the task in hand so if you suffer from nerves this will help enormously.
Colour is really powerful and can affect the way you feel and the way other people respond to you – so can be vital in making the right first impression, especially important if you are interviewing via Zoom/Video call or you’re running a workshop or conference. Because often with these calls it’s only the top half of us the audience or fellow guests can see so we need to ensure we create the right impression using only the top half of our outfits and accessories to compliment.
For example blue is seen as trustworthy, aids the feeling of calm, represents confidence and professionalism and releases oxytocin the feel-good hormone. It’s also softer on most skintones than black and readily available, I am sure most of us own something blue – it’s the world’s favourite colour after all!
Green is another colour I recommend to clients, as it creates a sense of hope and harmony which can put other people at ease. As the colour of spring it also represents new beginnings and balance. There is a green to suit everyone and it can be very useful in balancing out redness if you flush or blush easily.
8. Waist-up dressing?
I always recommend getting fully dressed to my clients – I know there’s been a lot of waist up dressing tips out there – but I would say that when you’re fully dressed it makes you feel more put-together and ready to face the day’s challenges. It’s also practical in terms of having to jump up quickly to deal with pets/children/other distractions and no-one wants to see their colleagues pants whilst on a work call! You can still be comfortable, there are some great skirts and trousers out there this season, but just make sure you have something on you’d be happy opening the door to a stranger in!
9. Fabric choices
Be mindful of fabric choice when selecting something to wear for the calls that day, if it’s hot make sure you select a breathable natural fabric like cotton, silk, linen, chambray (a lighter weight denim style fabric) to avoid getting overheated and flustered or choose something which is loosely draping and not too clingy to aid airflow.
10. Mindful dressing
Don’t wear too many accessories and clashing colours (unless this is your normal style – then go for it!) as it’s the only top half fellow guests or your audience will be seeing, so it could be overwhelming – you need to be wearing your clothes so that you shine and not the other way round. Sometimes less is more! A stylish/unusual pair of earrings and a classic white or cream shirt is a really simple way to create a put-together look with a statement accessory, which doesn’t distract from you, the person. A hat is not a great idea as it potentially hides the top half of your face and can be distracting for other guests. A beautiful blouse or dress with an attractive print is a really useful piece for a Zoom call as you can easily dress it up with a blazer if you need to be really smart and then you can re-use the dress with a biker or denim jacket and trainers/boots at the weekends.
11. Audience, other guests and interviews
This is particularly relevant if you are attending an interview, which so many more people are doing via Zoom calls so research the company, find out what their branding/corporate colours are as you could incorporate those into your outfit, check out their dress code – are they a media company or a more traditional company for example so their expectations will be completely different. Connect with someone who works there if you can and talk to them – it will be a useful insight for the interview anyway and give you a handle on what their dress code is and then plan for it. I always think it’s better to be slightly over dressed than under styled – if you are over-dressed just ‘own’ it it will create a better impression than feeling awkward about not having made more of an effort. Classic styles can often be the best – for example a beautifully cut plain white t-shirt with a navy blazer and a great pair of earrings can go a long way and will never date.
Remember people make first impressions in less than seven seconds – so you need to evoke who you are and what you represent through what you’re wearing.