Covid has changed our lives forever. The virus might have subsided but the work culture that emerged still holds in the post covid era. God those days, suddenly switching all in-person communication to audio and video conferencing. Although Microsoft Team, Zoom, Google Meetup, and other online communication tools are nothing new to us, it is the frequency and the importance of such tools to our work & life in general that has drastically increased since the first lockdown. You are at home. In your personal space. Working. Being seen by people whom you probably never planned on inviting into your personal space. One might think video conferencing doesn’t demand the same level of refinement an in-person meeting does, but remember the visual impact still very much exists. It is amplified.
Of course, it does guys. And here are the reasons:
Among all the senses present in humans, vision is the foremost sense that we rely on. Even the first impression that most people form, relies heavily on this sense. Research shows that it takes between just 33–100 milliseconds for someone to form judgments about your character depending on your look. Time and again we are told that looks don’t matter, and that will limit the pages of your social science book. Whether it is virtual or real, it doesn’t matter, how you appear must be pleasing to the eye of the person in front of you.
Formal dress influences how your prospects perceive you. Studies have shown that employees feel more authoritative, trustworthy, and productive when they wear business suits, and it has been proven that it creates a perception of professionalism and expertise. Therefore, dressing formally for a video conference or online presentation should enhance your confidence and help your audience perceive you as a professional.
3. Good Impression
What you wear to your online meetings depends on the outcome you are trying to create, based on the psychological perception you want your audience to form about you. Good impressions last long. Whether they are accurate or not, it normally takes a long time and concerted effort to change a first impression. Because they are largely subconscious, first impressions are very persistent even in the face of contrary evidence. Because of our implicit biases and cognitive biases, we see the world and other people through our own set of filters and make decisions based on them.
- The Perspective of Outfits
In this article we are focusing on work-related conferences, leaving out the informal catch-ups you have with friends and family. So, what should you be wearing when on a video conference working from home? If you are now probably spending at least 4-5 hours a day 'Zooming' your colleagues & clients. A general rule of thumb is to take out a notch of formality from your clothes compared to what you would wear for a face-to-face meeting. Well for the ‘Why?’, you are at home, more relaxed. You need to look natural in your habitat. Otherwise, you look out of place and like you are trying too hard.
You aim to balance practicality & comfort whilst looking smart. Dressing comfortably can put you and your viewer at ease and will allow you to focus solely on your video conference. To simplify your approach to dressing for a video call, split your video conferences into formal vs. informal/semi-formal. This of course depends on the industry/circumstances; broadly speaking, examples of formal vs. informal meetings could include the following
Avoid patterns & prints as they can dominate and take attention away from your face. Overly bright or extremely dark colors do not translate well on camera. Stick to solid colors, no big logos, and don’t overload the view for the people on the other end. At all times wear properly fitting clothes. Wear a smartwatch, it’s a simple trick to hint that you are keeping track of time and staying productive. If you need to wear glasses make sure they have a non-reflective coating. Get dressed head to toe, not head to waist. Cameras are known to fall over and show more than you’d planned, people have been known to stand up when they were not planning to do so.
- The Only Question, Are Suits Mandatory?
You need not feel like a suit is necessary for a formal video call when you are working from home. Suits look odd in home environments and so will you, even when the video call is formal. Wearing one in a home setting looks unnatural and makes you look less approachable.
Wear a white/pale blue shirt instead. For a very formal call throw a smart blazer on. Ditch the tie. Video conferences aside, remember that there is a direct link between getting dressed for the day and your general mental state. If you are dressed professionally, in some ways that boosts your confidence and your demeanor to match the attire. Stay productive whilst working from home - get dressed appropriately.
- Remember these points on Grooming
Check your beard neckline, nails, and hair at least 3-4 days before you have scheduled your meeting. You might feel that your nails or beard have not grown that much, or your skin is still radiating from the last week's treatment but trust me if you skip on grooming because you underestimate that they are not growing to grow, you will find all of them betraying you. It will take a humongous time to manage all of that once on the D-day. It is better to groom them timely, as the saying goes, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’.
- Video Call Etiquette Everyone Must Know
In the comfort of your home, don’t get too comfortable. Maintain the basic formal etiquette during conferences
1. Body Language
Avoid excessive physical movement. Many gestures that are barely noticed when physically being present in the same space become the focal point with the camera pointing at your upper body and can become a nuisance if they don’t serve a purpose. Lean forward as you are communicating - this will show interest and concern and will engage your audience. It also conveys eagerness and willingness to listen. Just don’t overdo it.
Background plays an important role in video calls and conveys a lot of information to the other person about you. Ensure your background is uncluttered and professional. Less is more. Cluttered backgrounds can be distracting to the person on the other end of the camera and make you look untidy and disorganized. Zoom & other video conferencing tools have a great function enabling you to blur or completely change your background, do use them, but do so sparingly. Why? Does it run through your mind that the person on your screen with a blurred background is hiding his/her unmade bed or messy kitchen? Hiding something or using a filter picks on the subtle nerve of curiosity and trust issues, ‘what is this man hiding?’. Seeing a person's real environment conveys a faint message along the lines of: 'I have nothing to hide, this is me as I am. No filters.' Though between a messy kitchen vs. a blurred background do choose a blurred background; not that this point needed any clarification.
Don’t take a work-related video call from your sofa, unless it is completely informal. Working from home is also working, a relaxing setting of a sofa takes away from your focus and speaks of leisure time, not productivity. Consider the message you convey with your background.
3. Camera Position
Position your camera at or just above eye level, and move yourself slightly further away from it. If you are using a laptop, place something beneath it to raise it until your eyes are at the same level as the camera lens. Make sure your head is at the top of the frame, not lots of space above your head.
Your face and body want to take up the space on the screen, not the background. When you are being seen as a head in a tiny box on someone else's screen, you lose your natural authority and presence as you are much smaller than in real life. Don’t sit so close that all you see is your face, put your camera/laptop at a point where you can see your hands and hand gestures. Hands are important. When we see someone’s hands, we trust them (if you can’t see hands, we trust you less).
Always opt for broad daylight if possible and if that is not the option, place your primary light source behind your camera. This way, the light, and the camera point in the same direction. Avoid fluorescent lights as they can cast unflattering shadows. Overhead lights too should be avoided, as they can create dark under-eye shadows.
Since the trend for video calls is increasing nowadays, you should not be left behind in this aspect. Also, don’t take it for granted as now you are not only judged by your body language, communication, and style - the environment you are in will also play an important role in forming the impressions people have of you. But now after this blog, you will tackle all of that with ease.
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