2020 required professionals across all industries to change the way they handle business. After a year of working from home, for many businesses it has proven to be as if not more successful than working in an office. So much so that more than 20 Fortune 500 companies like Google, Spotify and Zillow have declared they will adopt remote or hybrid work models indefinitely.
And although that is great news for many, working remotely requires unique skill sets some of us haven’t quite perfected. Increasingly, understanding how to leave a great impression when meeting over video is an important skill to have in your back pocket in order to advance your career moving forward. To boost your chances of success, whether it’s a new business meeting, job interview, or an important client-facing call, four experts share their tips on what will set you apart from the rest during virtual meetings.
1. Dress for success.
When planning what to wear in a video meeting, think about lighting and specifically how your clothes will interact with light. Gloria Cospito, New York City wardrobe stylist and image consultant has a general rule of thumb: Light colors reflect light and dark colors absorb it.
“Jewel tones and light shades are best to wear on video calls/meetings, whereas black is the worst shade to wear on video calls because a black top will absorb light—this means when wearing black, less light is reflecting onto your face, which could give you a sallow appearance by exaggerating undereye circles and shadows.”
Beyond color tones, Cospito emphasized the importance of avoiding clothing with micro-patterns. “Camera sensors have a hard time picking up little details, especially the not-so-great camera on your laptop. As a result, tiny patterns look inconsistent or will create an odd wavy pattern on camera. It’s best to wear items in solid colors or mid-sized patterns that your camera can pick up more easily.”
The best silhouette for both men and women is a shirt with a collar because it naturally frames the face. Cospito added, “Opt for more tailored tops rather than an oversized top for video calls. Oversized, blousy silhouettes look great in-person, but on camera, your shape is lost in the fabric.”
And don’t forget to accessorize. Because the camera only catches you waist-up, Cospito recommends adding anything visible that can bring a touch of personality to your outfit. You can try earrings, a necklace, a headband or hair accessory, a tie, pocket square, watch, rings, etc. However, avoid anything that could create a sound issue, like wrist bangles that could clink against each other while you’re trying to talk.
2. Find your power pose.
Some studies have shown standing in a power pose can make you actually feel more powerful and confident. However, if imitating Wonder Woman isn’t your cup of tea, there are other techniques you can try to boost your confidence before your next big virtual meeting.
Rasha Goel, an Emmy-nominated TV Host and media coach, has spent her fair share of time behind a camera, speaking live to thousands of viewers. For those who feel nervous before an important call, she recommended a breathing technique to calm your nerves. Begin by inhaling to a count of five through the nose, then exhale through the nose to a count of five, and repeat this three times.
“The key is to focus on the breath and nothing else. You can do this five to 10 minutes before their meeting starts while sitting in front of your computer, with the video turned off,” said Goel. “When the mind is relaxed, it can perform any activity without being nervous.”
You can also try watching or listening to something that relaxes you, like an energy-boosting song or a funny video. Whichever you choose, be sure to hop into your power pose or listen to your pump-up song with enough time to give yourself the mental space to prepare for your meeting.
Vicki Salemi, a Monster career expert, suggested people give themselves at least five minutes to refocus their frame of mind, double-check in the mirror that they look polished, take a sip of coffee or water, and then get settled into the space they’ll have their meeting with a few minutes before the call starts to keep the mind calm and ready to impress.
3. Don’t underestimate eye contact.
First, make sure you have proper lighting shining on your face, that way when you look directly into the camera your eyes are easily seen. This helps display confidence and establishes a connection with those on the other end of the screen.
Goel explained, “I have sometimes seen people look away from the camera while they are speaking, which can be distracting for people on the other side of the screen. Speak to everyone as if they are there with you in person, the eye contact shows that you are connected.”
4. Mind your body language.
One of the main differences between in-person versus virtual meetings is the ability to read someone’s body language beyond the head, neck and shoulders. As a result, Salemi explained that body language becomes even more important when you’re speaking over video.
“Be genuine and authentic in your emotions and realize body language is minimized due to the screen, so your facial expressions are important,” Salemi says. “Instead of being robotic, it’s OK to look concerned, inquisitive, surprised and more. Lean in a little bit, sit up straight, and more consciously use your body language to connect with others on the call.”
Jessica Storry, a digital designer and creative entrepreneur, SNACK Brand co-founder, has been working remotely full time since 2010. After more than a decade of virtual meetings, she’s found that the most important rule when in a video meeting is being focused and present.
“It is tempting to work on other things, especially with the amount of work we have nowadays. But others can sense when you are distracted, and on video it is clear who is really watching and listening.” Storry says with a laugh, “You may think you are winning at multitasking, but I promise, you’re not.”
5. Up the energy.
Because communication is happening through a computer screen, you want to avoid appearing like just another talking head. Actively listen when others are speaking, nod along as points are made, and be aware of your resting Zoom face.
Goel recommended being energetic and lively. “Try not to be stiff and sit in one position. Feel free to use your hands as you would in person, and don’t forget to smile.”
Because people won’t be able to pick up on all of your body language and visual cues as they would in-person, when in doubt, default to a slightly higher energy level than you might normally interact with over camera to break through the static.
6. Treat virtual meetings seriously.
Several experts expressed they see many people video meetings—and even job interviews—who treat things too casually. Remember that just because you’re working from your kitchen table, does not mean you’re “at home.”
Recruiters shared stories with Salemi about candidates checking texts or eating a snack during their job interviews, which is a big turnoff.
“Treat every virtual meeting like you would an official dream job interview, when you’re on top of your game,” Salemi says. “Arrive on time, interact and actively engage with others, and cut out all distractions.”
Overall, Salemi said the people who stand out during virtual meetings are those who are prepared. They have questions researched ahead of time, engage with people on the call, and come across as more confident, prepared, focused and energetic than others.
Along the same vein of treating video calls like in-person meetings, Cospito advised, “Don’t wear something in a video call you wouldn’t wear to meet a colleague, client or contact face to face. Keep your wardrobe more elevated than casual, and wear pants.”
Even the best of us, including one Good Morning America reporter, have made this unfortunate work-from-home mistake, so just take our word for it. Dress for success. Do your homework ahead of time, and speak up. You can make a great impression by asking questions and engaging with others.
7. Stage your background.
You want the people you’re speaking with to focus on you, and not what’s going on behind you. Make sure the environment around you is clean and organized, and be mindful of the background noise. Situate yourself where other family members will not walk by, and away from the kitchen and/or a child’s bedroom, which tend to be noisier areas of the home.
However, one of the most important things Goel emphasized for online meetings is the framing. “The ideal framing for your shot is chest up, with your face filling the frame and slight room above the head. The head should not be cut off, and there shouldn’t be too much space between the top of the head and the frame.”
Understandably when working in a crowded home or apartment, it may be hard to find a space you’re comfortable in, but being in a space that feels welcoming to you will come across on video. Salemi advised if Zoom fatigue is setting in, to perhaps try adding something new to spruce up your workspace and pop on camera, like fresh flowers for spring.
8. Build genuine connections.
Storry explained one of the best ways to connect with people via virtual meetings is by helping others feel comfortable.
“Many of us never thought we’d be holding meetings from our kitchen tables, bedrooms or couches, with kids crying, dogs barking and doorbells ringing. Helping people feel at ease in an awkward situation is very important and helps others feel like we are all truly in this together.”
Storry’s team is located across multiple states, countries, and time zones. She attributes their success to the way they aren’t afraid to communicate, ask a lot of questions and pull strength from each other’s differing skill sets and perspectives. Which includes taking the time to get to know one another outside of the “office.”
“Talking through work challenges and celebrating team accomplishments is important, but it wasn’t until we began connecting through our personal lives that we truly became in sync,” Storry says. “At first, we lingered on video calls to catch up on real life, and now we have weekly ‘update’ meetings to chat about weekend plans, new hobbies or the latest Netflix shows. We all care about each other, which shows in our work. Would I love to have everyone in a room someday? Absolutely. But through video calls and because of how we view each other personally and professionally, I feel like we already have.”