9 ways to look more polished on virtual work calls, according to New York Fashion Week stylists
- Working from home is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future - and video meetings have become a big part of virtual communication with colleagues or clients.
- If you want to elevate your on-camera presence, focus on your background: Swap out anything cluttered with greenery or tasteful artwork, and take your meetings near a window for natural lighting that is more flattering.
- For attire, stick to business-casual. If you are wearing a T-shirt, add a cardigan or accessories like a scarf or jewelry to look more polished.
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Before Covid-19, the occasional "work from home" day was something of an infrequent luxury. Nowadays, it's simply the norm. According to the latest Gallup Panel, 62% of Americans say they have worked from home during the crisis, a number that has doubled since March. It was an adjustment for many, especially those who were so used to "face time" in its original meaning.
As we navigate what seems to be the winding down of self-isolation, the same Gallup Panel says that three out of five workers would prefer to continue to work remotely. So what does this mean for the future of business? Virtual conferences and meetings, to start, will certainly be rolled up into this "new normal."
When it comes to in-person meetings, success is something you are accustomed to. You've mastered the art of the handshake, eye contact, and have your perfect power outfit ready to go. So how can you elevate your on-camera business game? We spoke with several professional stylists who offered their tips on how to elevate your conference call look to inspire confidence and success.
1. Treat every day like casual Friday
While you may still be crunching numbers and closing deals at your high-powered job, it's important to remember that you are still in your home. It's okay to loosen it up just a little bit. Unbutton that top button and leave that tie in the closet. It's okay - trust the experts!
"If you work in a more corporate-structured environment, think of your wardrobe from your office and take it down a notch. Give it the Casual Friday look," said Joan Reidy, a fashion stylist and brand consultant. Her experience includes styling runway collections during New York Fashion Week for international designers. She's also the lead stylist for a number of seasons for Lagos Fashion Week, and works on costumes for celebrities from Gwen Stefani to Beyonce..
That said, there are a few parameters to keep in mind, now that you're adding "get camera ready" to your list of morning tasks.
Raven Roberts recommends layers to add texture. For example, leggings on the bottom and t-shirt on the top is great, but perhaps throw a cardigan or a blazer over the T-shirt. These are easily removed in between meetings, but can take the on-screen appearance to a new high.
Roberts is a celebrity fashion stylist, who has served as the key wardrobe stylist for campaigns, web series, music videos, films, and photography exhibits. She has been featured on Macy's Next Style Star, as well as Bare Minerals Beauty Uncovered.
Turtlenecks are another great option for on-screen calls. They add a touch of elegance to any look by elongating the neck and framing the face.
And remember: You really only have to worry about the waist-up. Leisure on the bottom, elevation on the top. "You want to be comfortable, especially if you're doing 10 hours of Zoom meetings a day," Reidy added. Just remember to stay seated!
Since you're going for polished comfort, where you can really set yourself apart is with your accessories. "Even though we're not leaving the house, accessories are still important," said Roberts.
Both Reidy and Roberts recommend a statement necklace or earrings for women - as long as they don't clink together, as it will get picked up on the conference call microphone. For men, Roberts recommends a pocket square for men who are going the blazer route. "It adds a little something extra to what you have on," she said.
For men or women, Reidy loves the glasses look. For women especially, throwing on a stylish pair of glasses can eliminate the need for makeup. "I was looking at Demi Moore's social media during this time. In every photo she has a pair of glasses and she looks fantastic. It solves a lot of problems. Throw your glasses on and you're done," she said.
3. Avoid unnecessary wardrobe distractions
Being on screen isn't always the easiest for many people. Get that confidence boost anywhere you can. Confidence, after all, comes from feeling comfortable.
"Stay away from crazy prints," suggested Reidy. "I'd avoid florals or fabrics that are too shiny because that gets really distracting."
If you're going for stripes, they should be bold and graphic. Anything small and detailed won't read well on the screen and may distract your view of yourself, as well as others viewing you.
For women it may also be helpful to avoid low necklines. "If it's something you don't feel comfortable wearing in the office on a casual Friday, then don't wear it in a Zoom meeting. You don't want to think about it. You want to feel good because it makes you feel like you're in control, which can help during this time when we can't really control anything."
Of course, it may go without saying that the best boost of confidence comes from clean and polished appearance. Just because you're at home doesn't mean the iron or steamer is on hiatus. Clothing, no matter how relaxed, should always be wrinkle-free.
4. Set up a sample wardrobe
A top tip for looking your best on a video conference call is to take the guesswork out of it. Take 30 minutes at the end of your day, or over a weekend, to line up a few possible wardrobe options and do a "test run" with your at-home camera.
"Maybe it's a big ask, but if you're doing a lot of meetings during a week where you don't have time to plan your outfits, I would take a half an hour and sit in front of the computer and get a sense of what your outfits look like before the meeting," said Reidy. "With my clients I do fittings before they have their events so we know what they will look like. I've been doing the same thing with Zoom meetings."
She suggests collecting a few tops and accessories and doing a trial run. That way, when it comes time for your week of meetings you already have your go-to conference outfits planned, allowing your brain space to be freed up where it counts - on the content of the meeting.
5. Utilise natural light
One thing our stylist experts all could agree on was the need for natural light. When it comes to video conference calls (or any type of on-screen appearance), natural light is the most flattering and forgiving.
"Natural light is best for skin tone. It makes you and your space look brighter, and fills the frame better," said Roberts.
Just remember to set your screen off to the side so that the natural light is not directly behind you. According to Roberts, if you have direct natural light on your face it can cause a glare. It also can create a glare if you're wearing those fabulous glasses we talked about earlier. "We still want people to see our eyes and to connect with us," she said.
6. Invest in a ring light
If natural light is a challenge in your space, or your job requires you to take conference calls in the evening, stylists suggest investing in a ring light or a softbox. These don't have to be expensive - many are under $40 - and work to soften the light around the face. They provide consistent light, as well, which allows for the elimination of unflattering shadows and angles.
7. Physically elevate
While you're focusing on raising the bar on your on-screen look, you may also want to physically raise your screen. To achieve the best angles and eye contact, Reidy recommends elevating your laptop or phone so that the top camera is just above eye level.
8. Simplify your makeup
Just a few simple touches can elevate your on-screen look, without having to go overboard with makeup. In fact, too much makeup can read too heavy on camera and may not have you feeling your most confident and comfortable.
"Even something like a tinted moisturiser, just to give you a little bit of coverage, can go a long way," said Roberts. "You want it to be something you can maintain and be comfortable in all day."
Reidy recommends filling in your brows and curling your eyelashes to open your eyes. Beyond that, a dab of mascara allows for an awake look, without going overboard.
9. Avoid the Zoom photo backgrounds
It might be tempting to throw up a festive and whimsical Zoom background. Maybe today you feel like taking your call amid the mountains, or in a meadow. We all could use a little whimsy these days, but use your judgment as to when it's appropriate to throw up a faux background.
The best background for any Zoom call is a clean one. If you don't already have a home office, select a spot in your apartment or home where you can work most efficiently, ideally with good light. The background should be uncluttered. Always evaluate the space by asking yourself if you'd feel comfortable having it in a boardroom.
Both Reidy and Roberts recommend colouring up the space with some greenery or a tasteful piece of art. An uncluttered bookshelf always makes for a classic, clean, and professional backdrop, as well, providing there are no papers or knick knacks that clog up the space.
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