It’s 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. Quarantine hasn’t been easy on you; you’re stressed all the time and barely get any sleep. You drag yourself out of bed and brew a hot cup of coffee. You head back to your bed with the coffee, flip open your laptop, and join a team conference call. Everyone chimes in with good-morning wishes and that’s when you (involuntarily) say—ahhhh-mmmm (yup, that’s a yawn!) Imagine walking into an office like this. Only in your worst nightmares!
Clearly, the world has changed because of the ongoing pandemic, and we’re all struggling to adapt to the new normal. Yet, some things remain the same—virtual meetings require the same professionalism as traditional meetings. Imagine getting onto a discovery call with a salesperson who shows up on Zoom in pyjamas, would you take them seriously? Whether it’s an internal team meeting or a company-wide conference or even a client presentation, being well-groomed can make a world of difference to your work! You’ll find it easier to get into the “I’m at work” state of mind and it’ll amp up your confidence. So, bringing out your best self in video meetings is a breeze.
Ace your next Zoom meeting with these grooming tips:
1. Dress like you would for the office
A common mistake almost everyone makes at least once when working from home—not dressing up for a video call. Of course, there is nothing better than working in your gym sweats; and you can on most days (if that works for you). But you would clean up well for a face-to-face meeting with a client, and so should you for a video meeting.
Besides, with every day looking the same during quarantine, dressing up for a video call makes you feel more energetic and committed to the task.
There is a small but significant difference between what you can wear for in-person meetings and for video-conferences. Most of it remains the same—formal or semi-formal clothes, maybe a suit even. Obviously, you can skip the shoes and bags for a video conference, you need to pay attention to the colours, patterns, and styles you choose to wear.
The rules around dressing up for work are easier when it comes to video meetings—you can skip the tie and blazer and work out of a comfortable pair of jeans with an ironed collared tee or casual shirt. As for what to avoid —no t-shirts with quirky slogans or inappropriate prints, and don’t wear just boxers under a formal shirt. Imagine standing up mid-call for a coffee refill and giving everyone a show—it can be funny but not always.
2. Flaunt your best face
When it comes to looking presentable on a screen, few things are more important than skincare. Dark circles under your eyes, dead skin, black heads, pimples, and even discolouration or pigmentation—our cameras do a great job of highlighting them and it makes you look tired and unwell.
To avoid this, always moisturise your face and maybe wear some light makeup—foundation, highlighter, light lipstick, and a good amount of mascara. The general idea is to avoid dark colours in your makeup and ladies, that means no smokey eyes. Skincare is not just for the fairer gender—moisturiser + lip balm is a must for men too.
Oh and don’t miss the brows. Your audience won’t. We tend to express a lot with the movement of our eyebrows and they are usually our most eye-catching facial feature, especially when our face is plastered on a 15+” screen. No one expects you to learn how to do your own eyebrows like a professional, but you should definitely be able to pluck the ones growing out onto your face.
For the guys: If you sport a beard or moustache, make sure it is well trimmed, oiled/gelled, and combed before a video call. Nothing screams horror like a man with an unkept beard.
Oh and this is a funny one, but also very important. Brush and floss your teeth before a call—or don’t eat anything till you finish the call. Or you might end up in a nightmare where your colleagues guess what you had for breakfast or worse, dinner the night before.
Repeat after us: Skin, Brows, Teeth. Skin, Brows, Teeth. Skin, Brows, Teeth. Every time you have a video call scheduled, check for any problems with these 3 facial features to avoid making a fool of yourself.
3. Style your mane
We can’t trim our own hair, and if you think you can, please reconsider. This pandemic is keeping us away from our regular snip and trim, but that doesn’t mean you can’t style your mane.
Keep your hair style simple and easy as you might need to hop on to a video call almost every day. Ladies, go with simple options—a loose pony-tail, a puff in the front, or loose waves. Avoid tying your hair too tight as it’ll make your forehead look extra-large on a screen. For inspiration, here are some easy hair styling tips.
Hair styling for men can be tedious when it's for a cover of GQ. Lucky you don’t have to do that for video meetings. Be sure to use some hair styling products like hair oil, gel, or wax after a wash. Comb it well according to your natural part and bam! You’re good. If you have long, wavy hair, add in a few minutes to your schedule to lightly blow dry your hair—this will reduce the frizz and make it easier to handle.
Accessories add flair to your look. Small earrings, a watch, a little chain with a pendant are good options to begin with. You can even use accessories like hair clips, hair bands, etc., to add to your look.
Adding accessories to your look says that you put in extra time to dress up for your Zoom meeting—that shows your commitment to the meeting and the project you’re handling, even if you’ve just rolled out of bed.
5. What’s that behind you?
With messy little hellions running around and household chores vying for your attention, finding a clean background for your next video call can be a task and a half. If you don’t have the time to tidy up before a call, here’s a simple tip: sit with your back to the wall—this way the mess is in front of you and facing away from your webcam.
Sitting in front of a bookshelf or a decorative piece isn’t a great idea when your audience ends up paying more attention to what’s behind you instead of you. Blank walls are therefore a simple and effective choice. A balcony with plants also looks nice as a background—less distracting than books and it adds a positive vibe to your space.
A few more things to address before you hop on to your next Zoom meeting: Double-check that the toilet door and cupboards are closed (if they are in your background), make sure random items aren’t lying around behind you, and ensure family members (including pets) don’t walk in during a call.
If you have a blank wall behind you, try one of Zoom’s virtual backgrounds to make things interesting. You can also download and set images that match your interest as your virtual background. Just make sure you don’t have something too distracting like that shot of the cockpit from Top Gun or one of those Disney Parks. They’re cool, sure, but also distracting.
6. Find your perfect angle
Don’t lean in towards the camera when speaking or listening—it makes your face blow up on the screen. Instead, keep yourself at least 2 feet from the camera. Along the same lines, don’t place your laptop on your lap for a video call—no one wants to look inside your nostrils. It also makes your chin look extra large. Spend a few minutes before a call (or right now) to test your webcam and find an angle that makes you look good on the screen. Remember that pose.
Making eye contact is easier when you’re looking straight in front of you, not looking down at your lap. The right height for your camera is eye-level. Use an adjustable standing desk, if you have one, or just stack a bunch of books, even a pillow will do, under the laptop to elevate it. This is important because having a camera too above or below your eye level makes you look distorted and even scary. Avoid moving the camera to the left or right, and stay in the centre of the frame so people can focus on you.
7. Pick a spot with natural light
It's always good to sit by your window, in your backyard, or at your balcony—lots of Vitamin D and the famous sun-kissed look. The secret is to sit facing the sun and not with our backs to it, otherwise your audience will only see your silhouette.
If you don’t have access to natural light or are taking a call later in the day, make sure you turn on all the lights in the room. It helps to have a table lamp facing directly at you—a side lamp will only highlight one side of your face, leaving the other half in the dark. Always remember to check if a source of light is visible in the call—a tube light in the back sneaking into the frame only makes you look darker.
8. Do a sound check
If we had a penny for every time someone said, “Can you hear me? Hello?” in our Zoom meetings, we’d be millionaires. Performing a sound check right before a call is absolutely essential. Record a trial video and see if you can hear yourself well in the output—you don’t want to be the “distant guy” on the call.
It helps to invest in a good lapel microphone or an external one if you work from home regularly. Or just make sure to have your airpods or earphones connected. Though laptops today have good internal microphones, they tend to pick up a lot of background noise like the sound of the fan or the whistle of your pressure cooker.
Pro Tip: Remember to mute your audio when you’re not speaking. Background noise from your home only serves to distract other participants, and it can quickly become a nuisance.
9. Keep distractions at bay
When you’re on a call, you want people to pay attention to what you’re saying, not your two-year old that just crawled in for a snack or your puppy looking for love But during lockdown, asking family members to stay out for as long as a call lasts (and some Zoom meetings go on for way too long!) can be difficult.
For all the parents (or pet-parents) reading our article, you already know that the decibel levels in your homes can shoot through the roof, so, take important calls locked up in a room with all the distractions out.
If you have to work in a shared space with a spouse or kids or pets, it helps to not have them moving around the house looking at the birds and neighbours while you’re on a video conference. Sooner rather than later, it’s going to distract you and you’ll look inattentive on an important call. No distractions also means that your phone should be placed on silent and kept away in case you’re tempted to scroll through Instagram or check for messages.
10. And last, smile
Stuck in our homes for a long long time, we all long to meet close friends and colleagues in-person, but until then—video conferences are getting the job done. Simply smiling on a call doesn’t just make colleagues want to talk or listen to you, it also alleviates the mood in your virtual meeting room. Not exactly a grooming tip, but something to get us all through these unusual times.