The sartorial seismic shift of casual that occurred during the “Casual Friday” ’80’s has again rocked our world. This time the shift happened virtually overnight as the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 moved the workplace to our homes, and our business communication to computer screens. That’s what’s new.
What is not new however, are the unspoken rules of professional presence. These “rules” influence how people perceive you. They allow you to be noticed (positively), and your opinions and thoughts respected. Professional presence dramatically increases the likelihood others will do what you want, accept what you say, and buy what you’re selling.
How to Convey Professional Presence:
- Presence starts with being present: Have your attention with the person/persons at hand. Respect their time by arriving on time, and departing after the close.
- Engage: Make eye contact, comment, laugh as appropriate, nod occasionally, and show you have a notepad in front of you. An easy way to show warmth to others without overdoing it during the meeting is to show up a few minutes early and exchange pleasantries before the recording/meeting starts.
- Position yourself visually optimally: similar to an in-person meeting, you want to be aware of what you are projecting in the viewfinder. Are you too far or too close? Have you considered how your posture looks? You should be upright and attentive, varying during the meeting between direct forward and slight angle to the camera. Look at yourself and ask if you are speaking into the camera (not the screen) and if the lighting could be improved. (I love this little gadget)
- You guessed it – through your appearance and what you are wearing…
Your Clothing Supports (or Hinders) Perceptions of You
Recently while I was on a professional networking video meeting I was taken aback to see a prospective member attend while lounging back on his overstuffed sofa wearing an “A” (or tank) undershirt. Needless to say, this was an attire choice incongruous with the expectations of the group, providing a distraction that mades it harder to hear the speakers full message. Now please understand, this is not a conscious we-are-better-than-you judgement, but a natural and automatic response that humans make based on social conditioning and innate psychology.
Dress for your video conference almost the same way you would for an in person meeting. Your colleagues and customers expect to see a similar image of you online as they have come to know in person.
- If you would wear a suit and tie, it’s probably not necessary to wear a tie on a video call from home, but it’s often too far of a jump to go from suit/tie to a polo. I suggest a crisp dress shirt and suit jacket.
- If you would wear a blouse and jacket, you can do the same or move to just the blouse but be sure to keep your skin covered. This blog by The Cut actually promotes turtlenecks. It’s definitely better to avoid bare arms.
- If you would dress business casual with a sport coat, shirt and khakis, I suggest you keep the same attire. Make sure to check for collar stays.
- If you would wear a collar polo and jeans to a meeting in the office, ensure you’re wearing that and did not dress down further to a t shirt without collar, or work out gear/yoga clothes.
- Men and women, choose similar colors and patterns as you would in the office. A Hawaiian shirt technically is a collar shirt, but…
Your Grooming Supports (or Hinders) You
I had a client show up to a video call with me last week proudly sporting a COVID beard so big and bushy I was stunned. This works if you are in the Forest Service, but if you are looking to impress your next insurance client… I see a strong disconnect.
- If you haven’t yet – it’s time to shave. (or trim)
- Buy a trimmer (or use one you already have). You can do a lot to tidy up the back and sides when salons are closed. If you have “Andy Rooney eyebrows” trim those with small scissors.
- Ladies, we need to do the same hair and makeup routine that we always did before. If you need to cut corners, put your hair in a bun (just like you might on a bad hair day in person).
- Wash your glasses if you wear them.
- Take off your hat.
- No one notices bare nails, but polish half-off should be remedied.
- Put on jewelry – necklace and earrings; watches – polishes your appearance and makes you look “finished”
Bonus Tip: The big joke nowadays of course is about wearing pants. There are two reasons to wear appropriate “bottoms”. The first is in case for any reason you have to get up, and the second is more subtle and physiological. There is a cycle of self affirmation – look good = feel good = act good. That’s super simplified but you get the idea. When you are ALL pulled together (even shoes), your internal confidence barometer goes up. This makes it so you are more likely to take risks, think creatively and speak up at the meeting.
Bottom line is your pants show… so wear them!
Ann Lindsay is Style of Success
I work to make you look your confident, effortless best.
Image Consulting — Personal Styling
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