I don’t know about you, but I’m halfway through Month #11 of #pandemiclockdown, and there are some things I finally feel like I’ve gotten the hang of.
1. How to Look Professional on a Zoom Call
I’ve got this one nailed, even though I haven’t worn anything but leggings for the past 11 months. You’ve probably already figured out that it’s really only your top-half you need to worry about (except for all those times I get up to let the cats in my office, then let them out, then let them in, then let them out).
But even then, I’ve found that I can wear my yoga clothes or cozy sweatshirts on the down low because I keep a makeshift earring caddy by my computer and a hook piled with numerous scarves on my office door. Whip on a nice pair of earrings and wrap a scarf around your neck and shoulders ... useful for the hiding of a logo (or a stain) ... and you will look stylish and put together without even having to button up a blouse (or put on a bra!).
My other tips are about lighting and angle for those Zoom calls. Invest in any kind of ring light that you can set up behind your computer, so you don’t look like you’re taking winter afternoon zoom calls from a cave, and wherever your webcam is, get it as high as practical to give you that flattering selfie angle looking slightly down at you or, at worse, even with eye level. Try to avoid the camera pointing up your nose angle if you can. I have my laptop on a stand plus a pile of books to get it to the right level (this is good for your neck too). And then I have a wireless keyboard. Put it all together, and you can look TV-ready with very little effort.
2. Minimum Viable Make-up
Ironically, given the fact that I’m writing for Kinder Beauty, I tend to be a make-up minimalist. But there are two things I do make sure to use when having a video call: lipstick and eyebrows. Why? Because they contribute significantly to people being able to interpret your expressions through the barrier of the screen.
I mean, if you’re lucky enough to have full, lush, visible eyebrows, good on you. Mine are dark, which is helpful, but they tend to get very sparse past the arch (I look sort of like a Romulan when I don’t fill them in ... #wheremynerdsat?). So a quick application of eyebrow gel and a pencil fill in, and suddenly there’s a lot more definition to my face—and it’s lot easier to see every eyebrow raise or furrowed brow. When it comes to lips, you’d probably be surprised how much people stare at your mouth when you’re speaking on video, because with so much concentrated visual distraction, and often technical instability, it feels harder to hear. W’re all probably lip-reading more than we would in a real meeting.
If you’ve got light lashes, you might also want to swipe on some mascara or liner to achieve a similar effect, but the brows do more work! Try INIKA Organics Long Lash Vegan Mascara, featured in a recent Kinder Beauty box.
3. Masked Communication
Finally, what if you’re out, wearing a mask, but want to make impact? It can be done!
The first tip is to make expressions as though you aren’t wearing a mask, much like smiling when you’re speaking on the phone. That smile can be heard on the phone and can be seen despite the mask. (It changes the shape of your mouth when you smile, which affects your voice, and a smile will crinkle your eyes in recognizable ways.)
Also, use your body language, especially your head, your aforementioned eyebrows, and your hands. Even just to place a hand on your heart and nod when hearing someone tell you something challenging is going to convey empathy in a way sitting still just won’t. Lean in to them and make intent eye contact. Tilt your head when listening. Nod. Imagine you’re doing a TED Talk when thinking about what to do with your hands when talking. Also check out these 6 winter looks that let you smile with your eyes.
Finally, let your voice be music. Don’t be afraid and don't try to constrain any natural expression and music you may have in your voice.
We all want to feel more humanity come through when we’re forced to communicate through a screen or with half our faces covered. I hope using these tips can help you be more you, despite those barriers!
Elisa Camahort Page is a speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur, best-known for co-founding BlogHer. She’s the host of The Op-Ed Page podcast and co-author of Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All. Lean more at elisacp.com.