As many of you know, more and more people are conducting meetings, performing interviews and running their day-to-day businesses via Skype, Google Hangout, Facetime and the like– which means I am hearing more and more stories about potential candidates, deals, and promotions falling by the wayside due to inattention to, or unawareness of, seemingly small details.
Given how easily things can go awry, here is a quick ‘cheat sheet’ to ensure you present your best self, no matter what the situation, or the medium:
This goes beyond “Don’t Skype, Facetime, or Hang Out in front of your overstuffed bookcase or unmade bed” to seemingly small things such as make sure pictures/art behind you aren’t hanging crookedly; that there are no half dead ficus trees or overflowing wastebaskets in the shot; that your pet hasn’t chosen that moment to begin an intensive grooming session on the rug behind you, etc.
As with any picture-taking opportunity, we all look better when the camera’s lens is slightly above us rather than facing us head-on (If you weren’t aware of this, welcome to far better family/vacation/free-time photos) This is easily done by placing the computer edge furthest away from you on one or two books, while keeping the edge closest to you on the desk.
While it should go without saying, it’s important to be thorough: please ensure this set up is not precarious. You don’t want your computer to thump down off the books mid-meeting.
Work out a lighting design:
Try to have a light source on both sides of you, rather than having one behind you (leaving your face in shadow and potentially hitting your audience in the eyes) or one on just one side of you (leaving half your face in shadow– no doubt very artsy, but not appropriate in this context)
Needless to say, don’t have it so dim you look like you’re in the witness protection program or so bright you look like you’ve spent the last few months growing mushrooms in the basement.
Consider Your Costume:
Just because the person you’re speaking with is only likely to see you from the waist up does not mean you can slack off. Now is not the time to wear a coat and tie on top and Bermuda shorts and flip-flops on the bottom. You will feel far more psychologically prepared if you make the effort to dress as you would for an in-person meeting.
Sit on it:
When you sit down, be sure to pull your jacket tightly underneath you and then sit on it. This ensures the shoulder line of your coat is smooth and even.
Take a “Selfie”:
These days it’s easy enough to photograph yourself via an application on your computer. (For example, using Mac’s Photo Booth) Do this ahead of time. This is when you may notice that your scoop-neck blouse photographs like a leotard, (not confidence-inspiring, unless you’re applying for a dance position) that you really do need to iron your jacket/that your lighting set up does make you look somewhat Picasso-esque/that you really should scrub the wall behind you with Comet….
Now is also the time to videotape yourself. Despite the fact that the most frequent complaint about seeing oneself on camera is that it adds ten pounds, the more pressing problem is that it flattens the personality: in order to demonstrate your interest/commitment/enthusiasm you will need to be far more animated than would be appropriate if you were meeting in person.
Look Into the Light:
While Poltergeist warned us ‘don’t go into the light’, now is the time to look into the light. As seductive as it is to watch the little picture of yourself in the corner of the screen, you need to maintain eye contact with the light at the top of your screen. Looking down at the video of you ‘reads’ as shifty.
As there is frequently a nanosecond of lag time in between what you say and your contact’s receipt of it, plan to pause more frequently than you might during a real- time conversation.
Shut it down:
Once the meeting has ended, do not stand up/begin to discuss what occurred/put your head in your hands and bellow with joy or horror until your computer is firmly closed because while you may think you hit the “call ended” icon, it’s possible you didn’t and you don’t want your post-mortem inadvertently broadcast.
As you can see, just because you are not meeting in person does not mean you get a free pass. Do your prep and you’ll be that much closer to success.
Frances Cole Jones