Zoom Etiquette 101: 8 Tips to Put Your Best Face Forward During Virtual Meetings
Article by Megan Nicole O’Neal
2020 required professionals across all industries to change the way they handle business. After a year, working remotely has proven to be as successful as — if not more than — working in an office for most companies. In fact, more than 20 Fortune 500 companies like Google, Spotify, and Zillow have declared they will adopt remote or hybrid work models indefinitely.
Although that is great news for many, working remotely does require unique skills some of us haven’t quite perfected. In particular, understanding how to leave a great impression when meeting over video is now an important skill to have in order to advance your career. Whether you’re gearing up for a new business meeting, job interview, or an important client-facing call, here are some expert tips to help you stand out during virtual meetings.
1. Dress for Success
When planning what to wear in a video meeting, think about lighting — specifically, how your clothes will interact with the lighting. Gloria Cospito, New York City wardrobe stylist and image consultant, has a general rule of thumb: Light colors reflect light, and dark colors absorb it.
“Jewel tones and light shades are best to wear on video calls/meetings, whereas black is the worst shade to wear on video calls because a black top will absorb light,” Cospito says. “When wearing black, less light is reflecting onto your face, which could give you a sallow appearance by exaggerating undereye circles and shadows.”
Beyond color tones, Cospito emphasizes the importance of avoiding clothing with micro-patterns: “Camera sensors have a hard time picking up little details, especially the not-so-great camera on your laptop. As a result, tiny patterns look inconsistent or will create an odd wavy pattern on camera. It’s best to wear items in solid colors or mid-sized patterns that your camera can pick up more easily.”
The best silhouette for both men and women is a shirt with a collar because it naturally frames the face. Cospito adds, “Opt for more tailored tops rather than an oversized top for video calls. Oversized, blousy silhouettes look great in person, but on camera, your shape is lost in the fabric.”
And don’t forget to accessorize. Because the camera only catches you from the waist up, Cospito recommends adding earrings, a necklace, a headband or hair accessory, a tie, pocket square, a watch, rings, or anything else that can bring a touch of personality to your outfit. Avoid anything that could create a sound issue, like wrist bangles that could clink against each other while you’re trying to talk.
2. Find Your Power Pose
Some studies have shown that standing in a power pose can make you feel more confident. If imitating Wonder Woman isn’t your cup of tea, there are other techniques you can try to achieve the same effect.
Rasha Goel, an Emmy-nominated TV host and media coach, has spent her fair share of time in front of a camera, speaking live to thousands of viewers. For those who feel nervous before an important call, she recommends a breathing technique to calm your nerves. Begin by inhaling to a count of five through the nose, then exhale through the nose to a count of five. Repeat this three times.
“The key is to focus on the breath and nothing else,” Goel says. “You can do this 5-10 minutes before the meeting starts while sitting in front of your computer, with the video turned off. When the mind is relaxed, it can perform any activity without being nervous.”
You can also try watching or listening to something that relaxes you, like an energy-boosting song or a funny video. Whichever you choose, be sure to hop into your power pose or listen to your pump-up song with enough time to give yourself the mental space to prepare for your meeting.
Vicki Salemi, a career expert with Monster, suggests giving yourself at least five minutes before a meeting to refocus your frame of mind, double-check that you look polished, take a sip of coffee or water, and get settled into the space.
3. Don’t Underestimate Eye Contact
First, make sure you have proper lighting shining on your face. That way, when you look directly into the camera, your eyes are easily seen. This helps display confidence and establishes a connection with those on the other end of the screen.
“I have sometimes seen people look away from the camera while they are speaking, which can be distracting for people on the other side of the screen,” Goel says. “Speak to everyone as if they are there with you in person. The eye contact shows that you are connected.”
4. Mind Your Body Language
One of the main differences between in-person and virtual meetings is the ability — or lack thereof — to read someone’s body language beyond the head, neck, and shoulders. As a result, body language becomes even more important when you’re speaking over video.
“Be genuine and authentic in your emotions and realize body language is minimized due to the screen, so your facial expressions are important,” Salemi says. “Instead of being robotic, it’s okay to look concerned, inquisitive, surprised, and more. Lean in a little bit, sit up straight, and more consciously use your body language to connect with others on the call.”
Jessica Storry — a digital designer, creative entrepreneur, and cofounder of SNACK Brand — has been working remotely full-time since 2010. After more than a decade of virtual meetings, she has found that the most important rule in a video meeting is to be focused and present.
“It is tempting to work on other things, especially with the amount of work we have nowadays,” Storry says. “But others can sense when you are distracted, and on video, it is clear who is really watching and listening. You may think you are winning at multitasking, but I promise, you’re not.”
5. Up the Energy
Because communication is happening through a computer screen, you want to avoid appearing like just another talking head. Actively listen when others are speaking, nod along as points are made, and be aware of your resting Zoom face.
Goel recommends being energetic and lively. “Try not to be stiff and sit in one position. Feel free to use your hands as you would in person, and don’t forget to smile.”
People won’t be able to pick up on all of your body language and visual cues as they would in person, so when in doubt, default to a slightly higher energy level than you might normally use.
6. Treat Virtual Meetings Seriously
Several experts say they have seen many people in video meetings — including video job interviews — treating things too casually. You may be working from your kitchen table, but that doesn’t mean you’re “at home.”
Recruiters have shared stories with Salemi about candidates checking texts or eating snacks during their job interviews, which is a big turnoff.
“Treat every virtual meeting like you would an official dream job interview, when you [would be] on top of your game,” Salemi says. “Arrive on time, interact and actively engage with others, and cut out all distractions.”
Salemi says the people who stand out during virtual meetings are those who are prepared. They have questions they’ve researched ahead of time and engage with people on the call; they come across as more confident, prepared, focused, and energetic than others.
“Don’t wear something in a video call you wouldn’t wear to meet a colleague, client, or contact face to face,” Cospito advises. “Keep your wardrobe more elevated than casual, and wear pants.”
Even the best of us, including one Good Morning America reporter, have made this unfortunate work-from-home mistake, so just take our word for it. Dress for success. Do your homework ahead of time, and speak up. You can make a great impression by asking questions and engaging with others.
7. Stage Your Background
You want the people you’re speaking with to focus on you, not what’s going on behind you. Make sure the environment around you is clean and organized, and be mindful of the background noise. Situate yourself where other family members will not walk by and away from the kitchen and/or a child’s bedroom, which tend to be noisier areas of the home.
One of the most important things for online meetings is the framing of your shot, according to Goel.
“The ideal framing for your shot is chest up, with your face filling the frame and slight room above the head,” Goel says. “The head should not be cut off, and there shouldn’t be too much space between the top of the head and the frame.”
It may be hard when working in a crowded home or apartment, but taking the call in a space that feels welcoming to you will come across on video. To combat Zoom fatigue, Salemi suggests adding something new to spruce up your workspace and pop on camera, like fresh flowers for spring.
8. Build Genuine Connections
One of the best ways to connect with people via virtual meetings is by helping others feel comfortable.
“Many of us never thought we’d be holding meetings from our kitchen tables, bedrooms, or couches, with kids crying, dogs barking, and doorbells ringing,” Storry explains. “Helping people feel at ease in an awkward situation is very important and helps others feel like we are all truly in this together.”
Storry’s team is located across multiple states, countries, and time zones. She attributes their success to the fact that they aren’t afraid to communicate, ask a lot of questions, and draw strength from each other’s differing skill sets and perspectives. They take the time to get to know one another outside of the “office.”
“Talking through work challenges and celebrating team accomplishments is important, but it wasn’t until we began connecting through our personal lives that we truly became in sync,” Storry says. “At first, we lingered on video calls to catch up on real life, and now we have weekly update meetings to chat about weekend plans, new hobbies, or the latest Netflix shows. We all care about each other, which shows in our work. Would I love to have everyone in a room someday? Absolutely. But through video calls and because of how we view each other personally and professionally, I feel like we already are.”
A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.
Megan Nicole O’Neal is a writer with a passion for storytelling, traveling, and — whenever possible — mixing the two. The UCLA alum lives in Los Angeles, more specifically in westside coffee shops with equally strong wifi and dark roasts. Connect with Megan on Twitter at @megan_n_oneal or her website mnoneal.com.