Ways to stay virtually sane and own your Zoom face
Many of us have turned towards connecting with the outside world through online platforms such as Zoom, MS Teams, Google Meets and even good old Skype still makes the odd appearance. Now in our third lockdown, us small business owners know that if we want to stay visible to our customers, colleagues and networking community, conducting business through meeting online is something that we all have to embrace.
The introduction of Zoom especially, became a constant communication feature virtually overnight in early 2020 – not just for work-related tasks but just as a general way to stay in contact with our loved ones. But it doesn’t come without its own stresses. When we used to meet face to face, it was a bit more relaxed; we can usually rely on our feelings, gestures and body language to help us with non-verbal communication. Online communication platforms take this away to a certain extent, creating stress factors that wouldn’t normally be there such as anxiety to fill the conversational pauses, requires more effort to stay active, inability to read body language from a head and shoulders shot and the realisation of what we actually look like! Seeing ourselves on-screen can be daunting and opens up a whole new world of self-confidence issues.
Our new era of constant online video meetings means that we come face to face with ourselves far more than we ever did in pre-lockdown days. Most things we see online now have been altered or filtered in some way; a lot of people won’t even upload a photo to Facebook or Instagram without making some kind of app-related beauty ‘tweakment’. In the main, we are hyper critical of ourselves on-screen; Botox has worn off, breakout of spots, suitcases under the eyes and a seriously bad hair day to boot! A sure-fire way to start an unhealthy obsession with what we look like to the outside world.
But hang on a minute, rewind to pre-March 2020 and earlier – we had customers who bought from us, we had face to face relationships with them and our suppliers, business colleagues and networking buddies and nobody recoiled at what we looked like back then! So, what’s changed? Just because we see ourselves in action for more hours a day than we’d like, it doesn’t mean people don’t like what they see; there are no filters here and a badly angled laptop screen will undoubtedly capture our most unflattering poses.
Actual real-life fact: I attended a Zoom networking meeting recently with other small business owners and we all know each other pretty well. One lovely lady had the builders in and had to move out of her home office and use her (badly angled) laptop in the lounge – to be honest, we thought her heating had packed in as she had the hugest scarf on. However, she confessed to wearing the scarf to hide the wrinkly neck and multiple chins and generally ‘looking like Jabba The Hutt’ – something that none of us would ever see in her. It just goes to show how our insecurities sneak up on us when we are in front of the video camera.
We all do it. We all look into our little picture window and say “Really? Do I look that bad?” But, there are simple steps we can take to improve our appearance on-screen and I will share a few tips with you here:
The simple stuff; brush your hair, have a shave, put on your makeup and think consciously about the impact of your clothes. Don’t blind the rest of the Zoom room with busy patterns, go with a plain solid colour for a more subtle appearance.
Let there be light:
Nobody wants to see a shady face. Your fellow participants only have your facial expressions to read as they can’t see your body language. Try having a lamp directly by your face to give you enough steady lighting (but not so intense you feel like you’re being interrogated). Avoid sitting with your back to a window as you will only be a silhouette, turn and face the window for a softer light.
Now you see me, now you don’t:
Digital backgrounds can be a fun way to hide the mess in your house when you work from home or if you want to be super professional and have your logo as your backdrop, but they come with risk of swallowing you up! Depending on the background you have, your image may not work very well; a green screen is great for this kind of thing if you’re lucky enough to have one hanging around but most of us don’t. You want people in the virtual room to focus on your face, not what is behind you. Keep it simple and use a blank wall where possible.
Look into my eyes:
And not up my nose. As we touched on before, low angles are not very flattering. Eye to eye contact is best and if you need to, pile some books under your laptop until you get a level view. Just remember that James Whale, director of the original 1931 ‘Frankenstein’ film used low angles to the monster look more menacing; you really don’t want to do that!
Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb:
This is what team screen is going to hear unless you have a sharp mic in your laptop. You’ve shown up to the Zoom call and checked your appearance, your backdrop, the lighting, the camera angle…don’t be let down by your sound quality. If nobody can hear you, there is no point in being there. You can enhance your sound with a USB accessory mic for about £25. Don’t forget to check that you’ve muted your call to minimise other sound distractions like kids, pets and the click-clack of your keyboard.
When I’m hosting one to one meetings and coaching sessions, I tend to use Google Meets, and I have the layout so I can only see the person I’m talking to, this enables me to concentrate on them and not get distracted or dismayed by my own image.
Give these tricks of the trade a go and see if you can improve your Zoom game. If you still don’t feel confident in the way your Zoom face comes across or you need to hone your pitch and associated selling skills when you’re in a virtual meeting, we can work together to finesse these. A great advantage of moving online is that we can all keep each other safe in these challenging times and it also means that we don’t have to compromise our business growth and personal self-development skills either.
If you’d like to grow as a small business owner in 2021 and beyond, sign up to The Acorn Club for instant access to my invaluable sales and marketing resources and if you feel you need more 121 support, you can stay safe with online business coaching from me, Jacky Ling.
If you’re ready to make a positive online change, let’s talk today.