In a recent interview with image and presence consultant Marcella Scherer, she shared with me how to create the whole 360 effect when on a zoom call, you-tube video, virtual conference or any other online event. If you want to make a good impression, it’s a lot more complex than just clothes and back-ground. She covered four essential components to give you the edge, and called it the ABCD of having presence.
“You never know who will meet, and in online meetings, the senior management and CEO may be far more likely to be watching when previously they wouldn’t have” she goes to say “you only have 7 seconds to make 11 first impressions, which she explains are nano-judgements such as your gender, socio-economic status, intelligence, trustworthiness, likability being amongst them; having the edge on appearance is key – once you push past that first judgement, then you can use your other tools such as your voice, knowledge and experience to impress.”
For those sceptics who would prefer to resist dressing up for the boss, Marcella re-frames it as considering it to be just another tool in your tool-kit, and to use it to your advantage. Some suggestions she makes to help you stand out are
- Wear a solid colour that makes your eyes twinkle; white is too reflective and black drowns you out
- Fix your hair – it doesn’t have to be. A professional hairstyle, but look like you’ve made an effort rather than put it up with a scrunchie, and use an oil to eliminate the frizz that is more likely to show up on screen. Show your face.
- Apply make-up – perhaps a little more than you would in person , including bronzer and lipstick
- Accessorise tastefully- try not to distract too much by wearing large bulky accessories, but still look like you have made an effort. She also went to point out that our wardrobe is 1/3 clothes and 2/3 accessories – so we have the advantage of needing to keep buying different outfits!
“The way you do one thing, is the way you do everything,” she says, and that is what people will remember. If you show up late, they may think, albeit wrongly, that you may not be timely on projects; if you show up messy, they may think you don’t care enough about the work either. Some suggestions to come across well in those first seven seconds are
- Turn up on time or be early
- Sit upright looking into the camera, paying attention, leaning forwards
- Remove distractions such as your phone, or don’t let anyone see you check it
- Be in a quiet room where other peoples conversations can’t be heard
- Let others know you are in a meeting so they don’t accidently appear on screen with you
- Turn you camera off if you are going to eat
- Mute yourself if you have to leave to go to the bathroom!
“55% is non-verbal and 7% verbal” she explains, “so how we hold our bodies says so much to people.” Some tips she shared included:
- Look directly into the pinhole of the camera when speaking; we get so distracted looking at ourselves, that this can be hard. A great tip she gave is to stick a post-it note over your reflection so you can focus directly – this gives the impression you are looking directly at the person speaking and not distracted. In turn, it opens up trust from the speaker when they think you are listening to them attentively.
- Avoid distracting hand-gestures – try to sit upright, leaning in, at eye level, with your hands in your lap or making notes
- Keep your body still – rocking side to side, back and forth, fidgeting constantly is distracting and gives the impression you are not paying attention. Turn your camera off if you have to reposition yourself.
- Think before you speak or comment and beware of interrupting people
- Make use of the chat facility to ask questions if you can’t make yourself heard or have house-keeping comments to make
- Remember there is usually a delay online
- Raise your hand if needs be – digitally or in person
- Use a microphone which will help to eliminate background noise and reduce the echo.
“When you show up fully competent and present, people notice and are drawn to you!” She continued, “Women in particular can seem to have it all going for them, looking great, but still not getting the attention on screen, which becomes even more of a challenge digitally.” This is where the energy work and working on yourself from within needs to done to be truly effective. She shared some pre-meeting suggestions:
- Set intentions before going online
- Consider creating a ritual that suits you, such a centring exercise beforehand which might be a few minutes of guided meditation or breathing
- Raise your energy and vibration by dancing to your favorite song, or some other physical activity, like pumping your arms and down while affirming your intentions
- Be mindful
Marcella went on to explain that in order to have a truly powerful image and presence that allows you to be noticed, it has to come for the inner work, and that will radiate through. This included identifying your fashion values, your goals and be completely clear on what you want. She does a fun exercise with her clients called the million dollar style and vision board exercise, which not only identifies what and how to style yourself with the best hair, make-up and most flattering clothes, but also exactly how you want to be feeling and the effect you wish to have on others.
“As a leader or high level executive, we have to have these soft skills to accompany our leadership and presence. It is a really important piece, that in fact is not fluffy, nor superficial. The little details can say so much about a person.” She summarised.
So may other wonderful ideas and concepts were shared during our time together about what a wardrobe says about a person and her own leaps of faith to pursue a life with purpose.
Her own story is one steeped in experience in the fashion industry and being open and prepared to take risks. She had been a ballet dancer, and surrounded by the world of fashion and body image which impacted her calling. Without a doubt, helping people the way she does shines through her so passionately; if anyone has digital presence, it is certainly her.
Dr Rana Al-Falaki helps women re-ignite and exude passion to turn wanting into having by being more and doing less. She believes adamantly in the three words of her podcast and video series – be free, be fun, be fearless. You can connect with her via her website.