Remote Work

Does Your Zoom Outfit Affect How Well You Speak?

February 2, 2022
7 Min Read

Do the same norms around dressing apply for virtual meetings? And how badly is my speech affected when I hop into a zoom meeting with sweatpants and a t-shirt? Moreover, am I not casually at home?

These have been the questions rife in so many people’s minds ever since the pandemic hit and virtual meetings became a norm. Sadly, if you are planning to wait, the numbers will not change anytime soon.

In a recent survey, 86% of companies are now conducting job interviews via video conferencing. 

A further 86% of respondents, as reported by the Harvard Business Review, are satisfied with their communications via video conference, with 70% of them intending to use it even after the social distancing protocols have been lifted.

That leaves a lot of work to be done as far as dressing for virtual meetings is concerned. But why does it matter?

How Your Dressing Affects Your Speech

According to a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, how you dress and the background you use for your video calls determine how the audience views you as authentic, trustworthy, innovative, and most likely an expert.

These other areas of your speech are also affected by your dressing.

Confidence Levels

Dressing the part makes you more confident. Moreover, your dressing relays to your audience your personality.

For instance, if you address your colleagues during formal working hours, dressing formally helps convey the message better. They will more likely listen to you and implement the ideas you fronted.

Not dressing the part makes you uncomfortable, which affects your speech delivery. In turn, you will appear incompetent, unprepared, and not serious with what you’re presenting to people.

First impressions

The first impression is the last impression. It matters a lot to people. Most people will not take you seriously if you dress shabbily for a Zoom meeting. Worse, they will tend to ignore your speech and whatever suggestions you bring to the table in the future.

Inappropriate dressing makes you appear lazy and careless, despite packing serious content to deliver to your audience.

With an excellent first impression, you get an edge over others. You’re able to grab more attention which means that the audience will better understand your ideas. 

Show of Respect/Seriousness Towards the Occasion

You can only grab your audience's attention if you show them that you respect the occasion and are serious about the content you’re about to deliver. One robust way to do this is by avoiding overdressing.

Limit the amount of makeup or accessories you add to your dressing. Moreover, avoid revealing clothes. Gaudy t-shirts, ill-fitted trousers, and massive cleavages shift the focus from your speech to your attire and exposed parts.

Being neat and presentable shifts the focus to the essential thing: your presentation. Moreover, you feel more comfortable presenting your content which boosts your confidence levels

How to Dress Appropriately for Virtual Meetings

Now that you know how your dressing affects how well you speak to your audience, how should you dress, then, for a virtual meeting?

There are some tips you can use.

Wear Color

A typical virtual meeting will have several participants with their cameras turned on, all visible on the screen. It would be best to make yourself stand out so that the rest of the participants can spot you on the screen when you start talking and direct their attention there.

That is why wearing bright, popping colors is a great idea. Colors such as red, pink, and green look fantastic on the screen. They’re not only eye-catching but also add a bit of warmth to the screen. Purple colors also pop nicely on the screen.

You have to be careful, however. Overdoing this can make you look cluttered and overdressed. Don’t mix too many colors, and don’t go for outrageous color choices that don’t blend with the context of the meeting. For instance, pink, yellow, and green are not the best for very professional meetings.

Get Clothes with a Lot of Stretch

You need to be very comfortable to deliver a compelling talk to participants of a virtual meeting. That means ditching constricting blazers, tops, and tight dresses for attire with a lot more stretch.

Virtual meetings take hours to complete. Tight clothes will induce fatigue faster than loosely-fitting alternatives, which will, in turn, affect your performance across the day.

Whatever you wear should allow you to stretch, reach for items, and lounge comfortably in your desk chair.

If you want something more constrictive, consider layering it. Have a comfortable shirt or blouse underneath then a fitting blazer on top. As the meeting progresses, you can take off the blazer to feel more comfortable.

Choose the Right Background

Your dressing goes hand-in-hand with the kind of background you choose for your video feed. In the study conducted by Harvard Business Review, three out of four participants preferred showing the actual room compared to a generic background. 

This is despite risking a kid wandering past you or showing your dirty pile of laundry.

Showing actual rooms improves the audience’s feeling of authenticity, expertise, and trustworthiness. They’d be, therefore, more receptive to your content.

Avoid Patterns

Patterns and prints create a weird optical effect on most cameras, known as “strobing.” Strobing occurs mainly with stripes where the line is not continuous. The laptop camera picks it up as jerkiness in the pattern.

This effect can be very distracting to your audience.

If you must choose a pattern, go for a very subtle one with minimal contrast. That way, you will take center stage and deliver a better talk.

Change Your Dressing for Better Communication

Virtual meetings have evolved to demand top dressing from us as much as physical, real-world meetings do. The trick to nailing it and achieving effective communication is not focusing on dressing alone. 

Also, pay attention to the background you’re using in your virtual meeting to ensure that the audience can spot you and are less distracted by the attire and background. That way, they’ll listen to what you have to say.

Say it like you mean it.

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