In these tough economic times, many businesses and working folk are turning to modern technology to accomplish what once took a business trip. Skype allows people to meet, discuss and brainstorm all without crossing state lines or international waters. Even human resource departments are utilizing this communication tool to conduct interviews with prospective employees who do not reside in the area–and, who just a few years prior would have had to pay a lot of money out of pocket to for flights and hotels to land that interview.
However, it is easy when watching someone on a screen, rather than speaking with them in person, to become distracted by physical aspects of a person. Therefore, when utilizing Skype for business, whether an interview or a meeting, it is necessary to keep physical appearance and body language in mind. You want the party at the other end of the Skype call to pay attention to your abilities and knowledge, rather than the strand of hair falling in your face or the glare coming off your glasses.
Communication scholars often herald the fact that audiences make judgements about a person long before they open their mouths. This is true even when we are broadcasting ourselves on the Internet. Here are some tips to look professional when using Skype for business purposes:
1. Wear a complete outfit–While it may be tempting to dress professionally on the top half of your body and dress for comfort below the waist, it is impossible to know what situation may arise that would cause you to have to stand up. More than likely remarkably little other than your face, shoulders, and perhaps torso will be visible on screen. But you may have to get up for a number of reasons–locating information that you don’t have directly beside you or receiving an emergency phone call or an unexpected visitor at your door.
2. Simple not stylish–Wardrobe choices should be as straightforward as possible. Stick to solid, dark colors as those will be less intense on screen. Avoid fabrics that have a sheen to them to avoid glare; keep jewelery to a minimum. Anything that will distract focus away from what you’re saying is to be avoided. The person on the other end of the Skype session should pay attention to your presentation or answers to their questions, not your neon pink sweater or gold cuff links.
3. Create the illusion of eye contact–Position your web cam so that it is a few inches above eye level. If you are using a lap top with an embedded web cam, you may have to prop up the computer on a few large books to accomplish this. This position forces you to look slightly up, creating a better angle for faux eye contact. There will be a lot happening on your screen, and it is incredibly tempting to look elsewhere from the actual web cam. Many new to Skype will want to look at themselves as they speak or attempt to make eye contact with the other person’s image on the screen, but this will create an angle where you are looking off to the side or looking down, respectively. Both of which do not create the appearance of eye contact and by proxy give off a body language cue that you are not interested in the conversation at hand. Therefore, keep your eyes glued on the camera itself while you are speaking (of course, you will need to look at the person who is talking when THEY are speaking).
4. Ladies, use makeup to your advantage--Because the camera is positioned at eye level or above, it will create the appearance of dark circles under your eyes. Stay away from heavy eyeliner that will draw attention to them and instead focus on brightening and widening your eyes with eye shadow and mascara. Besides bright eyes and well placed concealer, keep other makeup simple and avoid extra glossy lips.
5. LIGHTS, camera, action–The room you are going to use should be well lit. Natural light is the most flattering, if possible. If sunlight is unavailable, place an extra lamp behind the web cam/computer so that its light shines on to your face. What will be visible in the shot behind you should be as neutral as possible, free of clutter, and void of distractions for the viewer. If you’re attending this Skype session from your home, as opposed to an office, you want the background to appear as professional as possible (so keep that pile of laundry and unmade bed out of view). Try to avoid fluorescent lights at all costs–they will make you look washed out.
Whether we like it or not, even in a professional setting we are being viewed and judged superficially. As a result, it is increasingly vital for your physical appearance to correctly coincide with your professional experience. Simply put, even though you may be miles away from a potential employer or business clientele, it is impossible to be professional when you look like a slob.
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