How to Look Good on Video Chat (Pants Optional)

I hate wearing pants. 

Well, most pants, anyway. The minute I arrive home, I take off whatever I’m wearing — be it a dress or jeans — and immediately slip into what I call “apartment pants.” They’re soft, stretchy, and never bind at the waist. I can’t say they are the most flattering garment I own, and they’re definitely not the sexiest. But they feel great — AND I do some of my best work in them.

But I don’t just slip into them after a long day: I also wear them while I write and work from home. And even when I have video sessions with clients or team members, my apartment pants stay loosely hanging from my body for maximum comfort, both physically and mentally. 

But my top half — well, that’s a different story….

Studies show that 64 percent of us are in a video conference weekly — including everything from Facetime to Skype to Google Hangout. And with telecommuting on the rise, a winning digital image has become central to maintaining professionalism. You may think video conferencing doesn’t demand the same level of polish you would bring to an in-person interview or client meeting, but the visual impact remains the same.  

Unlike your social media profiles, video calls can feel like a photo shoot and interview, all rolled into one. We’re more self-conscious on video chats, in part because we can see ourselves while we’re talking (awkward). But it’s not just your own appearance that demands extra attention on these calls. Your immediate space becomes a mini movie set, and you must play both actor and director as you step into the frame.  

To help you master the art of video conferencing, I’ve distilled 5 key areas for men and women to strategically manipulate as you prepare for your close-up, including lighting, clothes and makeup, physical positioning, audio/visual, and background. 

Most of these tactics are quick and free (or very low cost), and none of them demand that you morph into a glamorous movie star to be effective. In fact, you’ll be surprised how a few strategic choices can highlight your best features — and shift the focus where it belongs: to your knowledge and expertise. 

And best of all: pants are always optional. 

It isn’t a matter of choosing style over substance, but rather letting style emphasize your hard-earned substance. Here’s how. 



p.s. I’d love to hear about your online video chat challenges and tactics — let me know in the comments section, and be sure to pass this along to your professional pals. They may need a little video brush-up, as well. 

Want more style and life upgrade advice? Take the Sociology of Style men’s and women’s quizzes, or check out the Success With Style series for men and women. 

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