Lights, Camera, Work: A Non-Influencer's Guide to Virtual Meetings

Oct. 9, 2020
The definitive guide to how to look your best during your virtual presentations for anyone over the age of 30. 

Last weekend I competed in a humor/comedy contest on Zoom. To prepare for the event, I lined up my jokes, straightened my hair, found the perfect top, and got lit. Really lit. 

I'm not referring to getting high or getting drunk, my kind of lit had everything to do with lighting. 

I've been a Toastmaster for roughly two years now and up until March, I never had to worry about what the picture window in front of my desk did to my round, cherubic cheeks. In the last eight months, however, I've added pro at lighting, make-up, and background-interior-design to my ever-growing public speaker toolbox. 

It's what's on the outside that matters

As much as my mother told me growing up that looks didn't matter, the fact of the matter is, they do. What your clothing, your home, and how well the light reflects off of your tired, low-hydrated skin can say a lot about you. For instance, when we first stepped aboard the coronacoaster back in March, I didn't give much thought to what was showing up behind me when I was on a quick Zoom call or Google Meeting. "This is me," I insisted. "Like me or leave me," I proclaimed with the confidence my mother had so proudly instilled in me. 

Yeah. No. The dishes that had been stacked on the counter 12 feet behind me wasn't a good look, nor was the chaotic mess of books on my shelves. Seeing as though Quarantine had me living the Tiger King "life on the inside" life now, I got to work on making my home look like it was fit for the moderately impressive middle-aged woman that I am. I studied Apartment Therapy's Instagram account like it was my job. I took careful notes of how to prop my artwork and collectibles up against my walls. I rehabilitated a few shelves, and voila. I had a meeting backdrop fit for public consumption. 

You Light Up My Life

Having mastered how to look like I worked in a professional home of business, I moved on to lighting. Four different light fixtures, one screaming match with a mini-blind cord, and dozens of YouTube videos later, I found the precise angle and diffusion to keep me looking my best, no matter what time of day or night. 

For my fellow four-eyed friends, how not to have your screen show up in your lenses was of particular importance to me, especially for official presentations I was doing. Nothing says 'hey, I'm reading off of my screen" quite like the illumination of your screen in your glasses. 

I included a handy video that started me on my way down the rabbit hole of video presentation mastery, but suffice it to say, there's a lot to be said for a well placed lamp and a perfectly-angled camera. 

Dress for Success

I've seen numerous Quarantine stats about the decline of clothing and makeup sales. I'm not sure who they're talking to, because I've gone the opposite direction with my purchasing power. After seeing myself in the 900th long-sleeved t-shirt, I gave my top-half makeover.

Since people would only be seeing me from the shoulders up, I concentrated on shirts that had a flattering color, neckline, or (and this was a new one for me) shoulder silhouette. This all sounds extremely egotistical, but I definitely noticed an uptick in the number of people who paid attention when I talked once I paid attention to what as on my outside. 

My last adventure in non-influencer virtual meeting mastery was to go against the grain of what every feminist writing I've read suggested I do: To Thine Own Self Put on Makeup.

I have cheeks that would make Alvin, Simon, and Theodore jealous and they sit directly below a pair of very dark-circled undereye bags. After watching more makeup tutorials than I'm comfortable admitting to, I finally figured a few tips and tricks to make me look less worn down and more spruced up. I also finally figured out this magical thing called contouring, but that's a different blog for a different brand all together. 

Presentation Mastery

I've found myself on a lot of virtual calls lately where someone will mention something about a piece of artwork behind me or how dim I'm not. I'd love to respond with my trademark mischievous grin and pass it off as a lark, but in reality, I usually start talking about it the second anyone brings it up. There's a certain level of pride I have now for how much watching, rearranging, and re-configuring it took to get me here.

I'll never be America's Next Top Model, but it's possible I have a shot at America's Next Top Lockdown Non-Influencer.