Dress to kill or how to design your zoom stage

Dress to kill or how to design your zoom stage

The unforgettable year, 2020 with all its casualties and devastation is coming to an end, but there may well be a blessing in disguise. Many of us will need to prepare for new jobs, as our current ones have been swept away by the collateral damage of the pandemic.

Thus, we need to concentrate on what we really want and need, perhaps a high income in a large city or living happily on a lower income in a rural area with no commutes but those from the kitchen to your desk. Whatever your objectives for 2021, solid communications skills are of vital importance for you and your career.

Particularly those who choose a home office need to learn how to impress and transmit through video conferencing, that starts with your back ground: Is your desk a messy kitchen table or shelves full of books expressing expertise to the viewer?

The human brain, like it or not, makes unconscious decisions in a fraction of a second, and these first impressions are very difficult to change at a future stage, if ever. Say, you are an imminent scientist, and you apply for a teaching job and are being invited to the department head’s office with a zoom link.

Now, you use your office, and yes, there are books on the shelves behind you, but mostly piled up, newspapers and magazines on top to fill the empty space, the light comes from a lamp behind you so your face is darkened. On top of this poor stage design, there are red wine stains on your white shirt you hadn’t n noticed, which the head of the department cannot avoid staring at.

The head of the department also tries to look at the books, so well illuminated behind you. He rather looks at the books you have on your shelf, actually tries to see if he can spot any of his publications, rather than concentrating on what you are telling him about you and your expertise. What are the odds our scientist will get the desired appointment? 

Now, let’s use a different stage, and YES, you are designing your own stage:

Instead of your office you use the bedroom wall, there are no pictures on the white wall behind you, nothing to distract the department head’s eyes, the window is beyond your computer screen and the camera so your face is well lit up, you try to sit not too close to camera so you can maintain a good eye contact while being able to use your hands and arms to give emphasis to what you say.

The department head cannot get distracted, his mind will not wander off inspecting your library or the red wine stains, and yes, you did put on a clean shirt, a tie and a jacket. Do you think the scientist’s chances to get the job have improved?

Dress to kill may well be a metaphor for business communications, the way you dress, the colors of your shirt, whether or not a woman use jewelry, can make a vital difference on how you are being perceived. A rattling necklace, a tattoo, or none matching colors of your cloth could well distract the person you are speaking with, a person you try to convince to employ you, to give you a grant or simply ask to fall in love with you.

Have you noticed, so far you have not even opened your mouth, you have not said a word? So far, your brain has only had nonverbal communication with you, largely uncontrolled since it registers and classifies you without you being aware of it, and as a good communicator, you need to anticipate this, you need to set your stage, to make absolutely certain that your nonverbal communication matches what you want to tell others.

Your stage design needs to differ enormously according to what you want to convey, a famous chef will not present his creations in an office dressed with white shirt, a blazer and tie, and an investment banker will not perform in a kitchen.

A physician will demonstrate his expertise much better dressed in a white frock with a hospital background than in a swimming costume relaxing on the beach.

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