This is part one of a two-part series.
In my camera-ready coaching sessions with business thought leaders, I emphasize the importance of taking extra care to present the best camera-ready version of themselves onscreen. This is to meet the technical demands of the camera lens and ensure that the way they “look” enhances their credibility and meets the expectations of their target audience.
If you’re a business thought leader who wants to create video content, keep in mind that first-time viewers may have no idea who you are or what you do. Or they may view your video outside of your web platform or out of context.
First-time viewers can be less forgiving and simply judge you on your appearance and pay very little attention to your message. Unfortunately, that first impression becomes the “anchor” by which they will judge every subsequent exposure to you.
For example, prior to working with me, a business thought leader made the mistake of not wearing a compressive undergarment under his casual shirt. His video presentation and message were upstaged by underarm sweat and a “man-boob” jiggle on-screen. No one on his production team had the courage to mention the issue (or suggest a blazer) at the time.
Viewers focused more on the thought leader’s appearance to the detriment of the promo video message.
After the promo video went live it was met with a barrage of negative comments and teasing jokes about the thought leader’s appearance. Viewers focused more on the presenter’s appearance to the detriment of the promo video message. It was quickly taken off the website’s homepage.
The business leader felt embarrassed in front of his staff and industry peers. He also felt like the proverbial Emperor without any clothes. The situation could have been avoided with proper wardrobe pre-planning and a “dress” rehearsal.
Set the Right Expectations
No matter what your skill set is, your target audience will have expectations about how an expert in your field should look, sound, and behave within the context of your industry. It’s here that you must clearly position your thought leadership by design.
Research findings from Harvard suggest that we have 3 to 6 seconds in the flesh to either make or break a great first impression before a word is spoken.
“Within a few seconds, people have judged your social and economic level, your level of education, and even your level of success. Within minutes, they’ve also decided your level of intelligence, trustworthiness, competence, friendliness, and confidence”.
With video, everything that appears on-screen becomes heightened (more intense than usual) because we are working within the narrow confines of the video frame. Whereas with real-world encounters we have the 360-degree background of the environment diluting our attention.
Because everything is heightened within the frame we need to pay more attention to the “superficial elements” like grooming, on-camera styling, and clothing.
Everything your audience sees on the screen either builds your credibility or detracts from it.
How we dress is part of our non-verbal communication. It shows the outside world how we feel about ourselves on the inside. It will have social significance for the audience.
Your style, grooming, and how you dress visually communicates non-verbal clues about your personality, sexual identity, age, cultural background, values, and financial status.
Certain types of clothing styles can alter how we feel physically and emotionally. Method Actors often use clothing (costuming) to help them inhabit and breathe life into a character. Being selective and deliberate with your on-camera styling and wardrobe choices can help you feel differently as well.
Dressing in a style that helps you feel more confident and “put together” can help you be more persuasive in your messaging and inspire confidence in your abilities.
Likewise, a disheveled appearance and wrinkled clothes may send a negative “I don’t care” message onscreen. And if you don’t care, it probably won’t inspire your viewer to care enough to stick around either. Appropriate attire conveys respect for your audience.
With video, everything counts. Everything your audience sees or hears on-screen either builds your credibility or detracts from it. You will create a more powerful impact if you take extra care when:
It’s About Your Viewer
Once you have clarified and defined who your target audience is, you then need to put yourself in your viewers’ shoes. Present an image that is congruent with the expectations of your audience. Your wardrobe, jewelry, and styling must add to your authority and credibility.
Yes, there are some thought-leaders that show up on video giving “Zero F–ks” about their appearance or how they dress for their audience. But you need to bear in mind that it could be a strategic choice as part of their brand archetype, for example, “the rebel archetype.” Their target audience expects that “rebel” attitude, look, feel, and tone from them.
If this is not part of your brand identity, please do not adopt this approach. Instead, dress “the part” that best supports your brand and your message so that your audience visually “gets” who you are and what you are about within the first few seconds onscreen.
Does your image look like the sort of person that your audience can identify with and trust?
A great way to test this is to watch yourself on video with the volume off.
- First impressions – do you look the part?
- Does your on-camera image support, or detract from your message?
- Does your image look like the sort of person that your audience can identify with and trust?
Over the years I’ve seen my share of business thought-leadership videos. In one case, I saw a business leader teaching strategic concepts while dressed in board shorts and a beanie. This might have worked if the thought leader owned a skateboard shop in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, and was speaking about how he made his business successful, but this wasn’t the case, and the video series was not well received.
Dressing for success is a big topic and has an element of subjectivity. Below are my universal styling rules for men and women who want to look and feel great on video – and meet the technical demands of the camera lens.
Clothing to Avoid:
- Loose clothing that makes you look larger i.e. large T-shirts, baggy or ill-fitting shirts, dresses
- Square or straight-cut clothing styles (i.e. tunics) that don’t pull in at the waist. In fact, any item of clothing that does not outline or suggest a waistline should be avoided
- Clothing with horizontal stripes. The video camera (no matter your physical size) will add 5-10 lbs to your frame. Wearing any of the three types of clothing mentioned above will make you appear larger than you actually are
- Fabrics that wrinkle easily, like linen, will show on the screen like ravines
- Silk shirts, tend to rustle and cause sound problems. Plus they often show perspiration marks
- Hats, unless they are absolutely necessary i.e. outdoor-type videos. Hats can cast shadows that obscure your face and eyes. People are genetically programmed to look at faces. So avoid creating a psychological barrier by obscuring half of your face
- Fad fashion, unless you’re promoting fashion. The latest fads will quickly date your video and can detract from the substance of your key messages
- Low-cut necklines tend not to convey a professional message. Plus without the proper supportive undergarments, and the correct camera angle the chest will often look saggy on-screen.
In general, choose classic clothing styles that are tailored specifically for your body shape. Opt for cuts and patterns that are simple and elegant, as these generally won’t date your look.
Colors to Avoid:
- Bright reds, oranges, and yellows tend to glow or bleed on-screen (although it can depend on the capabilities of your filming device)
- Black – it absorbs light and can be too dark for most video work and requires a lighting set-up to look good on-screen
- White – it reflects light and can dazzle the lens. If you have pale skin, white makes your face look underexposed. If you have dark skin it can make you look darker. And you’ll need to adjust your video camera settings for a good result
- Green – particularly if you are using a green screen for background effects
- High contrast patterns, pinstripes, checkered patterns, polka-dots, corduroy, and herringbone – these all create a wavy rainbow-colored pattern called a moiré effect on video.
Colors to Use:
In general, solid colors work best on video and often won’t date your look. To check which colors suit your skin type pull up your sleeve and check the veins on your arms. If they look bluer you will probably suit cooler undertones i.e. bright greens, purples, pinks, and reds. If your veins look more green than blue then you will suit warm tones like yellow, peach, gold, browns, and dark greens. Keep the vein test in mind when choosing or shopping for your wardrobe selection.
Rich earth tones like taupe, bark, olive, charcoal, coffee, mocha, cocoa browns, smokey grays, bronze, gold, or pastels (provided they are paired with a brighter color) all look great on camera.
If you love color (I do, and wear it a lot in my videos); magenta, limes, teals, quartz purples, emerald greens, mandarin oranges, sapphire blues, amethyst violet, burgundy, plums, topaz, smokey grays all look great on screen.
Play around with contrasts. If you are dark-haired try wearing a light-colored top and vice versa if you are fair-haired.
Regardless of what you choose, check how it looks on the screen before you shoot.
Also, check that your colors work well with your background setting. They should neither blend into nor clash with your background.
Fabrics that are matte are more flattering to the physique than shiny or metallic type materials which can bounce light at the lens, creating visual distractions. This goes for everything, including your background objects.
Bright Shiny Objects
Avoid wearing anything large, flashy, and sparkling unless your business requires it. Dangly earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and watches can sparkle under the lights and can be distracting for viewers and detract from your message.
In women (and dependent on the subject matter) wearing dangly earrings can lessen their authority and credibility. They can also cause sound issues too. Statement pieces work well at networking events, but if worn on video (framed in a medium to close shot) they will often upstage you and your message on-screen. Choose subtle jewelry with matte finishes where possible.
What the Camera sees
Remember that the video camera “sees” things differently than the human eye. When dressing for your video presentations, the general rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Choose classic clothing styles in solid colors with no delicate patterns and no distracting jewelry.
Unless you are in the business of selling clothing, you want your viewers to spend more time looking at your face (and hearing your message) than staring or wondering about your clothing choices.
Have questions about your own video presentations? Let me know about them here.
And, you can always book a time with me to get the tailored support and guidance you need on any of the performance areas covered in this post. See below for details or learn more about my services here.
Established in 2006 Bianca Te Rito, founder of STEBIAN.com provides an exclusive, consulting service helping business thought leaders, speakers, award-winning authors & VIPs productize their thought leadership and present themselves, their products, services, or brand message to their target audience in the most effective way possible on video. Get the tailored expertise from a real-world operator with over 20 years of TV/Film industry experience working in front of and behind the camera. Learn more about our custom offers here.