Faking it From the Waist Up: Communicating in the Midst of a Pandemic 101

With the onset of the global pandemic, one of the world’s most popular video conferencing services, Zoom, has seen a nearly 2,000% increase since last December. This means that those of us who can work from home and need to “meet” are likely using conference calls for audio only or video technology when we need to see one another and/or presentations. We are now seeing the differences between communicating in a pre-COVID era and communicating in the midst of a pandemic.

There is a difference by the way. With audioonly conference calls, you can flop around in bunny slippers and shorts with bedhead while chomping on a sandwich and chances are, no one but your dog will be the wiser. But if you are on a video conference call, all bets are off for everything but the shorts and bunny slippers.

We participate in a handful of video conference meetings each week and we’ve noticed that some have decided that with working from home comes with a license to disregard certain areas of appearance and professionalism. Yes, we’ve noticed!

Working from home does not mean grooming and dressing are optional if you are participating in a video conference meeting. Trust us. Appearances do matter, and to help you maintain your professionalism, even during the pandemic, we offer a few, easy tips for your video conferencing meetings.

  • Fake it from the waist up (at least!)—combed hair, jacket, a touch of make-up, jewelry; you know the drill.
  • Nobody – I mean NOBODY wants to see the inside of your nose! Don’t position the tablet/screen so you are looking down at it.
  • What’s behind you? Check your background for clutter, insulting signage, a TV that’s on, even with no volume, etc.
  • Are you eating? Save your lunch for after the meeting; and remember to brush your teeth or at least do a smile check in the mirror prior to hopping on your video call.
  • Remember where the camera is! When you stand up to salute the flag for government meetings, the camera will be on your midsection and not your face. Either change the angle of your screen or step back a fair distance.
  • Hello? Hello? Can you hear me now? Check and adjust your audio/video before the call starts so you are not wasting people’s time fiddling around.
  • Speaker are you THERE? Make sure the technology IS working before deploying it!
  • Video conferencing from the couch with your DOG? No really, this happened just this week. Leave Fido outside and pay attention!

In all seriousness, video conference technology is great.  But remember; it is technology, not communication.  Make sure you have communication policies and protocols in place before deploying any new communication tool.  Call your local communications professional and ask for advice, as well as for the dos and don’ts of online visual communications.  It’s a whole new world out there folks.

So, put down the sandwich and the wine glass, pick up a hairbrush, put on a collared shirt and get to work!  This communication thing is not going to get any easier!

Stacy Miller is the President/CEO for Stacy Miller Public Affairs (SMPA) Inc.  Gail Morgan serves as Chief Strategist for SMPA.  Both are wearing pearls, shorts and flip flops during video conference meetings.