You are your brand

They say image is everything, and in the virtual world that’s really all you’ve got. Where we once greeted each other with a handshake, we now announce ourselves with a screen name. Rather than the board room, we meet at dining tables, kitchen counters and make-shift desks. Fluffy slippers, wayward children and, peering out from behind you, the stuffed toy your Aunt Judy gave you 30 years ago: it’s all rather personal …whilst at the same time being altogether impersonal.

We contend with technical difficulties, timezone differences and the ubiquitous distractions of home life, and that’s before you even think about your pitch. So what can you do to command the attention of the ‘Zoom room’?

A lot of our ‘new normal’ Westbrook working day is now spent liaising with clients and catching up with team members on Zoom, so we understand well the perils and pitfalls. We’ve pulled together a few pointers to consider ahead of your next video call.

It starts with you. Dress appropriately, and that means top to toe. Whilst we appreciate the temptation to go Amal Clooney on the top and Vicky Pollard below, what happens when the doorbell rings unexpectedly, or the cat creates a slow-motion coffee-versus-keyboard scene? Dressing like you’re in the office even though you’re working from home not only means you look like you mean business, but creates a more confident mindset and sense of routine. Posture and eye contact are just as important, letting others know that you’re engaged and ready to be productive. Speak clearly, slowly and avoid interrupting or speaking over others.

What do your surroundings say about you, and your brand? Clutter can be distracting not just for your Zoom-mates but also for you. Find a space that looks and feels calm and quiet and, if you can, draw a clear boundary with the rest of the household. Turn off the TV and keep background music in, well, the background. Think about lighting, too. Whilst good light is key to creating a pleasant work environment, sitting in front of a bright window will leave you looking like a dark expressionless shadow, not to mention slow-cook you on a sunny day

Equipment. Check your gear is up to scratch. Using earphones? Make sure they’re connected. Microphone? Turn it on and make sure there’s no feedback. Wireless internet connections can be unreliable, especially if you’re sharing bandwidth with other chatters and streamers at home, so get the kids to unplug for an hour – let them go work on their 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. And of course, despite all the necessary checks, technology can let you down at any time, so have a backup option ready in case something goes wrong.

And finally, be prepared. Know what you’re going to say and how you want to say it. Bring notes and make sure you’re online a few minutes beforehand. I’ve had my own brush with Screen Fear. Following back-to-back calls, I failed to give myself the time to gather my thoughts and focus. In the end, after a total mind-melt, I had to momentarily mute, take a breath and re-join the call. I lived to tell the tale, but I’ll be seeking to avoid a repeat episode.

Ultimately the thing to remember is that on screen, you are your brand, and this rings true in the ‘real’ world, too. Without the bells and whistles of the board room to hide behind, it’s how you present yourself that will make the best impression. People invest in people, and in these times of weirdness and uncertainty, giving people confidence in you is your best chance at success.