I’ve been working remote for 20 years but back then a remote team meeting meant speakerphone, coffee in hand while I spent the day in my bathrobe with an unmade face. No yoga pants required. True story.
Five years ago I began my full time gig in the world of virtual meetings using video and have slowly figured out how to look my best for remote client meetings even in a pinch. It feels timely to share those tips and tricks for all the amazing women out there who understand looking your best, even in the virtual environment, matters. I would argue, it matters more.
Some of these tips came from necessity, others vanity and some from people on the other side of the screen. It’s amazing what people notice. For example, clients often ask me about my eyebrows. What lipstick I use. Why my skin glows. All outlined for you below. Whether you like it or not you’re making an impression. I’m passing along these ideas to help you make it your best.
In no particular order…
Light Up Your Remote Environment
The easiest way to freshen up your look in a pinch is lighting. The best way to have a consistent look is to stage your lighting.
Always face a window to allow the natural light to magically blur away dark circles, fine lines and any other facial imperfection. Light behind you or a lack of light actually shadows your face and creates imperfections you do not even have!
Note: While I’m an advocate of natural beauty and the fact we should not be concerned with hiding imperfections, in my experience, I show up more confident when I’m looking my best. I believe there’s nothing wrong with wanting to put your best face forward!
For more consistent lighting, gray days or for evening calls, I recommend purchasing a ring light. This can be easily found by searching ‘ring light’ on Amazon for lots of options; I have a Neewer kit similar to this one.
Equipment to Uplevel Your Virtual Experience
The ideas below become critical when you’re engaging in remote team meetings on an ongoing basis. You can certainly get by without them, but for the leader who is on back to back calls these recommendations will be game-changers.
Another trick for a fresh faced appearance is to get yourself a camera for your laptop.Yes the built in cameras are pretty good these days, but I was wowed when I finally purchased my Logitech webcam. Something that plugs in via USB comes in handy for travel too when we are all back in action. It’s amazing what my Logitech webcam is able to do when conferencing from a hotel room. I use an older version of this Logitech webcam.
Camera position matters. Eye level or slightly above. I position mine slightly above and angle down, you will be amazed at the anti-aging effects. I love my Roost laptop stand, and in a pinch I find empty boxes, baskets or whatever I have in the kitchen that is stable.
A quick tip if you’re using Zoom meeting, enable the option to touch up your appearance by going to Settings – Video and selecting Touch Up My Appearance.
A great solution for long term remote work especially when you can’t seem to find a great place in your home that offers a staged background, is to purchase a green screen. Alternatively, get a green cloth background and tack it up to the wall behind you. I love this option because it takes up less space, I can take it down quickly and it’s easily stored. This allows you to then use the virtual background option within Zoom meeting. Again, head to Settings – Meeting – In Meeting Advanced – Virtual Background. Once this option is enabled, while you’re in a meeting click the arrow next to Start Video – Choose Virtual Background. Use one they provide or upload your own photo.
I definitely recommend an external microphone. Something that plugs into your computer via USB. You probably can do without it in the short term, but trust me, those earbuds with mic will get old fast and are not ideal for long term remote work. I found them to constantly get tangled in my hair, earrings and clothing. I have used an Audio Technica mic similar to this one for my podcast from day one and love it. An external mic offers more professional sound too for those of you doing interviews virtually for podcasts, webinars and telesummits.
My ears get sore with headphones on all day long so I tend to listen on speaker from my computer. I add regular earbuds when I need privacy and use noise cancelling headphones when recording for the podcast. If you’ve got lots of background noise, I would consider an upgrade to your earphones especially if virtual meetings will become your lasting new norm.
Amplify Your Beauty
Historically I’m not a gal that has worn a lot of makeup. I actually finally went for an official makeup lesson in the last five years because I was on video so often and I wanted to not appear so washed out. The challenge for me from going to very little makeup to a full face, was the time it takes. So I’ve figured out a few tricks that allow me to not put on complete makeup every day and still look fresh. My best ideas for you to try are below.
First you must moisturize your skin, even the gents. My super secret trick for glowing skin in a pinch is a Keys product called KPRO Tinted Moisturizer. I’m fair and it blends well for me. They claim it blends for all skin types, I’ll be curious to hear how darker skin tones engage with it. Let me know ladies!
Second fill in your eyebrows. I lightly pencil in bare spots and give shape to the top of my brows only with a pencil. Then I use a powder to fill in the color of the entire brow. Many people ask me about my brows – I have never had them professionally done, it’s all DIY! Here is the pencil I use along with the powder from Senna Cosmetics. As my makeup artist Brett Dorrian taught me, your brows are cousins but not twins – do not try to make them appear as such!
Finally, lips. A tinted lip gloss goes a long way for those who are not used to wearing much on your face. Burt’s Bees lip shimmer is my long time go to and I recently discovered a coconut based tinted lip gloss I love called Kopari. If you want lasting color that is au natural and cruelty free I love the products by Bite, specifically their lip crayon.
Head and Hair, My $0.02
I draw the line when it comes to what’s on top – no hats for any professional engagement. Take it or leave it, that’s my thing. If you see me in a hat, the video will definitely not be recorded and I’m jumping into an unplanned remote meeting with a client.
Otherwise, my hair is washed and curled or straightened.
Here’s what I do recommend, find a style you feel confident in that you can bring together for yourself in a pinch, even if your hair is unwashed. That could mean a teased ponytail or a dry shampoo that works with your hair like magic. For me, it’s a Breakfast at Tiffany’s inspired updo a la Audrey Hepburn. The point here is to plan. Plan what you can pull together on a moment’s notice and have the tools on hand in your virtual office.
What to Wear, Pants Are Not Optional
It took me a little practice to find a daily outfit routine that would take me through the seasons and work for casual one to one remote meetings to full on presentation for a webinar to hundreds.
Every day with the occasional variance, you’ll find me in skinny jeans and a black tank top or black long sleeve shirt. Both are fitted and I tend to favor Athleta for these items. Over that I wear a jacket. Sometimes a jacket that is formal and fit and other times something more casual – but always a solid colored jacket because it looks most polished. I also keep a formal jacket option in my office at all times so I can switch it up in a pinch if needed.
Also keep a dress scarf handy. It will warm you up when you get chilled and it will dress you up when you feel like a pop of color or you need a new outfit instantly. Another idea is a colorful chunky necklace.
Pick solid colors that add color to your face and compliment your skin tone. I’m certainly not suggesting you wear black, that’s my thing. Find yours.
And a note on the skinny jeans…those are often black too. So if I stand up on camera it looks polished given they match my top and they are fitted not baggy. Lots of ladies wear black yoga pants. I believe this could work too. You will know if you test it. Record a video of yourself and stand up during the mock meeting to see how you look.
Other Items on My Mind
I’ve never had a time when my shoes mattered, except to me. I love a great pair of shoes. So for the 4-5 months here in Stowe when boots are not required, you’ll most likely find me in a pair of Fly London shoes. I wanted to mention it for those of you who love a few extra inches in height without the pain of traditional heels.
Shoes don’t matter, but your hands do. Just because you’re virtual doesn’t mean they won’t notice your well overdue manicure. The jewelry you’re wearing is also well on display. Think it through.
As most of you get settled in your new remote work world, I hope my five years of trial and error offer you a jump start on how to show up looking your best. While the kids continue to interrupt your meetings, the cat will continue to saunter across your keyboard during your board presentation and your special someone will undoubtedly ask what’s for dinner not realizing you are still ‘at work’…
Remember, we all recognize those are the things you cannot control, but what you can certainly influence is how you show up. And how you show up, it matters.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a high performer. I’m in that category and it has been an extremely beneficial character trait, but also a character flaw. I’ll take the good with the bad and downright ugly, after all, it’s what makes me, me. And you, you.
There is a dark side though, pieces that don’t often get said out loud. That’s what I’m writing about here. Not just the downside of high performance but the dark side…including the lies we tell ourselves and the truth on the other side.
Anxiety is a real thing for high achievers and you’re likely struggling in this area in some way whether you know it or not. I did not know it for a long while.
A favorite section of the article is below, the author described the relationship and cycle of high performance and anxiety simply:
My achievements define my self-worth
My fear and anxiety force me to achieve
Without my fear and anxiety, I might lose the drive to achieve
Achieving worth is too important — I must stay anxious in order to protect my worth
Here’s what I know that you may not yet – you are insatiate by the success you are achieving – and you can’t quite put your finger on why so you keep looking outward to fill a what’s missing inside of you. Hint: nothing is missing, it’s there, you just need to unlock it.
Truth: You’re never going to fill that hole by achieving outward
Lie: If you just accomplish this one next “thing” you will be happy
And if you’re not yet exhausted by this pattern, I promise you it’s in the mail. Your insatiable addiction to achieve is fueled by overworking and that is not sustainable.
You’re telling yourself a big fat lie day in and day out; happiness is not right around the corner. You’re looking very successful on the outside, but feeling unsuccessful on the inside. The challenge for high performers like you and me is that it feels impossible to say this out loud.
People around you envy your picture perfect life and may only receive your feeling this way as simply ridiculous. Stop complaining. You’ve got a great life. This will be compounded by the fact that you struggle to articulate exactly what the problem is because you yourself can’t quite put your finger on it.
So how do you articulate it? How do you put your finger on it? There is no article or program or course I can point you to, it’s individual to you. We are complex puzzles called human beings and it takes a bit of internal work and unraveling to unlock what is inside of you. If you are seeking a change and ready to do the inner work, let’s have a chat to see if I can help.
I can share one thing that has elevated my level of daily happiness. PRESENCE.
Practicing presence each and every day. Journal. Meditate. Express gratitude. My favorite teacher in this area is Eckhart Tolle. Checkout this video for how to practice presence in your life and watch your level of happiness climb.
Truth: You have everything you need right now to feel happy in your life
Lie: You are a failure in life and business since you can’t get to the next level of achievement
One more thing, if you do watch the video with Eckhart, you’ll notice how slow he moves and speaks. Resist your temptation to skip ahead and practice presence with him instead. :O)
Are you highly competitive? Do you love to win? Me too. Actually I hate losing more than I love to win. So if I can’t win I don’t like to play and I know that’s true for you too.
If you know you can’t win, you retreat.
>> Think about that for a minute <<
You actually retreat whether you realize it or not. You don’t act when you do not know. Let’s get real on how this is holding you back in every area of your life.
Apply for the job you really want for fear you will not get it
Challenge the thinking in the room for fear of sounding stupid or not having the correct information or answer
Tell your partner or spouse how you’re feeling because you’re not 100% positive what exactly the problem is
Truth: Your true brilliance lies in the unknown
Lie: If you don’t win, if you’re not right, then you are worthless
Most high performers stay in the safe zone. Go through life bored, achieving but not working to their true potential for fear and anxiety they will be found out as worthless. And if you’re lucky there will be a nagging little voice telling you something is off. And if you’re really lucky, you won’t wait years and years to do something about it.
I never wanted to be in a leadership role or saw myself developing a team, it’s always so funny to me how we run away from the work we actually need to be doing. :O)
You’ll be happy to know it’s a full circle moment. Now here’s what I’ve learned.
I’ve been managing strategic partnerships since 2001. 18 years, well that’s sobering.
Back then, I really had no idea what I was doing exactly, except to inherently know every relationship was important. And every relationship was equally important.
In sales, they teach you to get to the decision maker, but what gets lost in translation is they don’t teach you to treat everyone like the decision maker. But they are. They are the decision maker to your next step.
>> Think on that one <<
When I arrived to the world of business ownership, I took this skill set and applied it successfully. Outward. Meaning with potential clients, partners, and anyone outside my business.
But I did not naturally think about applying it inward with my team. Team development was not even on my radar.
I mean when you first start a business it’s all hustle – to get out and market your product/service and close the sale.
But once you start to see consistent revenues and profitability is a possibility…you start to outsource and grow your team. This is the moment where your focus needs to turn inward to team development.
I realize this is so difficult. You’re exhausted. Hiring is supposed to provide relief and yet the team needs you just as much if not more.
Now here is really the MAIN POINT of my musings….
REGARDLESS OF THE RELATIONSHIP
Employee. Contractor. Part time. Full Time. Project work.
It’s not the financial relationship that determines what an individual joining your team and company culture needs from you, it’s the human element that determines their need. And they are all humans.
Let’s loop this back to Corporate leaders too. Regardless of the level within your organization and the number on their paycheck; the human element determines their need. And they are all humans.
A very simple way to start this process for those of you who are behind in this area:
Meet with your entire team – once per month is recommended. This is a great time to reinforce culture and values, provide updates on key initiatives to keep everyone on the same page and celebrate together.
Meet with your core team – I think of your core team as the leaders within your organization. I recommend a weekly sync up on key initiatives and make time to discuss challenges.
Meet with individuals – beyond the work they are doing for your company, it is important to understand the hopes, dreams and desires of each individual on your team. A new favorite question I added to my list after digging in to Wisdom at Work by Chip Conley >> How can I support you to do the best work of your life here at XYZ company?
Yeah, that’s a lot of time. But it’s so worth it.
>> A strong team is a competitive advantage <<
Creating clients who are raving fans will no doubt serve you well, but developing a team of raving fans will make you unstoppable.
Note: scroll to the middle to get the goods on your one leadership flaw and skip the story, or just keep reading.
We are wired for safety, not success.
I’ve watched hundreds of people hold themselves back because of just this.
But not you, and certainly not me. We are different.
We’re addicted to success.
Please reach out to let me know I am not alone.
I came out to myself about my success addiction this past year. It took great effort to uncover it, but I finally came face to face with the one flaw that had been holding me back for the first 43 years of my life.
You see, I am wired for safety too, except stacking up success was one of my ways to stay safe.
In case you missed it, take a peek here to read more on this. Here’s a brief recap:
I used achievements to get attention from my parents, but what I more deeply desired was their love.
And somewhere along the way that coping mechanism turned in to a character flaw. A flaw that produced success. So it has served me well, but there’s a dark side too.
I would stack up accolades to the ceiling and then fall apart. Sabotaging myself in some way. Only allowing a certain level of success because I believed I was either 1) not good enough or 2) shining too brightly 3) all basically leading to the idea you would not love me anymore.
I knew most of this, but I was not able to see the pattern I had created that was holding me back. I actually knew I was self-sabotaging but could not solve it. And believe me, I love to solve puzzles but this one was a doozy.
It was affecting my happiness at work, at home, my level of income and ultimately my joy for life.
Some of the ways it showed up for me:
I felt bored or anxious and was not able to predict which it would be from day to day
I felt disconnected from myself, my husband, and generally everyone around me
I knew I looked successful on the outside, but I felt extremely unsuccessful on the inside
I knew something was really off, but I could not put my finger on it
And most importantly, I did not know how to talk about it and who I could share it with
So maybe you’re not addicted to success like I was, but I guarantee you have developed one flaw that is holding you back in life and leadership.
Do you know what it is?
You see in my case, my pattern of success addiction was keeping me safe. Somewhere along the way as the years of b.s. from my external environment stacked up my brain became wired to tell me I was not enough. And this is what I believed.
You’re doing this too, and you will keep devising strategies to protect yourself just like me.
I suspect you’re feeling:
Bored with where you’re at
A desire to do something different, more in your zone of genius
And most likely you also:
Are struggling with intimacy in one or more relationships
Are searching outside of you to fix it OR you’re ignoring it
Now hang with me because here’s why your one flaw is killing your leadership, if it’s not obvious already…
>> A bored leader is disengaged <<
>> A leader not operating in their zone of genius places the business at risk <<
>> A leader struggling with intimacy in relationships is less effective with their team <<
>> A leader doing nothing or looking outward will fail <<
It’s always an inward game. Think on that one for a bit.
Literally 10 years ago – January 2009 – I was one semester from finishing my MBA program, living in Massachusetts, and still in Corporate living out my dream of success and this idea crept in to my mind…
I want to leave my job and START MY OWN BUSINESS.
That makes me giggle now.
I had not yet said this out loud to anyone. It was an idea. A crazy idea. An impossible idea.
Now, if you know of me at all, I’m pretty sure you are well aware I made it happen.
And what a ride it has been.
I had no idea 10 years ago to this day that I would…
Become a licensed acupuncturist
Startup, build and lead two clinics
Move back to Minnesota
Fall in love with and move to Vermont
Write a best-selling book
Startup, build and lead a coaching and consulting business
And the list goes on…
What have you done in the past 10 years that has surprised you?
I became a SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR. I was already a wanderlust. :O)
And really, I’m just getting started.
But as we kick off the New Year it feels appropriate to reflect on what I’ve learned in this adventure of becoming and I’m sharing my biggest lesson of all…
The SUCCESS YOU DESIRE is locked within you.
Now I use the word success loosely, because it’s different for everyone.
Maybe you desire to…
Get a new leadership role within your company
Startup a new business
Develop a closer relationship with your spouse or partner
Work beyond your potential in to your true zone of genius
Make multiple six or even seven figures this year
Find connection and fulfillment with the success you have already achieved
Do any of these resonate for you?
Actually GREAT. Because the success you desire is available to you.
I mean, have you ever looked wildly successful on the outside, and felt shamefully unsuccessful on the inside?
HELL YES!! That’s my answer to this question. Many. Times.
I’ve been addicted to success my entire life. The outward kind of success.
I used success to first get the attention from my parents I so desperately wanted so that ultimately I would get the love from them I so desperately needed. To be wanted. We can couch trip on that another time.
And somewhere along the way that coping mechanism turned in to a character flaw. A flaw that produced success in both my Corporate career and as an entrepreneur. So don’t get me wrong, it has served me well.
But on the other side of the coin…not so well.
I kept producing success but would stack up the accolades to the ceiling and then fall apart. Sabotaging myself in some way. Typically by creating challenges with my health from overworking to achieve. Then I would get back up and do it all over again. Always hitting a ceiling, never breaking through.
Until I started to work on the inward game of success.
And magically, or so it seemed at first, as I keep looking and working inward, the outward success just takes care of itself. And there is no ceiling. :O)
Now I did not need to leave my Corporate gig and start a business to figure this out. I can tell you though, that having started several businesses and logging 500+ hours coaching people to do the same has helped me to not only understand this for myself, but to help others uncover it for themselves.
Entrepreneurship is a mirror. And if you want to go the distance with no ceiling to your success, it’s a reflection you cannot ignore. So each day I challenge myself to work inward because all the success I desire is mine for the taking, and the key to achieve it is all locked inside. Thus my biggest lesson so far.