What to wear on camera can stymie even the most astute fashionista. Allow me to give you one guiding principle for what to pull out of your closet: match audience expectations.
Communicating through the camera allows you to mimic an in-person conversation with anyone, whether they’re on the other side of the building or on the other side of the world. As such, you should choose your wardrobe based on what you would wear if you were speaking to an audience in the same room.
As with almost every aspect of on-camera performance, the viewer is your guide. The best rule to follow is to dress to meet the expectations of your audience, which often means reflecting what they will be wearing.
When I am cast as an on-camera spokesperson for a financial institution, the wardrobe they request is usually buttoned-up and formal: a dark suit, blue blouse, and minimal or no jewelry. If I am appearing on camera for a software company, my dress is no fancier than business casual.
Consider your audience and what you would wear if you were meeting them in person. You would not show up at a board meeting with C-level executives in jeans and a T-shirt—unless that’s the widely accepted attire of your particular organization. You would also not dress to the nines for a casual conversation with your colleagues.
How much of you actually appears on the screen may give you a little bit of leeway. For example, at my first television station, the sports anchor had a habit of looking polished in his suit and tie from the waist up, but from the waist down, he was beach-bum casual with cargo shorts and flip flops. However, you may be taking a risk if you adopt this bifurcated approach to your on-camera attire.
During a virtual meeting, you can probably get away with pajama pants if you know you will be seen just from the chest up, but what if you need to get out of the chair momentarily to silence your dog? Your striped PJ bottoms might suddenly become a topic of conversation.
Often, an opportunity to appear on camera is out of the ordinary and, perhaps, high stakes. Maybe you’ve been asked to represent the company in a marketing video or you are interviewing for your dream job on Skype. You want to look your best, so you rush out to the store to find the perfect thing to wear. Unfortunately, that shopping trip can fail you when you’re drawn to the latest styles and trends.
The best on-camera outfits are timeless and basic. (Some may even call them boring.) This serves a dual purpose. When you are speaking on camera, you don’t want anything to distract your audience from your message. A complicated shirt or scarf can take the focus away from what you are saying and shift it to what you are wearing. Opting for something classic can also help extend the shelf life of your video if it’s being recorded. If you think your video might be around for a while, you want to remove anything that might date it. (Think giant shoulder pads, ladies.)
Learn More: On-Camera Coach
If you found this information valuable, check out my book, On-Camera Coach: Tools and Techniques for Business Professionals in a Video-Driven World, now available from Wiley Publishing. On-Camera Coach aims to take the mystery out of communicating through the camera and provides specific tips and techniques that can make your message sing—and you, the messenger, feel confident in a job well done.