Virtual Makeover: Go From Drab to Fab in 3 Easy Steps

Gail Kastning in her virtual home studio

Do you observe that some of your clients could benefit from a makeover of their virtual presence? Over the past year, transforming my clients’ online presence has been one of my missions. Prior to COVID-19, virtual interviews were on the rise, which pivoted regular interview coaching to include virtual training. The pandemic has only accelerated the growth of video interviews, remote work, and virtual meetings, adding the need for our clients to have a professional image when interacting on camera. As career practitioners, we not only want to be role models of virtual professionalism, but we also want to support our clients in:

  • Building confidence in virtual interviews.
  • Creating a professional presence in their virtual interactions.
  • Creating a virtual brand image for themselves and/or their company.

Here are 3 easy steps to help our clients accomplish these goals:


Having the right technology is critical, but it can be daunting and overwhelming to choose equipment. A few years ago, one of my clients who worked in video production helped me pick my coaching equipment by focusing on these 5 questions:

  1. What is it you want to accomplish?
  2. Where is your workspace?
  3. Will you be mobile?
  4. What kind of equipment do you already have?
  5. What is your budget?

Before purchasing anything, our clients should evaluate their work situation and their needs, take stock of what they already have, and be honest about how much they want to spend. In many cases, minor adjustments to existing equipment is all that is needed.

Clients will require 4 essential pieces of equipment: a device that has the technical specs to support streaming video, a camera, a microphone, and good lighting.


Before our clients buy new equipment, they should test drive the equipment they already have to see if it works for their needs. To help in determining the device that is best, ask your clients these 6 questions:

  1. Do you have a desktop computer with a webcam, a laptop with a built-in camera and microphone, a tablet, or a smart phone?
  2. Are you being interviewed, coaching workers, training from your office, or conducting remote meetings?
  3. Will you be working this way for a long period of time, or is this a short-term and temporary situation?
  4. Can you work from a fixed space?
  5. Can you effectively work from the space that you have in mind?
  6. Do you need to be mobile?


A built-in camera on a laptop or a webcam on a desktop computer will be a standard and common choice. But, do not forget about the capabilities of current smart phones and tablets. They can work quite well for virtual interviews and meetings. However, I suggest a stand for these hand-held devices so that our clients can be hands free (especially because we don’t want their hand movement, if holding the hand-held device, to be a distraction during interviews).


Lighting is so important, especially if your clients are going to work virtually on a regular basis. Lighting options are vast.

Here are some tips:

Virtual studio video lighting panel with barn doors

The video lighting set-up in Gail’s home office


Use natural light as a foundation. Set your computer up in front of a window that has an adjustable blind.

Use lamps to supplement natural light. If your window is behind you or to the side, set up supplemental lighting to shine towards you.

Use professional lighting. Soft box lighting, ring lights, or barn doors are excellent sources of professional lighting that are available at various price points. I usually recommend some form of professional lighting for remote workers who will be virtually training others.





If the built-in microphone on your client’s webcam or laptop is good, they won’t have to add another microphone. However, when I teach a group of clients off Zoom or Google Meet, I use either a wireless microphone system or a USB microphone. In this situation, I want a clear sound system and, if I stand up to use the chalk board behind me, the mic will continue to pick up my voice without interruption.

Audiences will forgive not being able to see you well, but they will NOT forgive not being able to hear you. A good microphone is essential equipment, and they come in all shapes, sizes, and price points.


Attractive and stylish background for virtual work

Photo by Huseyn Kamaladdin on Pexels

When it comes to the scene that is visible behind our clients, it is important that they create a personal brand image. An appealing background that strikes a balance between being PROFESSIONAL while also having some PERSONALITY is what begins to set our clients apart.

A bookshelf can be a great backdrop for virtual interviews or virtual meetings. House plants can ground a room and add a sense of peace and calm. A picture and/or paintings can add personality to a workspace and create that uniqueness that some of our clients may want to portray. It’s fun to help clients set up and curate a background that is professional and attractive, while also demonstrating their individuality.


It is said that the camera adds 10 pounds, but we don’t have to worry about that if we are sitting down! When it comes to virtual interviews or virtual meetings, our clients can focus on their appearance from the chest up (although for interviews, I suggest fully dressing in their interview outfit).

Young man dressed for video interview

Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash

Choose what to wear 

Fashion on camera can be tricky. I love giving fashion tips and coaching my clients about what looks good on camera. I stick to solid colours and rarely suggest prints because they can be problematic on camera (unless the print is part of their accessories). I also do not want my clients to go on camera wearing distracting clothing that clashes with their background. The goal is to look professional and pulled together, so choosing what to wear is very important.

Frame yourself

Before the camera gets turned on, our clients should create their frame on camera. This is where they decide how close or far away to sit, and select a seating position that places them in the middle of the frame. This is also an opportunity to make sure the background is complimentary, and to double-check face, hair, and clothing. The camera has eagle eyes and picks up the lint on a black sweater and the wrinkles in a shirt that didn’t get pressed. I typically give my clients checklists to help them assess their background and their own appearance.

Decide on makeup

When it comes to wearing makeup on camera, some is better than none. When I’m in virtual meetings with colleagues, I wear some makeup. When I conduct virtual coaching sessions, I typically dial it up a notch so my clients have an idea of what they should do to look polished on camera. The camera washes out our complexion and features, so I give several tips and video tutorials to help them learn how to effectively apply makeup for an interview or important virtual meeting.


We want our clients to feel confident in selecting appropriate equipment, setting up their background, picking out their clothes, and (possibly) applying makeup. And, we want them to practice. The only way they can really know how their equipment will perform and how everything will look on camera is to practice. The more they practice, the easier it will be for them to portray the confident and polished persona they want and need.

If you would like to learn more about how to support your clients in a makeover of their virtual presence, please check out my online mini course:

How to Look Professional Virtually – From Drab to Fab in 3 Easy Steps

In order to help out during this challenging time, I’m offering this mini course at the reduced price of just $27.00. This is a limited time offer, so be sure to enroll before the end of August 2020 to take advantage of this special discount.

Gail Kastning is a Certified Career Strategist (CCS), an educator (B.Ed), and Keynote Speaker. Her business, Purposeful Careers, provides coaching, facilitation, consulting, and speaking services. For over 10 years, Gail has supported job seekers and career changers in their career goals, and has provided professional development support to career practitioners. Over the last 5 years, she has researched the growing global trend towards an on-demand workforce, and writes, speaks, and designs courses on the topics of the gig economy, agile workforce, and portfolio careers. Gail is based in Calgary, Alberta, and you can learn more about her on LinkedIn.



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