How camera-ready do you need to be?

I did a webinar earlier this week on Remote Working Strategies. There’s a link below if you are interested in the replay.

In that webinar I shared this picture above showing me in 3 different stages of camera ready or not.

Showing up is more powerful than how you look

I was making the point that it’s a very powerful thing to show up for people by simply turning your camera on.

It shows respect for them, for what you are working on together, and shows you are fully present and engaged.

If you leave your camera off, you are simply “not there” in a way.

What’s OK and not OK?

I was encouraging people to not worry so much about being “camera ready” and I briefly mentioned that in the photo on the right, I had just finished a morning workout, and there was not time to make myself more presentable before a call with a very elegant woman in Europe. I mentioned that even though I was self-conscious, she had no problem whatsoever with it.

Surprising responses…

I was interested to see later in the chat window that a guy had written, “Patty should have rescheduled the meeting, appearing like that showed disrespect for her client.”

I was thinking, “hmmm, might I be wrong about this?”

While was thinking, I then got a note that included the following story:

“At a former company I joined a leadership (all male) call (there were a few of us remote leaders on the call) I decided to dress properly but chose to forego the makeup. After the call my VP said “What was wrong with you, you looked like crap on video.”


So, back to the question…

How camera ready do you need to be?
And am I wrong to say it doesn’t matter?

The longer version of the story with the elegant woman in Europe was this…

I had an early morning decision to make to commit to a serious workout, or not. I chose the workout, as it’s a priority for me.

Showing Respect

Then when the call started I had another decision to make as to how to show the most respect possible in that moment.

1. The least respectful would have been to reschedule at the last minute

2. The second least respectful would have been to make a excuse about my camera not working, and do an audio-only call

3. The most respectful would be to still turn my camera on and to be fully willing to show up for my client, even though I was uncomfortable about my appearance.

So when we started the call, I said, “I have to apologize for my appearance today. I decided to do a serious workout even though that would not leave enough time to make myself more presentable for our call. I mean no disrespect.”

Her response was, “Patty, quite the contrary, I am inspired. Your commitment to fitness inspires me and to see you willing to show up like this right after your workout, makes me realize that I too, need to prioritize working out.”

And she started working out in the days/weeks that followed.

You never know

But you never know. If it was that guy who left the comment on the other side of the video call, he would have felt disrespected.

Or to the other example, if you are a woman in a group of men in power who will judge you for your appearance, you might not want to take the chance.

Can we just give each other a break right now?

I would hope in these times that we could all just be kind to each other and give each other a break. But even in this time, there are toxic cultures that will not.

Here are my rules of thumb

1. It is ALWAYS better to turn your camera on
2. Be less self-conscious about beauty, focus on being present
3. Be aware of the environment and expectations

Develop a video dress code with your team

In the webinar I suggested that as a team you create a set of team expectations and dress code for video calls. Talk it out. Don’t wonder about it. Pajamas and pets should be welcome right now…

The One Minute Look

In this video below, I share the decline from my camera ready look, to my 1-minute look, to my just after a workout look.

The point here is that if you do feel pressure to be more camera ready, you don’t necessarily need to do the full routine.

As I describe in the video,

My one minute look involves mostly a different top, earrings, and lipstick.

And glasses are a miracle if people are used to seeing you in make-up and you do not want to bother with make-up while you are working from home, home schooling your kids, and trying to put put meals on the table, and keep everyone from going insane.

Be kind to yourself.

But find a way to make peace with turning your camera on.

Here’s the video I mentioned

Here is the Remote Working Strategies Webinar

Here is a link to the webinar replay for Remote Working Strategies

Patty Azzarello

Patty is available to speak at your company, annual meeting, or customer event. She can also deliver a custom workshop on Leadership or Strategy Execution for your leadership team. Contact Patty.

Or if you would like some personal help on your own professional development, check out her Executive Mentoring Group. It’s filled with insights, resources and support to build your executive confidence, advance your career, and includes direct mentoring from Patty.


patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

Remote working: How not to lose the in-person benefit
Am I Productive Enough? (spoiler alert, don't worry about it so much)