What to wear to a video-conference

Our recommendations for Tere Stouffer. Primrose & Wilde Classic Silk Shirt and Skinny Scarf teamed up with a pair of dark jeans and designer sandals.

Our recommendations for Tere Stouffer. Primrose & Wilde Classic Silk Shirt and Skinny Scarf teamed up with a pair of dark jeans and designer sandals.

The new economy is digital, independent, entrepreneurial.

As many of us operate globally and interact remotely with our clients, partners or vendors we spend increasing amounts of time on the phone or in video conference rather than face-to-face. This obviously changes the balance of how we present ourselves visually and verbally, so we turned to digital marketing expert Tere Stouffer to find out more about how to present yourself in a video conference and how to dress to meet clients. Of course, Tere is bursting with ideas and gave us far more insights into business, dress and digital marketing than we had bargained for.

Who is Tere Stouffer?

Born an engineer, raised in publishing and emerging as a tour de force in digital marketing, Tere has carved out an enviable career, breaking gender barriers, winning prestigious awards and earning a reputation as a leader in her field, all while maintaining a beautiful work-life balance, flying across country to meet clients, running her digital marketing business from her home office and spending quality time with her dog.

Creating Success

Tere's success reads like a text-book of good moves, but is a story of hard work, long hours and a dedication to excellence. Starting her ground-breaking reputation in 1990 Tere was hired as an engineer at Alps (the company behind Alpine) a company with over 10,000 employees as the first female engineer that they had ever employed. 

After a leap into publishing,  she found herselfhired to oversee the publishing of new materials for Girl Scouts of the USA which evolved into a position as Digital Content Strategist and the brand began to flourish at a tremendous rate. After her work being selected as the “Overall Grand Champion” of the inaugural Global Social Media Leadership Awards run by the Wharton School of Business and Ernst & Young, Tere realized that she was really doing something right and a few months later she set out as an entrepreneur.

Do you think this is representative of a new economy?

Yes. The contract economy is a thing and it is here. It is a good fit for me I get to combine all the things I love and this is more and more how people want to be running their lives. But it is not a good fit for everyone. I think it is a younger generation who are less afraid of a life without security, but see the gains of flexibility and the opportunity to define yourself in a new way. As a GenXer, I see Millennials chaffing at job titles that do not adequately define them – they don't want to be pigeon-holed, we are multi-faceted as humans and we want our work-lives to fit in with who we are, rather than fit in with a job title. The contract economy allows all of us to piece together a career that fits fits all those facets.

As an entrepreneur how do you interact with most of your clients?

I try to fly out to meet them in the beginning to put faces to names. After that, we use phone, email and video-conferencing.

How do you dress for a video-conference?

For the most part, I can get away with jeans or a fun skirt, a jacket and nice jewelry. But my clients work in a great range of industries and I need to be cognizant of what is appropriate. When I fly to meet a client I now call and ask “how do you dress there” and pack accordingly. Image and perceptions are very important, but not always in the way you may think.

What do you mean by 'how you may think?'

When I was working at Alpine, I went for an interview at a competing company. I had an interview with the CEO and thought I had nailed it. I looked the consummate professional in a suit, silk shirt, I projected well and had great answers to all the questions.

At the end of the interview, the CEO told me, 'Well this has been one of the most enjoyable hours that I have spent. You are an excellent candidate but...you haven't got the job. I was astounded, but decided to take the opportunity to find out why. He told me “your fingernails aren't dirty. I just don't see you working on the manufacturing floor here, you're too clean” and I realized that I had dressed very professionally, but for the wrong job – he wanted to see how I would fit in with his employees, so if I gone straight from my current position in a greasy work smock I would have appealed as more suitable for the tasks ahead.

How do you suggest dressing appropriately?

Call and ask.  I learned that as much as under-doing it, you do not want to over-dress either. In this entrepreneurial economy you want to fit in and stand out, but every company and industry has its own culture and you want to be aware of that before you approach them for a first meeting. First impressions really do count.

Coming soon...Tere Stouffer's digital marketing strategy advice to small businesses

Leadership, Fashion and the Future

The Tara Dress by Jennifer Hamilton for Prim & Wilde

The Tara Dress by Jennifer Hamilton for Prim & Wilde

I recently had the pleasure to be introduced to Leadership Training expert Jessica Osedach while we were both spending the weekend at an exquisitely renovated home in rural Vermont. Over fine wines and gourmet food, the dinner party conversation started with a lyrical debate about success and whether leaders are born or made, but was quickly corralled by Jessica's experienced point of view and captivated by her crisp insights and laser-sharp vision of leadership in a changing world.

Back in Manhattan, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to ask her to share some of her insights on women, leadership, success and of course...style, with me.

We met at a cosy coffee shop in the heart of the new financial district of Manhattan – midtown. I could spot Jessica from a distance, striding across the Rockefeller Plaza – an extraordinary blend of delicacy and strength, which she extends to her business wardrobe – she wore an elegant ivory shift top with a pair of tailored pants, topped with a magenta silk jacket.

PW: What does leadership look like?

“Leadership is conveying confidence, even in the face of not knowing, or in the face of challenging situations.  It looks polished, 'put together,' elegant as opposed to noisy.  It's like the eye of a hurricane - remaining calm and composed even when surrounded by chaos, change, swirling priorities.”

Jessica explained to me that seniority itself is actually an important part of leadership. Seniority is not just the time spent learning and growing, but the ability to share, coach, mentor that comes with experience. We are constantly growing and a leader knows that they can share their knowledge because they are still learning. But seniority does not only come after 20 years in a position, it is a constant that starts with each accomplishment. Transparency is key to leadership.

How do women feature in your program? 

“Women in executive level roles are still a minority in some functions but their numbers are growing.  In our program our women participants are equal to men in every sense of the word.”

How do women react to leadership?

“Every woman reacts differently - some may initially be anxious about being in charge, others act as though they were born to take that role.  I really think that we've arrived at a time where individual differences between women drive how they react to leadership, as opposed to their gender alone.  There are so many different kinds of women!”

How do women lead differently?

“I don't think that they do.  On the whole you have tough authoritative bosses, you have more collaborative bosses - I don't think that gender drives the majority of these differences anymore. It has to do with who these bosses are...their gender along with hundreds of other attributes. I will say that women may have a more complicated landscape to navigate. Appearance does matter more for women...tone might matter more. Think of Hillary Clinton. Is Bernie Sanders really that much more 'like-able' than her or is she being held to a different standard?”

Is it totally superficial to consider your appearance?

“Not at all.  It's critical. For better or for worse people start to form judgments about other people upon first sight.  In the workplace, how you choose to 'show up' – including what you decide to wear – is part of your professional image. It's better to be intentional about this than to ignore it.”

What could women do to make themselves better leaders?

Let me preface this by saying that I found this to be the most interesting part of our conversation. Jessica stunned me with the simplicity and vulnerability of her answer. She told me that emerging leaders “should be open to feedback and willing to change.  Remain flexible and adaptable.” Jessica recommended that everyone do some soul searching to make sure you know what you want in terms of career goals and that those goals will actually make you happy. Then go for it.

Thanks Jessica. I consider myself so fortunate to be able to meet and talk with women who can so brilliantly talk about their work and Jessica, like the leaders she works with, is truly transparent and willing to share her knowledge.