I don’t attend many industry conferences, but there were a few this past July where I noticed something peculiar: the headshots of many of the speakers used in event publicity and promotions were years out of date. Compared to their current real-life appearance, many of the speakers’ headshots portrayed them with far fewer gray hairs and wrinkles, and an abundance of retro hairstyles and yesterday’s apparel. This stood out like a sore thumb.
I won’t name individuals, but I’ll say this: Outdated headshots — ones that don’t resemble what you really look like today — cast a dinge on your persona in a public setting. On one hand, if your headshot sports an old hairdo or aging suit, you’ll appear dated. On the other hand, if your photo is from your glorious years of youth, it will portray you as clinging to the past.
In both cases, people will view your headshot and compare it to the way you actually look today, live in person. An outdated photo presents your audience with two versions of you — especially if that headshot is being projected on a giant screen behind you on stage. The more it diverges from your present appearance, the more likely your audience will ignore what it is you have to say and, instead, direct their mental resources to analyzing the differences. And the more outdated your headshot is, the more it appears you don’t care about your appearance or image. Or worse, it may suggest you’re not comfortable with your current look.
My advice? Have your photos updated once a year, or at least every two years. The more natural your headhots are, the better. Also, it’s best to have them taken by a professional. Instant, digital snapshots with a white-wall background rarely work.
Most important, remember that your appearance will always change over time. However, you can always portray your best side — the way you really look today.
This also was my latest column in MediaPost.