Anyone following Brexit will probably have seen this horrible photo by now.
From left to right: David Frost – UK Brexit Negotiator, Boris Johnson – Prime Minister of the UK, Ursula von der Leyen – President of the EU Commission, and Michel Barnier – EU Chief Negotiator.
On the right von der Leyen, and Barnier are sharply dressed, and look professional. On the left, well, the UK team look like a pair of farmers who are in the big city to receive an award for their pig breeding program.
Plenty of other people have talked about the horrible optics of this, so I won’t*. I want to just briefly talk about how you stand when being photoed for business reasons. It is something that happens to me from time to time in my professional career – at conferences, customer meetings, after interviews. You get asked to pose to a shot. It can be a little awkward trying to figure out how to look the best.
At the start of my professional career I was given a few pointers for when delivering presentations – men should not put their hands in their pockets, women never try and adjust your bra strap. But mostly you figure this stuff out yourself unless you are sent on some proper PR training.
The difficult thing is what to do with your hands? At the side seems so odd I never do that. It always seems the easy and natural to put then behind you as Johnson, and Frost have done. But as you can see, it emphasises your chest and belly, and will be unmerciful at exposing your tailoring.
Putting your hands in front of you doesn’t seem natural. Who stands like that normally? And is a little odd to look at when you think about it. But for a business/professional photo like this it is clearly the far better choice. Even the fact that Barnier is doing something odd with his fingers is hardly noticeable when the eye is drawn to stretched shirts and suits, and straining buttons.
I will remember this the next time I am asked to pose for a photo.
* What is really odd is that as high profile public figures, Johnson and Frost have presumably been on expensive training programs about public speaking, presentation, and PR. But they still ended up looking like this in public?