Seven tips for better online media interviews
April 7, 2020

One of the most noticeable effects of the Coronavirus on business is an explosion of remote meetings using Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts and FaceTime.

Microsoft Teams, for instance, has reported a remarkable 500% increase in usage since 31st January.

However good the technology might be and however rapid its growth, many people are still struggling with webcam etiquette. Whether it’s a media interview, a job interview or simply a conversation with colleagues, even the best presenters in person need some extra help and advice when they’re performing on webcam.

Demand for our online media training courses has increased rapidly over the last few weeks and a growing number of clients are discovering that what was an inconvenience to be managed is, in fact, an opportunity to exploit.  We recently did a media training course with participants joining us live from New York, Berlin and Hong Kong.  The technology worked well as we looked at how journalists work (including cultural variations) and how the participants can prepare for media interviews, working with their inhouse comms team, who were also online.  We then did authentic press, radio and TV interviews remotely and gave the participants useful feedback.

Not only did this format avoid hours of travelling time and thousands of dollars in hotel bills and air fares but we also saved a tonne or two of C02.  Finding the best time to do the course was the only difficult bit.

At Communicate Media, we’re also doing more and more presentation courses online.  Appearing on Zoom and other technology isn’t terribly difficult but it’s like so many things – you can do it.  Or you can do it well.  Here’s how to do it well.

Find a quiet, calm place to do it.  The kids’ bedroom is actually fine – just remember to take the Frozen and Bob the Builder posters down. Warn children and other family members that you’re going to be working for an hour or so that they stay out of sight.

We all know the video but here it is again, just to make the point.

1. Check your background 

Check your background to make sure that there’s nothing embarrassing or distracting.  As well as that Frozen poster, a well-thumbed copy of the Joy of Sex on a bookshelf could attract more attention than your comments.  A neutral background is great but even better is a vase of fresh flowers, an ornament and a few books that are, let’s just say appropriate.

2. Increase light

You’ll also want to increase the light.  Put the main lamp in the room on and then get a couple of other smaller lamps so that the background is lit.  Very importantly, your face should be well illuminated without having the light shining in your eyes.  You can always bounce the light off a wall.

3. Wear simple clothing

As with any TV interview or presentation when it comes to clothes simple block colours and pastel shades work best.  Black drains you and white can dazzle.  Keep any jewellery discreet.  You want the audience to think about what you’re saying rather than wondering where you got those earrings from.  It’s a simple, unwelcome fact of life that, even today, people tend to judge women’s appearance more than they do with men.

4. Sit up straight

BBC stands for Bum in Back of Chair.  Perhaps it’s because he’s a political correspondent of ITV News rather than the Beeb, but Robert Peston seems to forget this important tip. Reporting from his North London home on Skype he looks nearly horizontal.  Not only will you appear more present and authoritative if you’re sitting up straight in your chair, but you’ll feel it too.  On the subject of chairs – don’t assume that you need one.  If you can present standing up and still look big enough on camera while getting the sound right, then try it.

If you’re seated, you’ll probably have to raise your computer a bit. The up-the-nose look is never a good one.  Frame the picture too, so that you’re almost filling the screen but not quite. Think about how reporters and interviewees appear on the TV screen when they’re interviewed from a studio.

5. Focus on the camera lens

Connected to this is the importance of focusing the lens of the camera rather than looking at yourself or the interviewer on the screen. It’s tricky but, especially when you’re speaking, look at the camera, not yourself.

6. Add Energy to your vocal delivery

You don’t have to shout but you need to add energy and enthusiasm to your vocal delivery. Technology compresses your voice and computer speakers can’t compete with the timbre and variety of the voice of someone in the same room. So, add some light and shade.  Emphasise key words and phrases. Most importantly, speak more slowly than you would in normal conversation so that your remote audience takes on board what you’re saying.

7. Preparation is key!

As with any interview or meeting, prepare your message, identify your examples or case studies and have a rehearsal beforehand. Do it in your seat at the computer.  Record it and play it back for feedback from colleagues. Run it past family and friends as well since they’ll probably be unfamiliar with your messages – and they’re less likely to hold back in their criticisms.

Presenting and doing interviews by Zoom, Skype or FaceTime can seem strange and difficult but by following these simple rules and by practising beforehand you’ll soon get the hang of it.

Chat to Communicate Media

If you or your company require professional advice or media training, get in touch by giving us a call on 0800 1777080 or emailing us or to find out more about our media training, crisis communications and presentation courses.

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