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Zoom usage soared to more than 300 million daily Zoom meeting participants in April, and Microsoft reported a 70% jump in the number of people using Teams. Business users enjoy being able to join meetings in their pajamas or casual attire, but when participating in a media interview, they need to put in considerably more effort.
To make the best impression with viewers and become a go-to source for reporters, be sure to cover all of the following bases:
You look good
This starts with what to wear, but encompasses so much more. The 80s had people believing a mullet is a good idea, but as Will Reeve learned, the camera captures much more than we realize. It’s much better to be business on top AND bottom just in case you are asked to stand or need to move around for any reason.
- Attire: As for what you actually wear, many of the rules for dressing for video apply equally to videoconference interviews. Most important: Avoid patterns of any kind, but especially stripes, plaids and herringbone, which create the moiré effect (wavy optical illusions) on camera. Stay away from black and white, and don’t feel the need to cake on makeup like you might under harsh studio lighting.
- Lighting: No matter how great your makeup, hair and clothes look, poor lighting can ruin everything. Natural light is most flattering, but you can have too much of a good thing. Place yourself near a window, but not directly in front of it. Putting a lamp on your desk or table also helps you look better.
- Angle: Another trick of the trade is to prop your laptop or phone on books, boxes or anything that brings the camera to eye level—not only does it prevent viewers from looking up your nose, but it also reduces the dreaded double chin. Additionally, adjust your screen to ensure there isn’t too much space above or below your head. The last thing you want is to be at the bottom of the frame or have the top of your head missing from the shot.
- Sound: Although earbuds and headphones are a must when you’re working around others, remove them for the interview. Although they make it easier to hear the reporter, unless you’re a DJ, you don’t look as cool as you think you do.
Your space looks good
It’s important to put as much thought and time into your surroundings as you do your physical appearance.
- Test: Webcams vary, so you’ll want to do a test run with a friend or colleague to see how much of your space shows up in the shot—it may be more than the tiny window at the bottom of your screen shows, and you’ll want to leave yourself time to adjust as needed.
- Declutter: The first thing any realtor will tell you when selling a home is to declutter—this advice is even more important for a Zoom interview. A messy, unorganized space will undermine your credibility, so take time to clean up your area.
- The Right Visuals: That said, you don’t want a blank slate—you need some items that add visual interest. A blank wall is not only boring, but can also make you appear larger. If you’re trying to establish yourself as an expert, having items like awards, certifications and diplomas on your wall can add credibility. Likewise, a few items tied to your field, especially if they are related to the interview topic, can have tremendous impact. For example, a gardening expert would want to have a few plants on hand for a visual demonstration.
- Bad Backgrounds: Although Zoom and Teams offer backgrounds that are fun to experiment with during internal meetings, be judicious in using them for a media interview. If you must use a background, choose a simple, tasteful one—and be very careful of your movements because they can have a green screen effect that makes parts of your body disappear. This is definitely something you will want to test in advance.
You sound good
Once you have ensured you and your interview space look good, it’s just as important to make sure your audio quality matches the visual.
- Quiet Space: For starters, make sure you do the interview in a quiet space—both internally and externally. Having a lawnmower running outside during your interview will sabotage the segment just as much as a barking dog or crying baby.
- Sound Quality Check: After taking care of ambient noise, focus on sound quality. Make sure you are seated or standing close to the mic and its volume settings are high enough to pick up your voice. You also need to check for an echo; doing the interview in a smaller, curtained and carpeted room will help keep sound from bouncing around, but echoes and feedback can still occur. To minimize this risk, turn off all other devices—better still, leave them in another room. Doing an advance rest run will help you pinpoint and troubleshoot sound problems.
Taking the time to address how you and your space look and sound goes a long way in ensuring Zoom media interviews are a success, but it’s always wise to have a second set of eyes and ears providing expert advice.
With former reporters and industry veterans on staff, Aker Ink can guide you through this process, as well prepare you with key messages, help you understand what not to say, teach you how to block and bridge and coach you to ensure your interview is a success.