Tax free. All you can eat. Snow day. Some combinations of words just give you all the feels, don’t they? Here’s another: Broadcast opportunity. As someone trying to promote your company, initiative or product, broadcast is a guaranteed way to reach thousands (maybe millions) of eyeballs in a matter of seconds. Depending on your goals and intended audiences, a broadcast strategy may be an integral part of your thought leadership platform — and acing a video interview from home requires more than good WiFi.
So naturally you start preparing. Broadcast training? Check. Messaging and pivot phrases? Check. The blue or red tie? Trick question: NO TIE. But then 2020 happened and there’s now a difference in exactly what makes a “successful” broadcast appearance. Wardrobe is obviously still important, but now instead of rehearsing your talking points you’re also deciding whether or not that photo of you and your family at Epcot Center should be seen by millions.
This is the reality all spokespeople and on-air talent are facing right now. And while we’ve had a solid nine months of a pandemic that forced us inside and made us acclimate ourselves, we’re still witnessing on-air spokespersons who, let’s just say, still need some work in the “How do I successfully present myself from home?” department. So let’s get into the best (and worst) practices for hitting that broadcast spot homerun so you keep getting invited to be behind the camera…well Zoom!
Not everyone has a home office—so there may not be that clear-cut “Oh here is where I’ll take this virtual video interview from” location in your home. The first question you need to ask yourself is “Will anything behind me distract the audience for more than 2 seconds?” If the answer is anything above a “maybe,” you need to move those items or move to a different location.
A close background (i.e. bookshelf with text and photos semi-discernible) is fine, as long as the set-up is “clean.” This means the books aren’t awkwardly positioned on top or against one another, and the photos allow a teaser but not a full length documentary into your life or family. Oh and displaying lifetime achievement awards? Everyone does it. It’s fine. Keep them in.
Backgrounds that show an entire room (i.e. living room) can work too, but you’re going to have to be extra Sherlock Holmes-y to ensure everything is appropriate. And you’ll have to make sure any roommates, like your children—unless you want to get your 15 minutes of Jimmy Kimmel-fame—don’t enter the frame. If you’re minimalist in your furniture aesthetics, this backdrop works. If you’re somewhere between a souvenir-enthusiast and a hoarder, this set-up isn’t for you. And here’s a quick test to help you out. “Do I buy a magnet for every vacation I go on?” If you answered “Yes,” your living room is probably NOT minimalist.
The same wardrobe principles that hold true for traditional in-studio opportunities also hold true for the in-home ones. Avoid stripes, easy on the plaid, don’t go overboard on jewelry that dangles, the camera loves most shades of blue, etc. But there are two new factors you’ll have to consider when it comes to personal presentation. We already talked about background, but you might need to coordinate your wardrobe with your background. Think about the colors and tones you want to wear—if what you’re wearing blends into the background go for Plan B and switch your look. Pro tip: A bookcase background is generally complimentary to many outfit choices, unless the bookcase itself has a vivid color. The other new factor to consider: Where or what do I sit on? It’s best to just keep it simple, take your interview from a desk, dining room table or anywhere you can sit up straight. Not the couch or your outdoor patio (I’m sure it looks lovely but you probably don’t want a random bird swooping in and stealing your thunder).
Audio and Visual Logistics for Your Video Interview
The camera shot, combined with poor lighting, can really impact the overall quality of your segment. You don’t want people looking up your nose or the lighting to be too dark or bright on your face. Best bit of advice here is to either have the camera set directly at eye level or a few inches above. In the latter case, you’ll be slightly looking up at the camera.
Speaking of, as long as you’ve got a relatively new computer, the video quality that your camera is able to capture should do just fine. However, if you’re booking tons of interviews and spots where you’re on camera and it just makes sense to upgrade to a higher quality yet affordable web camera—a couple hundred bucks at Best Buy can cut back on choppy camera and sound quality to TV-worthy recording.
When it comes to lighting, natural lighting is usually the best (as long as you’re not squinting from the sun). In lieu of quality natural light, a small lamp (positioned behind the camera) with soft temperatures can suffice. And make sure there are no major sources of light behind you, otherwise your face will appear darker than the background.
And for audio, honestly, given technology today, your laptop or desktop computer’s microphone should suffice. I’d advise against buying a microphone that appears on camera with you. Unless you’re filming a podcast, you don’t need a big microphone in your face. Seeing as we are in an age of advanced technology many people are reaching for their earbuds and wireless headphones to serve as microphones and makeshift earpieces during these television gigs. When it comes down to whether or not to use them, it’s always important to test the quality beforehand, but the mic components of most headphones and earbuds are very useful for sound quality on both ends. Yes, we may be biased but our technology client Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds Pro is a great choice.
Final Prep Work
No, I don’t mean going over your key messaging—but that also is very important—I’m referring to doing a day of test runs with a colleague, your PR team, friend, mom, really whoever you can get! Apart from observational tips or suggestions, the main thing you’ll want to get critique on is if there are any connectivity issues. If your speed isn’t optimal and your feed is coming across glitchy, try disconnecting some of the other devices in your home, i.e. take your cell phone off the WiFi or ask your son to stop playing Call of Duty for 10 minutes. A quality internet connection can really make all the difference these days.
You’ll also want to turn off or mute all notifications on your computer so you don’t get distracted by coworkers slacking you every 5 seconds saying, “You’re on TV!”
And lastly, when it comes to “eye contact,” look directly at the camera. If that’s a little bit awkward for you, put a post-it note directly above (tape it behind) your camera, it will help you focus on the camera itself, during your interview.
So there you have it— some tips and best practices you can implement ahead of your next video interview appearance. You’re going to be a star. Just stay humble, remember your roots and don’t forget us when you’re famous.