So, you were asked to be interviewed on video for TV or for a job you applied for? It doesn’t matter if it’s via Zoom, Skype, or any other video call application, or whether it’s COVID-19 related. You should prepare and look your best. There are plenty of things that can go wrong; you weren’t dressed for the occasion, a bad internet connection, your kids pop in suddenly or even your dog barging into the frame. When things like this happen, it tends to be what people remember – not the very important messages you wanted to convey. We’ve put together some tips which can help. They are, of course, relevant for video-meetings, job interviews, and the like.
First thing’s first. Having a camera on your phone, laptop, or even a professional camcorder doesn’t mean you know how to have a successful video interview.
You may ask which camera to use. So, your smartphone can be great, but it should preferably be placed on a steady tripod, and certainly not held in anyone’s hand. The image shouldn’t be jumpy or moving. Some gadgets allow you to hold your phone and keep it steady, but it’s unlikely that it will work well for someone who’s a rookie with being on camera. A laptop camera can be great, just make sure the lens is clean and at eye level. Don’t forget to adjust the height if necessary.
Internet Connection – Make sure your connection is stable. Your best bet is to connect with a cable to your internal network. A wireless connection could cause delays or dropouts in service.
Think about what you wear – even if you’ve been quarantined because of COVID-19, you’re still the CEO / VP / spokesperson of your organization. You need to maintain a respectable appearance. A suit might be overkill, but people don’t want to see you in your sweats or wearing pajamas. Dress appropriately for your interview. Make sure you’re washed up, clean-shaven (or made-up – ladies), and as well-groomed as you would be for an in-person interview. Your shirt needs to be ironed. Make sure it’s not the same color as the background, which will be in your frame (don’t wear a blue shirt with a blue wall in the background, for instance).
The frame – refers to everything you see on the screen except for yourself. Don’t be in a frame showing a bedroom with a stack of clothes behind you, a sink full of dishes, or a pale white wall. Arrange the background – add some flowers, have a library of books/pictures/sculptures in the background. Do not stand close to the library or the wall or whatever is behind you and keep a 30-50cm distance from them to maintain depth.
Another option is to plant a background photo of a beach, office etc. Zoom software has this option, and presumably, additional applications do as well. You can use images you found online or a photo you prepared ahead of time.
A vertical or a horizontal position? Check the requirements ahead of time. For example, for Instagram, you will be required to film vertically, but for TV broadcast, or any widescreen, you need to shoot horizontally.
Your position on the screen is significant. Make sure your head is not cut at the top. It’s best to pose from the chest area and up and be mindful of your hands, which are very conducive to expressing your ideas. Try to appear in the middle of the screen, not to the side, and certainly not cut (both shoulders inside the frame).
Your posture is important – don’t sit bent or sit too close to the screen. Sit upright, make sure your clothing is straight, and that the chair you’re sitting on looks presentable. If you do this right, you’ll look more confident and open.
Where to look? While you have to be aware of what you look like, it’s essential to make eye contact with your audience. Try to look at the camera. Make sure it’s at eye level. If the camera is above or below eye level, it will create a visual distortion.
Lighting and Windows – Windows and lighting are a challenge when being filmed. But like any challenge, it can also be overcome. When the window is behind you, the camera is overexposed and your face turns dark. When the window is to your side, only part of your face is lit. You can stand in front of the window and have your face lit evenly. If you take the video call outside, the sun gives excellent light, but also creates a shadow on your face. Be mindful of the lighting and find a position to get the best angle.
Background noise and guests – True, it’s cute that suddenly one of the kids or the cat enters the frame, but it doesn’t always fit the content or message. Conduct the call in an isolated room and make sure everyone knows you’ll be on a live call. A TV turned on in another room can be heard in the background. If you’re on a live broadcast and someone’s trying to watch you, there could be reverberation. Make sure they’re turned off.
Get ready. Test the audio and visual aspects of the call, in advance. Make sure the sound works, that the frame looks good, and of course that you and your surroundings look good. Ask people close to you for their opinion of how you and your background look and sound.