10 tips for your next Zoom chat or interview

As a communication specialist with experience in television news, I know that visuals are powerful. In the post-COVID-19 era, we are increasingly communicating through screens. Sometimes that may mean joining a live call on Zoom. At other times, it could be a neatly edited succinct video delivering your key messages. Whatever your means — your ‘sound bite’ should be effective. Here are a few tips for anyone recording their next interview on Zoom or simply joining a meeting with their camera turned on:

1. Try to align the computer camera with your eye level

Get a few books that you place under your computer, so you don’t have to look at the computer like you are looking down on someone else. Remember, your audience picks up on non-verbal cues and you would like to talk to them looking straight at them rather than looking down at them.

Remember to place the computer at eye level

2. Dress to impress

Please do not wear stripes – cameras don’t respond well to pattern prints. Also, I know the temptation to not get out of comfortable nightwear or shabby sweatshirts while you are at home. But making a good impression includes wearing something presentable. Also, try to minimise jewellery or anything else that may distract the viewer.

3. Frame

All too often I see people being too far away from the camera or being too close. Think of a TV interview frame: one or two feet away from the camera works well. In terms of headroom – don’t leave too much of it and don’t cut your head off either.

4. Let there be Light

I’ve seen so many people switch on Zoom with a light source behind them. That’s not good. It makes you look like a silhouette. Ideally you want light to fall evenly across your face. Try to sit in front of a window so light can fall on you.

Work in an environment where you have enough light falling on your face and not emerging from behind you

5. Sound/ audio

Always check sound and computer audio before you start to record or go live. It is easy to forget where the mute button is. Please mute your microphone during a live chat but remember where the unmute button is.

6. Makeup and appearance

When you are at home you probably like to wear comfortable attire and look like you are – well, at home. But your audience may expect you to make an effort. So brush your hair, put some makeup on if you’d prefer, tidy facial hair and generally look presentable.

7. Pause

Remember Zoom or any other software you use may introduce time lags to your speech. Try to pause for a couple of seconds before you start speaking, especially if you are recording.

8. Short answers

This is something we’ve always told guests. The advice remains true for digital interviews as well. If you are doing an interview please don’t meander. Get to the point. Ask the interviewer for questions in advance if you can, so you have a few points handy. An answer that begins with, “Let’s analyse the history of this in the 18th century…” is probably not going to be a great answer. Brevity is key.

9. Funny backgrounds

Some people want to spice up the backgrounds they use. I can see the temptation. But this is still official. It pays to keep it that way. A blank wall may be too boring. Having some things in your backdrop is great – plants that you may be proud of, or books you’ve read – anything that can give the viewer a window to who you. But at the same time, this shouldn’t be too distracting.

10. Smile

The warmth of your personality doesn’t come through very much if you meet someone digitally. Remember to smile often, talk slowly and concisely. Be a swan – relaxed in front of the camera, even if you are furiously peddling underneath.

Most importantly – relax, you are on camera.

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