10 tips for mastering your television Skype or Zoom interview

One of the neatest things about technology advances is how it lets news organizations connect with sources and experts more quickly. With SkypeZoom, Google Hangouts and other video calling tools, news networks like CNN and MSNBC can get an expert on the air in a matter of minutes. And, right now, TV stations may have no other choice when trying to air interviews with experts.

While we’ve all gotten much more comfortable with video-conferencing tools recently, a video interview via Skype or Zoom is more like a traditional studio interview. There are some extra things to keep in mind though. When we’re coordinating Skype interviews for clients, here are some of the tips we share:

Consider your lighting and camera angle

When you’re being interviewed in a studio, you don’t have to worry about the lighting, but over Skype or Zoom, it’s up to you put your best face forward. If you’re near a window, make sure it’s in front or to the side, not behind you. If at all possible, elevate the camera by placing your laptop on a stand or other surface. MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle recommends having the camera at or above your eye level. Also, keep in mind that most laptop webcams are substandard, and it may make sense to invest in a better camera.

Do not look at your screen

Instead, look at your computer’s camera, so it appears to viewers that you are looking at them. Put a bright sticker or another marker to draw your eyes to the camera.

Know your talking points

Just because you’re behind a computer and not in the studio does not mean you can cheat by including notes on your monitor. This is broadcast television—the big leagues. If your eyes are reading from the screen, it will look awkward to viewers.

Turn off notifications

Remember how I told you to look at the camera? Turn off email and other desktop notifications that may pop up and distract you during your interview. Also, silence cell phones to avoid unwanted background noise.

Create a backdrop

This sounds like common sense, but if you’re doing an interview from your office, be sure to clean up. It’s also an opportunity to include organization signage in the background. If you have a poster or sign with the organization’s logo, put it behind you.

Practice

Don’t wait until you’re live on CNN to see how you look on the video feed. Practice with a friend or coworker to make sure you and your surroundings look top notch. Test lighting to make sure it’s not too dark or bright. It’s also a chance to practice looking at the camera, something that may not feel “natural.”

Wardrobe

The safest color to wear for television interviews is blue. In general, do not wear white, black, red or patterns, and avoid colors that blend into the background.

Headphones

If you’re wearing headphones, choose the wired kind. Wireless headphones are very convenient until you have Bluetooth connectivity or battery issues.

Reduce background noise

Turn the television off. Not only will it create background noise, but the short delay can distract interviewees. Additionally, be aware of other outside sounds that could interfere. Closing your office door is always a good idea.

A Professional Skype username

While it’s unlikely your username will be displayed on the screen, the producer will need to connect with you beforehand. Nothing takes away from an expert’s credibility like “GoldenGirlsFan85.” I suggest a username with your full name and organization.

Producers will often call and do a sound check before broadcast to make sure the connection is solid. Feel free to ask any questions or concerns you may have at this time. But, remember: you’re an expert and you’re going to do great.

Do you have any tips for the perfect Skype interview? Please share in the comments below.

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Cameron McPherson

Cameron builds strategic communication campaigns that increase awareness and build public support. His familiarity with Virginia’s local markets helps clients navigate and understand complex and emerging issues. He frequently assists new companies, restaurants and other organizations launch in the Richmond market through public relations tactics.

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