With most of the nation stuck at home, suddenly everyone is an expert in videoconferencing. The papers are full of articles about how to arrange your background to impress colleagues with your intelligence and good taste. The Evening Standard reminds us to ‘remove all signs of human weakness’ from your background – so that rules out piles of washing or old pizza boxes.
The FT suggests one of those ‘fake photographic backgrounds’ that can transform your kitchen into a beach scene or cityscape. Either way, anyone who has to be interviewed on TV from home via Skype has to step it up a notch. Here is part one of our guide to the most common mistakes to avoid – part two will follow next week.
1. Low-def camera: many built in laptop webcams are of distinctly average quality. To look professional, it’s worth spending £20-30 on a plug-in webcam of at least 720p quality (the most basic form of HD) with built-in microphone. Amazon has plenty (if they haven’t sold out by the time you read this).
2. Bad sound: if you are in an echoey room, place some pillows or large cushions off-camera on either side of you. This will absorb some of the sound and improve the acoustic. If it’s a radio interview, broadcast professionals have been known to throw an overcoat over their head to give more of a studio sound and block out extraneous sounds. It’s surprising how far the noise of a flushing loo can carry! It’s also smart to take the phone off the hook and put a ‘Do not disturb’ notice on the door. Locking it may be even better (remember the notorious Professor Robert Kelly interview when his young children burst in?)
3. Bad angle: the ‘up the nose’ camera shot was never a good look. Try and position the camera at about eye level. Stand it on a box on the desk if necessary, and look directly into it. The top of your head should be near the top of the screen – it looks weird if you look like you are halfway down, sliding out of the bottom of the shot – yet this is a frequent mistake.
4. Bad lighting: harsh lighting creates unflattering shadows on the face. At worst this can make you look like something out of a horror film. If conditions permit, position yourself in front of the window so the natural light falls on your face. Failing that find a table lamp with a good-sized shade that will create a diffused light source and place it right in front of you, behind the webcam. Try different positions until you find the most flattering effect, to impress your audience.
Part two follows next week
During the current coronavirus emergency, we can carry out media training and presentation skills coaching by video link – more details