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How to look your best on video conference calls

People around the world are finding themselves working and conducting media interviews from home for the first time.

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing many to move their in-person meetings to video conferencing on platforms like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting. It’s also changing the media landscape. Interviews that used to be done from a studio are now being shot in experts’ living rooms, offices and kitchens.

As a media and public speaking trainer, I teach executives who need to do interviews on TV stations worldwide through video conferencing and who need to reach other live audiences through their computer screen. During my executive coaching sessions, I show them how to represent their business and themselves professionally and also make sure their message sticks with their audiences.

You can make a good impression through video conferencing platforms as long as you have a few specific things in place. 

Create a background that isn’t distracting

The key to speaking on stage, in the media, in your videos, during live video conferencing and in job interviews is to keep the audience focused on your message and nothing else. Take a look at the wall or space behind you and make sure nothing behind you is distracting. Look for light switches, outlets, open doors, open windows, and anything else that could be distracting. You want people to remember your content and message, and if there’s a very obvious picture or book behind you that grabs the viewers focus — remove it. You don’t want anything in the  background distract from your message, or worse, offend your audience.

Good lighting is your best friend

When you are selling your company, your brand, a product or service – you want to be seen in the best light. Literally and figuratively. When you show up in a media interview or in a meeting and you are poorly lit or there are lots of shadows on your face, the audience can subconsciously feel like you’re hiding something. That you can’t be trusted. The majority of your message is your physical content. This is why what you do and your appearance is just as important, if not more, that what you say. Lighting is vital to the way you appear on the screen. Make sure there are no windows behind you. The lighting needs to be in front of you. Natural light from a window is the best. If you don’t have a room that works for this, use soft lighting from a lamp and place it right in front of you without creating shadows from your monitor or phone. I’ve used this light from Amazon for years. It’s under $100 and many of my clients use it for their media interviews. 

Make eye contact with the camera

Just like in person, you want to make great eye contact with your audience. When you’re video conferencing, this can be tough. The software will show you speaking on your monitor, along with the person interviewing you – or all the people you’re talking to on the call. This can create a lot of distractions for you. The key here is to make sure when you are talking, you look into the camera on your computer or phone. When you look directly into the camera, you will be appearing as if you’re looking right into the eyes of your audience. This takes practice to get it down and not let your eyes wander off and look at all the other people on the call. Why is this so important? When you let your eyes move from person to person or somewhere else in your room, you may appear to be insincere, detached, uninterested, insecure and even shifty. Make time to practice good eye contact. You do not want to portray the message that you don’t care about the meeting or interview.

Be camera ready

Working from home means you may not have to put a lot of focus on what you’re wearing on your lower half, but you need to make sure that from waist up, you’re all business. Take the time before an on camera meeting to do your hair, makeup and wear something that is not too distracting. For on camera media interviews through video conferencing, my clients normally have their makeup and hair professionally done. During a pandemic, you can’t hire someone to come to your house to get that done. There are many consultants who can talk you through this virtually right now. Our team of makeup and hair stylists is doing this for our clients. If you don’t have a professional to help you, make sure you look well-rested, alert, your skin looks healthy and your best features are emphasized. Since you want your audience to lock-in with your eyes and trust you – make sure your eyes are not blocked by extra hair and eyeglass frames that don’t fit your face properly. A lot of professionals are balancing children at home and working — so both men and women can benefit from a little concealer under their eyes. Make sure your hair isn’t distracting and falling into your face during your calls and try not to adjust your hair or touch your face while you’re on camera. When it comes to wardrobe, it’s better to wear a solid color or something that’s not as distracting. If you have a bold or quirky personality and you love bright colors and patterns, it’s okay to be yourself, just make sure you don’t distract from the conversation.

Position the camera at eye level

Before you jump on a call, make sure the audience will not be looking up your nose or at your ceiling. We’ve seen a lot of these kinds of calls and interviews! Make sure you’re going to appear to your audience at the angle they’re used to seeing you from across a table. Adjust your computer so it’s at eye level by adding books or something else to raise the computer up a little. Sit upright, in the front half of your chair, and look alert. Do not swivel. Again, you want to pretend like you’re making eye contact with the people on your video conference, so make sure you adjust your computer accordingly so you can look right into the camera when you’re speaking. 

Be heard! (and sometimes silent)

If you’re in a virtual meeting with a lot of other people, mute yourself when you’re not talking. You may have kids and/or pets at home right now and a spouse working from home. This is the time to learn how to effectively mute yourself when you’re not talking so the speaker is heard clearly. Also, make sure you shut off your notifications. You don’t want to hear your computer or phone dinging throughout. You also could be taking notes during the call, and you don’t want the sound of your fingers tapping away to distract the others.

Working from home also means creating barriers between your home and the “office.” Make sure to create a good system that will keep you happy, successful and sane during this (hopefully) short period of time where most of us need to work from home.

  • Sleep at least eight hours a night. Working from home can create some unhealthy habits like working at all hours of the day/night. Make sure you are getting your personal time to recharge and you’re sleeping. Showing up as your best during video calls and media interviews online while you’re not rested can be a big gamble. You need to be able to answer questions thoughtfully and think quickly. You need sleep for optimal brain function.
  • Shower every single day. Start your day with a shower and do your normal morning and evening routines. This will keep you alert and productive. Plus, you need to look good on camera!
  • Create 10-15 minute breaks between large blocks of meetings. Stretch, go to the bathroom and eat. You cannot show up looking healthy, trustworthy and likeable on camera if you’re dehydrated, are not sleeping, and you’re hungry.

While working remotely might be a bit of an adjustment, we’re here to help you feel confident and make sure your message sticks with your audience and makes them ACT.

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas

I was in Vegas last weekend. My husband and I wanted to get away for some pool time before a busy June hit. (It was also my birthday weekend.)

I dumped a few hundred down some slots and he made a hefty deposit while playing the tables. Thank you, Steve Wynn.

We flew in Thursday and didn’t hear about the terror threat until we landed that afternoon. Law enforcement was already boosted by the time we hit the ground. Vegas was a target because an ISIS propaganda video called for lone wolf attacks showed several Las Vegas Strip properties.

No one was really talking about it inside the casinos. Possibly because they were on vacation and drinking too many of these tasty little watermelon and vodka punches. I do know security was ramped up. Kathy Griffin also talked about it during her show. (This was three days before the President Trump beheading video.)

In my head – I was prepared for anything.

I wore sandals at dinners and shows instead of the heels that remained in my luggage. I kept my bag packed and my phone charged. (Speaking of purses… take a look at the tiny little chair waiters bring you for your bag during dinner? They’re really looking out for the girl who doesn’t want to place her handbag on the floor.) 

It might be the news producer in me or because I spent three years in law enforcement… or was it all those years in Girl Scouts? I was ready.

My husband? He thought I was being a little ridiculous. But – you never can be too ready.

It’s a little like the bag I bring along on shoots for my clients. I have makeup for men and women. Deodorant, tape, body tape, things to stick in your bra to make your clothing look better, hair ties, blotters, eye cream, my favorite all-natural throat lozenges (ask me about them, they’re amazing)… you name it. You never know what your client will need. My job is to be ready and make them look and sound as best as possible.

Are you ready for your next emergency?

Ready for when the media calls?

Ready to perform?

Ready for your next boardroom pitch/interview/meeting/public speaking event/Facebook Live?

Here are some quick tips on how to prepare that I recently shared live on Facebook (please don’t mind the random thoughts and special appearance by my dog Mariel – when we’re live on Facebook, anything goes!):

 

I have an entire summer of ways you can get in the media or improve your public speaking — so make sure I’m making it into your inbox and not your spam! Not signed up for my free tips yet? Head on over to this page to start learning how you can get yourself noticed (and make more money).

PS: If you’re going to be in Vegas anytime soon… make sure to catch the Fogerty show. Worth every cent and more. Here’s just a taste of him performing with his sons. What a moment.

Are you touching yourself?

It’s a very important question.
You could be doing it – and have NO idea.
Most people don’t.
They do it in meetings, at their desk, in interviews, even on stage!
It’s really not a good thing.
I had a client who did it at the beginning of his media training with me yesterday… and with my help, he stopped. You can too.
Do YOU touch your face? At work, in meetings, during interviews or on stage? You shouldn’t.
Not only is it gross because you’re transferring bacteria, allergens and viruses to your face — but it’s also a dead giveaway that you’re uncomfortable with the situation.
When you rub your face, you’re calming yourself down because there are nerve endings there. Giving yourself a good temple rub in the bathroom is okay… but don’t do it in public IF you care what others think.
People absorb all the things you do PHYSICALLY while you’re speaking to them. They take that in as content. Not just what you SAY.
If you don’t really care what people think of you – then rub away. If you’re in sales, have a leadership role, looking to move up or own a company… you DO care… and it’s definitely something to work on.
This is why I record my clients on video. Sometimes they have no idea what they look like while they’re talking until they see what I shoot. It’s much easier to fix issues when you’re aware of them.

Try shooting video of yourself.

Positive body language could definitely help you become a more effective leader.

Would you like help? Click here for a free strategy session on the phone or on Skype.

No one at work will tell you this (especially if you’re the boss)

Some people talk with their hands.

Some people talk with their hands a little too much.

They’re in the middle of a room – yet, it’s like they’re waving down a plane. Distracting? Yes.

Have you ever been in an audience or watched someone online and found yourself watching them act like they’re conducting an orchestra? And you don’t remember a word they said?

What you’re DOING with your face, hands and the rest of your body can either ADD or DETRACT from your message. They may not hear a word you’re saying because of what your body’s doing.

You may have no idea you even have this issue. Most people won’t tell you. We’re all too nice. ESPECIALLY if you’re the boss.

Your non-verbal communication will contribute (or is contributing right now) to your success or failure.

Kasia Wezowski is the founder of the Center for Body Language and the author of four books on the subject. She recently wrote about this for the Harvard Business Review.

In the article, she specifically broke down body language from the 2012 U.S. Presidential election. The Center for Body Language conducted an online survey with 1,000 participants.

“… both Democrats and Republicans—watched two-minute video clips featuring Barack Obama and Mitt Romney at campaign events delivering both neutral and emotional content. Webcams recorded the viewers’ facial expressions, and our team analyzed them for six key emotions identified in psychology research: happy, surprised, afraid, disgusted, angry, and sad. We coded for the tenor of the emotion (positive or negative) and how strongly it seem to be expressed.  This analysis showed that Obama sparked stronger emotional responses and fewer negative ones. Even a significant number of Republicans—16%— reacted negatively to Romney. And when we analyzed the candidates’ body language, we found that the President displayed primarily open, positive, confident positions congruent with his speech. Romney, by contrast, often gave out negative signals, diminishing his message with contradictory and distracting facial expressions and movement.”

Are you sending out positive and open signals? Or are you sending out negative and distracting signals?

Let’s take a look.

The Center for Body Language studied successful leaders across a range of fields and identified several positions which indicate effective, persuasive body language.

Here are its findings:

Body Language - The Box Demonstrates Trustworthy Truthful ImageThe box

“Early in Bill Clinton’s political career he would punctuate his speeches with big, wide gestures that made him appear untrustworthy. To help him keep his body language under control, his advisors taught him to imagine a box in front of his chest and belly and contain his hand movements within it. Since then, “the Clinton box” has become a popular term in the field.”

Body Language - Demonstrates Commanding Dominant Posture

 

Holding the ball

 

“Gesturing as if you were holding a basketball between your hands is an indicator of confidence and control, as if you almost literally have the facts at your fingertips hands. Steve Jobs frequently used this position in his speeches.”Body Language - Wide Stance Demonstrates Confidence, Control

 

Wide stance

“How people stand is a strong indicator of their mindset.  When you stand in this strong and steady position, with your feet about a shoulder width apart, it signals that you feel in control.”

 

Body Language - Palms Up Demonstrate Honest, Accepting Posture

 

Palms up

“This gesture indicates openness and honesty.  Oprah makes strong use of this during her speeches. She is a powerful, influential figure, but also appears willing to connect sincerely with the people she is speaking to, be it one person or a crowd of thousands.”

 

Body Language - Palms Down Demonstrate Strong, Assertive Posture

Palms down

“The opposite movement can be viewed positively too—as a sign of strength, authority and assertiveness. Barack Obama has often used it to calm a crowd right after moments of rousing oration.”

This is why I record my clients on video. Sometimes they have no idea what they look like while they’re talking until they see what I shoot. It’s much easier to fix issues when you’re aware of them.

Try shooting video of yourself. How did you stand? How did you use your hands?

Positive body language could definitely help you become a more effective leader.

Would you like help? Please click here for a free strategy session on the phone or on Skype (so I can check out your body language).

Are you ready to go live on TV twice in one morning?

It’s live TV. A lot could have happened.
More U.S. missile strikes in Syria.
A major storm on the day of the Chicago Cubs home opener (actually, it’s pouring here in Chicago as I write this, but it should clear up in time for the first pitch).
You can spend weeks, even months preparing your talking points and building relationships with your favorite TV shows to get your story on the air. After all that work – you’re cancelled.
Breaking news can take over your TV segment, leaving you to pray you’re rebooked in the future. It happens all the time.
Something else can happen. Something amazing.
Someone else can cancel or not show up in time — and the producers are left with time in the show to fill.
You’re there and you’re ready to go on again. Yes… you’re going live on TV again. Twice in one morning. More free advertising for your company. Would you want that kind of TV coverage?
Lots of people would be freaked out trying to figure out what in the world they’ll talk about. They don’t prepare for this kind of opportunity.
But you’re ready – prepared for anything.
That’s what happened this morning.
Here’s a live look behind the scenes inside the Chicago TV studio this morning:
I set this segment up for the wine company, Cellar Angels, based in Chicago.
This is exactly why I coach my media clients to be ready for anything. You never know what will happen in live TV – but since I’ve been a TV producer for 20 years… I have a pretty good idea how to deal with anything that will come your way. It’s why I’m successful as a media trainer.
Cellar Angels partnered with the nonprofit, Illinois Patriot Education Fund. I’m on the charity’s advisory board and look for media opportunities to promote them. We raise money so members of Illinois military families can go to college. Here’s how to donate.
Illinois Patriot Education Fund
Thank you to the producers at WCIU TV for booking my segment this morning. Here it is if you’d like to watch it. The producers are total pros. When the other segment was cancelled – the segment producer moved quickly and effortlessly to get my guests back on set ready to go live. Thank you… you know who you are 😉
Are you ready for YOUR story to be on TV? Book your free consultation with me here. As your media coach, I’ll help you craft your story to make it newsworthy.