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.

How to Look Better Under Stage Lights or on Camera

Many of my clients had a successful career, but are now looking for help with their public speaking careers.

Some are looking for opportunities to get on live TV to talk about their companies or their story.

Do you know how to prepare so you look your best?

I’m going to show you how you can look better on TV or on stage. The lights really alter our appearance.

I always suggest that my clients hire a makeup artist — but if you have to do it yourself, here are a few things you can do to make yourself look better under all those lights.

If you’re going to present on stage soon, here are three things to ask before you show up.


Video Transcription

There are a lot of things that happen when we’re live with a lot of lights. It changes us completely and I wanted to give you some things that you can do when it comes to hair and makeup to make you look the best, so you feel better, more confident. If we feel more confident, if we feel those things are dealt with, we can be more confident in our message, right? I want you to focus on the content, the things that you’re saying and not this other junk.

So, I thought I would make this video to give you a couple tips. Again, these are things you don’t have to do, I’d just like to offer them up in case you would like to do them to make yourself feel better.

The biggest thing is when there are lights on us that are normally not on us. We actually look very different. Our regular use of makeup is all of a sudden nonexistent. It disappears when we’re onstage or live on television. You may look great in person, but what happens is, these lights go on and certain features of ours disappear.

Let’s talk about hair. Hair is important. I’ll talk about men first. Men…there’s that something men do. They tend to get a haircut right before their wedding. They get a haircut right before something super important. And what happens is, our hair tends to look a little shorter. It appears that we have less hair on camera, whether you’re getting still pictures or you’re live on television. Be careful, men, before you decide to run out and get your hair cut real short. Please consider letting your hair grow out.

Some anchors that you see, they look like they have a regular haircut. But if you saw them in person, they have quite thick hair. So for men especially, tell your hairdresser or your barber to let your hair grow thicker around the sides because on camera or in pictures our hair looks a little thinner on the sides. Plus, our ears look smaller when we let our hair grow out a little bit on the sides. Also, men, if you’re balding, make sure to use a little powder on the top of your head or right where you’re balding. What happens is someone might be staring at the light reflecting off of your head instead of paying attention to your content.

For women, it’s just making sure that your hair is not distracting. If your hair is constantly in your eyes and you’re always adjusting it or you’re pushing it away, you have big thick bangs and you’re pushing it away, it’s very distracting. I’m not saying to always put a ponytail in and to keep it pulled back, when you blow dry it you want to blow dry it away from your face, your bangs are swooped away so they’re not in your eyes. You want to avoid an issue where you’re constantly touching your face or move your hair away from your face or constantly tucking. Because what happens is, people will be looking at that and noticing that instead of listening to what you’re talking about. So that’s really important.

For makeup, for everybody, a little under eye concealer. Whether you’re sleep deprived, you’re not drinking enough water, you don’t have a good skincare regimen, maybe you don’t wear SPF everyday, you’re not hydrating enough, you’re not wearing night cream…your face will show it. Your skin will definitely show it. It’s important to cover up those dark circles and bags because you want to look rested. When you look rested, you look trustworthy. When you look like you take care of yourself, you look like you can be trusted. So using a little eye coverup for men and women is really important.

Another thing, women: as we get older, our eyebrows kind of disappear. We get less hairs there. And when you put lights on us, our eyebrows really disappear. So, consider using eyeshadow. Eyeshadow’s not a big deal. Use whatever color is appropriate for you, if it’s a light brown, dark brown. Color in those eyebrows and make sure they’re defined. If they’re really thin you might want to thicken them up a little bit because the eyes are really framed by the eyebrows and we really want people to connect with you with your eyes. When you’re talking and you’re describing something that’s going on, whether you’re on TV or onstage, it’s really important that your eyes are defined.

Wear a little more eyeliner than you’re used to. I can only talk about my eyes and right now, I’m not wearing enough eyeliner. I’m just going to make that clear. I’m wearing what I’ve been wearing all day, since 6am this morning. So make sure you’re lining your eyes. For me, I would make sure I’m going all the way across to make sure they’re defined. I have very small eyes so I want to make sure I don’t overly line them up because they’ll actually look smaller. You just have to know your eyes. You might have to elongate a little bit out here so they look bigger. And I’m not going to go through a whole makeup tutorial here because I’m not a makeup artist, I’m just pointing out what you may need to do.

A little eyeshadow – because we’re talking about defining things, right? We want to define in here with a different color eyeshadow so we can see the definition of where your eyelids start and where your eyebrows start. That’s the whole thing about these lights, they kind of make everything disappear.

The other thing is mascara. I have mascara on and I have pretty darn good eyelashes but they disappear in front of these lights so you can’t even see my eyelashes right now. Some people wear fake eyelashes…I’m not suggesting that for everyone but definitely double up on that mascara. I use a regular old grocery store mascara, I use Falsies. I always go back to that. I’m tried natural because I don’t like a lot of chemicals, I’ve tried all this stuff. But I like the old Falsies because it really thickens them up and it lengthens them, so that’s what I go to and I think it’s like, 8 bucks at Walgreens or CVS. But really try to put two coats of that on. You really want your eyes to pop. Your eyes disappear completely when you’re in front of those lights.

If you’re not a big lipstick person, I don’t put lipstick on all day, I’m just not a big fan. But you need to define your lips, so definitely put on some lipstick so we can see where your lips end and your skin starts. It’s really important to define these features. I’m not saying to go all glammed out, but just define the things that you have.

And then a big thing, if you’re fair-skinned like me, I already put some blush and some bronzer on, you really want to show the definition between your chin and your neck. So, I put on a bronzer here, bronzer here. I definitely try to highlight where my cheeks are. And then I go up here because what happens is we look like one white circle as fair as I am. So just go in one big circle to show where your features start and end.

I hope that’s helpful. If you ever need me to show you specifically for your skin, or maybe for me to hook you up with a makeup artist, let me know. Those are just a couple tips that I have that I suggest to people. Also, with that bronzer, I go down the neck because I like to show where this is and where this starts. I know there’s a bazillion other things to do but those are just a couple things to get you through. I hope that’s helpful!



Kathryn Janicek | Media Coach, Producer, Public Speaking Trainer
Kathryn Janicek is a three-time Emmy Award-winning television producer with 20 years of experience working in newsrooms across the country. Kathryn coached talent, producers, and writers before switching her focus on helping entrepreneurs and corporate executives. Now, based in her home city of Chicago, she is a much sought-after media coach and public speaking trainer who will help you produce the best YOU. Click HERE now to book a complimentary consultation with Kathryn.

It’s Not Fair | The Melania Trump Edition

She was judged for what she wore.First Lady Melania Trump Public Speaking Appearance
She was ripped apart online.
She was called out of touch.

We only saw a picture.
We didn’t know her itinerary.
Yet she was judged for what she wore.

Every detail was outlined and ridiculed from her stilettos to her sunglasses.
She was never intending to get on a boat and help rescue stranded Houstonians. We also didn’t know if she had a change of clothes inside the chopper.

Yet we, the audience, judged her for how she looked. For what she wore. Twitter BLEW UP.

It’s not fair.
When I was a kid, I said it a lot.
“Life’s not fair,” is how my mom and dad would respond over and over. It didn’t make me feel any better. But, it’s true.

Life’s not fair.

I hear it from clients when I first tell them how much hair, makeup, wardrobe, jewelry, and facial hair count. We may want what’s inside of us to be the only thing that matters — but so much more creates the image an audience sees.

When we’re on stage or presenting in front of a small work group – we expect our expertise to be heard and seen…. and not the fact that we have two inches of roots and haven’t been able to get a haircut in months.
Life’s not fair.

We see it all. And we judge. Most times, we don’t even know we’re doing it. But what we see definitely adds to how we feel about a person.

What you wear is as important as what you say. You could have a doctorate in your field – but if what you look like is distracting – it’s hard to gain the trust of your audience.

Melania didn’t choose her role. Her husband chose it for her. What we can learn from her choices this week is that we all need people around us that we can trust to speak the truth. To tell us when we’re making a big mistake. To guide us on how an audience may perceive us in our decisions.

We can and should judge her team. And maybe that annoying FLOTUS baseball cap she wore too.


Kathryn Janicek | Media Coach, Producer, Public Speaking Trainer
Kathryn Janicek is a three-time Emmy Award-winning television producer with 20 years of experience working in newsrooms across the country. Kathryn coached talent, producers, and writers before switching her focus on helping entrepreneurs and corporate executives. Now, based in her home city of Chicago, she is a much sought-after media coach and public speaking trainer who will help you produce the best YOU. Click HERE now to book a complimentary 30-minute consultation with Kathryn!