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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.

How to Grow a Career in Public Speaking (Or Perfect Your Pitch to the Media)

Have you ever met a really BORING person? Been on a first date – and wondered how someone could really be that bland? Are you sitting in a meeting right now listening to a person go on and on… about nothing?

Are you afraid you might be that person?

The best piece of advice I give clients considering a career in public speaking or using the media to advance their career or business is…

Have a relatable story.

You MUST have a story people can relate to if you’re going to get up and speak in public, or if you’d like to sell your business by using the media.

No producer or writer is going to publish a story about your grand opening or sale. But if you have a story, like maybe you’re donating 30% to a charity that’s been in the news recently… or there’s something really special about the owner of the company… you have a much better chance.

Numbers are great – but stories are better.

You may have a great success story at your company. Numbers are way up. Bosses are happy. The way to break through to an audience and show what those numbers really mean is to tell a story. Explain what those numbers mean. For example, you can talk about how many new people you were able to hire because numbers are up. Highlight a person you hired and their story.

You need a compelling story of human interest.

Remember: the media has a job to do – and that’s to make sure their audience watches, reads, sticks with them even after a commercial, learns something and keeps coming back for more. Here are a few quick thoughts I shared recently, live on my Facebook page.

 

 

Give the media something good to work with and you’ll have a better chance of seeing your story run.

Also, find out who’s looking for that kind of story so you’re not just sending out press releases to everyone. There will be media outlets that don’t even do your kind of story or that don’t book people like you as guests or experts.

At the end of the day, the most important thing whether you’re giving a presentation about your company or you’re trying to get your company in the news is to have a relevant story that hooks the audience and entertains them.

PS: The last two videos I posted really hit a chord. They were the most shared of any of my videos. In case you missed them, here’s how to check them out:

   


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!

Telling Your Story: Landing & Leveraging Media Opportunities

Have you ever had your message miscommunicated? Via a promotion? Through your salespeople? In the media? It can hurt your message and damage your confidence!

So let’s get out in front by talking through how to sell your story so that your message isn’t misconstrued.

This week live on Facebook, I shared how to find the right story to tell  – and how to tell it to the right media at the right time.

I was also joined by special guest Julie Holton, the Principal Strategist and Owner of MConnexions  for a deeper dive into how to leverage that attention with some marketing must-do’s.

Every company has a story to tell – let’s find yours! Click below to watch the video.

 


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.

How to Prepare for & React to a Media Crisis (so it doesn’t become a bigger deal)

Imagine…

Something terrible happens – and the media is calling and beating your door down.

You hide.

You don’t know what to do or what to say.

You did nothing wrong — but you just handled the situation wrong. And now, there are accusations online, your employees are confused, and the media won’t. just. go. away.

You can go from normal to a media crisis in minutes. An employee sends out a racist tweet. You lay off workers. Your CEO gets in a car crash and he was drinking. There’s a video of your employees doing something illegal.

What could happen at your company?

Every organization is vulnerable to a crisis. If you ignore it – it doesn’t disappear.

Maybe it’s not even your crisis – but it’s a vendor’s or a client of yours is having a crisis. Maybe you’re a law firm, a financial firm, an accounting firm… and you have clients who have a crisis. If you know how to help them — you can save them.

TRUST ME – if you don’t prepare – you’ll be worse off.

  • The impact to your financial and reputational bottom line will be more severe.
  • Employees and other stakeholders will not know what’s happening and will become confused and angry.
  • Your organization will be perceived as inept and possibly criminally negligent.
  • The media crisis will last MUCH longer. 

Why trust ME?

I have 20+ years of media experience as a TV and social media producer, executive producer, writer and news director. I have seen the good and the ugly. I helped manage my TV station’s 9/11 coverage.

As the spokesperson for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, I handled all communications for one of the biggest news events in Minnesota: the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Talk about a crisis. The eight-lane, steel truss arch bridge that carried Interstate 35W across the Mississippi River collapsed into the river during rush hour on August 1, 2007. Thirteen people were killed. 145 were hurt. First thought was terrorism, then it quickly became a structural issue. I was in charge of all local, national and international media – even over the federal response.

The basic steps of effective crisis communications are not difficult, but they require work in order to minimize the damage.

Are you serious about crisis preparedness?

Here is what you need to do:

 

Curse of the resting bitch face

“Smile.”

“Why don’t you smile more?”

“You’re so pretty when you smile.”

When I was younger, directors said it to me. Photographers. Bosses. Strangers on the street. My parents still do.

“Smile.”

Resting Bitch Face Media Training

My resting bitch face found in the wild while producing a show on Midway Airport in Chicago.

I speak at colleges often. Recently, at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communications, resting bitch face came up. Lots of people have it. I’m one of them.

I may look like I want to tear you apart, when actually, I’m singing Oh Happy Day in my head.

Those suffering from Resting Bitch Face (aka Bitchy Resting Face) are mostly women. You know someone afflicted with it. They may look vaguely annoyed, judgy and slightly bored.

I talk about resting bitch face when I coach women. It’s important to know if you have one. Especially when you’re interviewing for a job, speaking on stage or doing a media appearance.

Queen Elizabeth, Anna Kendrick, Victoria Beckham and Kanye all have it.

Here’s a little science behind it.

Jason Rogers and Abbe Macbeth, behavioral researchers with international research and innovation firm Noldus Information Technology, decided to investigate: Why are some faces off-putting? What, exactly, makes us register as RBF?

The researchers enlisted Noldus’s FaceReader, a sophisticated tool engineered to identify specific expressions based on a catalogue of more than 10,000 images of human faces. The software, which can examine faces through a live camera, a photograph or a video clip, maps 500 points on the human face, then analyzes the image and assigns an expression based on eight basic human emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt, and “neutral.”

One particular emotion that helps the reader’s response jump is contempt. The software measures the look of contempt in a face in subtle signals, like “one side of the lip pulled back slightly, the eyes squinting a little,” Rogers explained.

Or: “It’s kind of a tightening around the eyes, and a little bit of raising of the corners of the lips — but not into a smile,” Macbeth suggested.

The cues are understated, yet the machine detects and interprets them the same way our human brains do.

This is important. You may not know it – but your brain detects and interprets what it thinks someone is feeling or saying through their face.

It means – even though one thing is coming out of your mouth… the way your face LOOKS may determine how that person feels about you and what you’re saying.

Here’s the kicker.

Noldus’s FaceReader is software and therefore immune to gender bias. It detected RBF in male and female faces in equal measure. Which means that the idea of RBF as a predominantly female phenomenon has little to do with facial physiology and more to do with social norms.

Have you ever heard anyone tell a man to smile? It’s pretty rare for a man to have resting bitch face.

Smiling is expected from women far more than it’s expected from men.

“… there’s a lot of anecdotal articles and scientific literature on that. So RBF isn’t necessarily something that occurs more in women, but we’re more attuned to notice it in women because women have more pressure on them to be happy and smiley and to get along with others.” Macbeth said.

Worried you may have RBF?

What else could you be doing that you are not aware of right now that’s hurting you in interviews, public speaking and media appearances?

Let me help you. As a media coach and public speaking trainer, I help my clients with these issues.

I’d love to send you free tips like these regularly. Sign up for my media blasts here.

What United Airlines Should Have Done to Avoid the PR & Media Crisis

By now, you’ve seen the videos.
You’ve heard the news reports.
You’ve read all your friends’ posts on Facebook about what they say United Airlines and the doctor should have done Sunday.
I’ve been on the phone for the past 24-hours with people asking me what should have been done and how I can help the doctor.
As of this writing, the doctor has been hospitalized and has a lawyer helping him take care of his family and professional reputation. I hope he recovers physically and mentally. What happened to him was inhumane.
The story is global and it’s especially bad in China. Media there is all over this story because of the doctor’s ethnicity. It’s not good for United because the airline is targeting the country for air travel growth. China is just the world’s fastest growing major aviation market.
Was this all preventable? Yes.
Here is how critical thinking and communication skills could have been used to prevent this media and public relations crisis. Review and keep in mind in case something (hopefully on a much smaller scale) happens at your company.
  1. No one should have been boarded if the flight was still over-booked. Not boarding people is a lot easier than boarding and then asking four people to remove themselves. It was a Sunday before the start of the work week. Everyone had to be somewhere else. Don’t leave it up to volunteers if you’re not going to raise the stakes.
  2. United should have offered a higher voucher amount. Another step up in airline dollars may have garnered more volunteers. To my knowledge, they had not yet hit the maximum they are allowed to go. Throwing another $1200 ($300-$400 more for each passenger) at the problem would have saved them the millions they are losing today.
  3. If that doesn’t work, bounce people at the gate using the carrier rules we all agree to when we purchase a ticket. Airlines are allowed to do what they did – just not in the way they did. They can start with those who checked in last and bump those flying on the cheapest tickets. From what I’ve read, medical personnel heading somewhere to treat patients are not supposed to be bumped.
  4. If all that STILL didn’t work, drive your employees or offer to drive the passengers. Chicago is not THAT far from Louisville. A road trip is a lot easier than saying sorry and paying millions when you bloody a passenger.
Obviously, United didn’t do this… and that’s why we’re talking about them.
What could they have done AFTER their mistakes Sunday to avoid this media storm? Here’s a list that you can copy if you have a communications crisis:
  1. Get out in front of the story IMMEDIATELY. You KNOW there is video. There is ALWAYS video.
  2. Get the CEO on TV right away Sunday night or first thing Monday morning to publicly apologize. In this news conference the CEO should say:
    • the company messed up (and deliver this genuinely)
    • there will be an investigation
    • they are going to make this right with the family
    • how they will change their future policies to make sure this does not happen again
    • and assure the public that they are safe doing business with their company.
  3. Publicly make a donation to a group that gives scholarships to future Asian-American doctors who want to further their education.
  4. By today, three days after the crisis, they’re back to the friendly skies.
As a spokesperson and communications director for a major law enforcement agency, this is what we did when there was a crisis. I wrote our communications strategy. It’s not always easy to do — but it’s easier than handling the PR crisis that comes later if you don’t follow a good crisis communications plan.
So what about the doctor’s past history that I keep reading about today? Does that have anything to do with all this? No.
No one should be treated this way on a plane heading home to treat their patients – or to do anything else.
There’s a lot of rumblings going on that United Airlines leaked the doctor’s personal history to the media to deflect what they did Sunday. Could have been the airline – and it could have been investigative journalists. No matter what, it shouldn’t make us feel that he deserved this kind of treatment. He didn’t. Nor did his wife.
What we all should remember is, we can avoid this from happening inside our companies. Think through the actions and the consequences when you have an internal communications crisis. Five minutes of going through “what’s the absolutely worst thing that can happen if we do this?” can save you millions and a lot of bad media and PR.
Are you ready for YOUR story to be on TV in the right way? Book your free consultation with me here. As a media coach, I’ll help you craft your story to make it newsworthy.
Oh, and if you have no idea what this story is about, here’s how to get caught up with the news quickly every morning.