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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.

Dude, what’s your car saying about you? A lesson in keeping your message simple.

Home Depot. Trip #189.
I’m tired. Dirty. And starting to think those hot dogs they sell in front look good. That’s pretty damn hungry.

We get back to the car and see this parking:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dude, what is your car saying about you?
What are you trying to have it communicate? What’s the message?
I’m lost.

Sure, I can think of a dozen or so things you may mean, but I can’t be exactly sure.
When I posted this picture on my Facebook page, some people saw the message in how you were parked before the license plate.

Have you ever thought you were being clever, but you got blank stares instead of a laugh?

There is such a thing as too clever. It’s when your audience is lost. They don’t get it and good luck getting them back on board. You’ll move on, but they’ll still be a mile back wondering what you meant.

If you want to get your message to your audience, remember to KISS.

Keep It Simple Stupid.

I have no idea where I first heard this – but it’s been with me at least as long as I’ve been in TV. When you’re writing copy for news, you want to keep it simple. If you don’t – and you’re too clever – your audience will miss the next few lines that come out of your mouth because they’ll be stuck trying to figure out what you said a few seconds ago.

In BIG D’s case — if he doesn’t want people to think he means all the D words I can think of… then, it might be a good idea just to say what he means.


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!

Why Hire Me? If You Want to Double, Triple, or 10x Your Business…

I have amazing clients — but I’m always looking to help more people.

I’m often asked, “Who should hire you?” And, “Why should someone hire you?”

These answers are nicely outlined in a book I helped write last year that made it onto the Amazon best-sellers list.  I’m giving away free copies of the book to the first 50 people who ask for it.

Success Hackers Book - Kathryn Janicek

In the meantime, here’s a little excerpt from the book where I explain who I am and why you should hire me:

I’ve won three Emmys for breaking news and social media – and two Associated Press awards. I’ve been in media for almost twenty years. I have worked in cities across the United States as a TV news executive producer, producer, VP of news for a national network and a spokesperson for law enforcement. 

My career sent me to seven cities in less than 15 years – and when it was time for me to make my next career jump a few years ago – it meant moving to LA or NYC to move up and make more money. I wanted to stay close to my family, keep growing my network and roots in Chicago. I love Chicago because of the culture, theatre, work ethic, restaurants, neighborhoods, media… it’s a perfect city. It was time for me to figure out what was next without moving.

The problem was – I didn’t think I had skills that were translatable to another career. What exactly did I do? I wanted to leverage all the knowledge I had soaked up over the years. I knew how to produce television – live and taped… lead anchors, reporters and a team of producers and writers. I juggled live shots, a chopper and kept the weather guy talking when a story needed a few more seconds before it was ready to make air. I knew what was important for my viewers to learn… what was trending, how to dig up a story… how to train people on how to write news for TV, web and radio… but at the time, I didn’t know how to create a company out of that – unless I started my own television network.

I only realized my skills – when people started asking me to help them. I got clients immediately because once I was a free agent, people told me what they wanted from me. I didn’t go out and decide what to do. People came to me and said:

  • “I could really use help with media strategy.”
  • “I want to get better at delivering big speeches. I want to know what to wear and what to do with my hands on stage.”
  • “I want to get into the media. I want my fifteen minutes. I want free publicity.”
  • “I want my story out there.”
  • “My client needs a media coach.”
  • “I want to sell more.”
  • “I want to put more butts in seats at my restaurant.”
  • “Can you help me?”

That’s how I started Kathryn Janicek Productions.

I guide organizations in media and public speaking training. I coach executives looking to move up in their career, those who are making major speeches for the first or 100th time — and spokespeople who need to get “media ready.” They need help delivering a better message – a more memorable message. And I produce that for them. I also coach people who speak English as their second or third language – helping them with delivery, pronunciation, vocabulary, cultural things… whatever they need.

Some clients have really wanted to be on TV – or be seen as an expert in their field – but they need help getting their story out of them. I guide them on what a writer or producer may find interesting about them… and then I coach them on how to perform better when it comes to being on TV or radio, or how to give a more impactful quote so it makes the newspaper article or the magazine article.

And I haven’t stopped producing stories and video. I produce videos for clients because video is KING online. If you don’t have video – you cannot connect with your future clients. Not only will a well-produced video help your sales team share WHY a client should purchase your services or products, but video will help people connect to the people behind your company if you have a well-produced video on your homepage. Video should also be used on social media to attract future clients. Video is also what Facebook’s algorithm favors over any other content. You will be seen by MORE people and future customers if you have video. Video also gets more eyeballs on LinkedIn. This is why video is King when it comes to content.

I also produce stories for television. I produce for Soledad O’Brien’s show, Matter of Fact, on Hearst stations across the United States. I’ve also produced TV shows for PBS worldwide. I dig up the stories, plan the shoots, find the interviews – direct the crew – and then write the stories for TV and online. It’s been fun to travel to a few places I haven’t seen. For the majority of my career, I spent an ungodly amount of hours each day inside a newsroom. It’s nice to experience things in person – and not just through monitors in a control room.

That’s what I help people do. I can’t take credit for finding that myself. People started asking for help.

I followed the demand. Supply and demand. I listen to my customers and help them produce the results they want.

My most common client is a rock star at what they do. They’re in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60+ — and the two things they all have in common is they’re an expert in their industry – and they need work when it comes to translating their message to a crowd and making sure their content sticks. I teach people how to make their message more relatable to a larger crowd, how to get more emotion when they present so people say “Wow! I want to work for that person,” or “I want to know that person,” “I want to buy their book,” or, “I believe in their company.” I teach people how to present better so they can attract more clients. I produce the best YOU.

If they need more energy — I help them inject that into their presentation skills. If they need help engaging their audience – I show them how to create more memorable messages. Sometimes they need more confidence so they can shine either at work or during a major presentation. I help with that too.

They learn how to breathe correctly – how to deliver their message – what to wear in different scenarios – ways their posture changes their message – how to alter their tone to change how the message is delivered – how and where to sit at a conference room table – how to end and start sentences in an authoritative way – what colors to wear – how to carry themselves on stage or during an interview – how to make a statement without going overboard when it comes to makeup (men too) and jewelry… and how to work with stage lighting. One of the biggest improvements I made with a client’s overall presentation had to do with his eyebrows.

In this video, I outline what you need to know before you show up to a public speaking event. This is very helpful information that will prepare you — and make you feel and look more confident:

If a client is preparing for an interview – we go through key points they need to land. Even if the hiring manager doesn’t ask – we practice ways to make sure those messages are delivered – and the employer sees the client is incredible.

I think people more in their 30s, 40s get it. They say, “There’s a reason I haven’t been able to move up,” or, “Maybe there’s a reason I haven’t been able to get my story out in the media or sell more,” or, “I’m a financial advisor like her – why haven’t I been able to get into an article in Forbes or on a cable news segment?” — and then they finally act on it and hire help.

I would absolutely love to help more people who are just starting out, but usually, it’s by mentoring. Many people in their 20’s, who need the coaching respond, “You’re x-amount per hour or x-amount per month? I really can’t afford that.” They haven’t realized yet that you MUST invest in yourself to come off as your best in an interview or during a presentation.

I produce the best out of people and companies. That’s a service worth paying for.

People need to invest in themselves and this training earlier on so they can avoid performance mistakes. And – they won’t develop bad habits!

I think that if we all could have been a better-produced version of ourselves in our 20s we might have worked up the career ladder a little faster.

Success Hackers Book - Kathryn Janicek


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!

How public speaking skills can propel your career

Remember debate team in high school?

I wish I had joined.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved being an editor of my school’s paper, concert choir, DECA, acting in high school musicals and plays… but I didn’t really understand the value of debate team until later.

Preparing and delivering an argument has to be one of the skills we most need in life – no matter what we do for a living.

I think back now and wish debate team was required in schools. What’s a more valuable skill to learn?

Public speaking skills like being able to think on your feet, deliver an argument, defend your worth… these are all strengths that can propel your career.

My husband and I started watching the show, The Grinder, last night on Netflix. Have you seen it?

The show aired on Fox but was canceled in May 2016. It’s clever… it just never achieved high ratings.

The series follows actor Dean Sanderson, Jr. (Rob Lowe), who returns to his hometown of Boise, Idaho after his long-running television series ends. Though Rob Lowe’s character is not a lawyer, he thinks his experience playing one on TV qualifies him to practice law. He joins his family’s law firm much to the chagrin of his younger brother played by Fred Savage (who’s still as cute as he was as a kid), who’s a real-life lawyer.

Fred Savage’s character has the law degree and the real knowledge. He studies. He’s prepared.

But, over and over — people are attracted to the brother played by Rob Lowe who has NO legal knowledge or degree. They want HIM to represent them in court. Why? Besides for the fact that he’s Rob Lowe…

Because he looks and sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. He’s eloquent… convincing… and a little suave. He carries himself with confidence, makes eye contact, smiles … while Fred Savage’s character has all the real facts of each case… but reads with his nose stuck in his notes. No eye contact. Just awkward body language… and stern looks.

So imagine the power of knowing what you’re talking about AND having the delivery that attracts your audience? Imagine drawing people to you naturally without having to sell to them.

What could you do at work with that kind of power?

Whether you’re an electrician or an electrical engineer – you interact with clients – selling yourself each and every day.

Leaders speak calmly and clearly in an emergency. They stand out and more easily move up.

If you want to advance in your career, communicating effectively is essential. You must sum up your ideas and solutions faster than the others. If your job (or your dream job) requires any kind of presentations or just mingling – you need public speaking skills.

Some companies offer classes on this because they know it’s that important. If your company doesn’t, look for a local class in public speaking. I can help you too.

If you think colleagues would be interested, let’s talk about presenting the idea of holding a class at work to your company. You’ll get bonus points for organization and initiative.

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.