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Latest blog: Looking your virtual best

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With video links once again the main form of conferencing, interviews and meetings, we have noticed a vast improvement in most people’s technique since the start of the first lockdown.

But some still don’t present themselves as well as they could, and are simply losing the opportunity to influence and persuade.

Most mistakes made can be corrected with seven simple steps and a little preparation.

Equipment check 

As well as checking how you look, log in five minutes early so you are not trying to find what is wrong when you’re expected to be on air. Check the internet connection to avoid drop outs in the middle of an interview.

Close all other programs and apps so they are not using up bandwidth (and so your email doesn’t ping during the session). Turn off your mobile, land line and any other distractions in the room.

Position the camera

It’s not a case of putting your device on a desk and hoping for the best. Experiment beforehand. If the camera is below eye level you will be looking down and can appear lacking in confidence.

Books or boxes can be used to raise the camera to the right height. But make sure it’s steady so it doesn’t topple mid-interview. Get the right distance from the camera so that you fill most the screen top to bottom. Check the background. Is anything seemingly growing out of your head or are there other distractions?

Lighting

Lighting should always be from the front. It’s better to face a window so you are lit by natural daylight than have it behind you as viewers will see you in silhouette.

If natural light is inadequate, position a lamp in front of you but behind the camera. Experiment with a couple of lamps if needed even using a cloth or screen to soften the light. Move lamps to the side or further away to get it right, and don’t rely on overhead lights. If they must be on, don’t sit directly underneath them. Avoid shadows.

Background

Generally speaking, boring is best. A plain wall is fine, and much better than a messy living room or a very busy backdrop that will distract the viewer. Try to maintain a professional “office” feel.

Isolate

While there have been amusing examples of children or pets appearing on live crosses by accident, it’s best avoided. As they say, “never act with children or animals”. Put the television on in another room, lock the door, and do whatever is needed to prevent interruptions.

Find the quietest spot possible for the interview to reduce echoes or background noise. Close windows and doors and, if possible, choose a room with carpet rather than hard floors to dampen ambient sound.

If you have to use an earpiece, try to use a wireless one.

Dress professionally

Generally speaking, dress the same as you would in the office.  If in doubt, err on the side of business-like rather than casual. For men, this means a suit, or at least a dress shirt. For women, avoid jangly or dangly jewellery.

A solid white top is better than colours that blend with the background. Avoid busy patterns, including stripes and checks that “shimmer” on-screen.

Check hair and grooming before you start and watch out for distracting mannerisms like brushing your hair back because it keeps falling in your face. Lacquer it (men as well if they have longish hair) or pin it back.

Look at the camera

In interviews avoid referring to notes on your desk.  You probably wouldn’t have them if you were in a studio so don’t have them now.

It doesn’t inspire confidence if they’re looking at the top of your head while you’re looking down reading.  If you need prompts, have them on, or behind, your screen.

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