The bygone days of striding confidently into a job interview, delivering a firm handshake and looking your potential boss straight in the eye are gone, at least for now. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, your interviews, meetings and networking will primarily be done via videoconferencing. And to present and communicate yourself, your work and your value effectively, you need to get comfortable on camera.
As someone who has spent decades on television, and for the past few months has been conducting the vast majority of “Morning Joe” interviews with experts and lawmakers sitting in their own homes talking to us via Skype, I’ve seen what works— and what doesn’t.
Here’s how to get your Zoom face on:
1. Come prepared.
One silver lining of this dismal pandemic: When you go on camera, you can now have your notes right in front of you, often unbeknownst to those you’re speaking with. Before you have a meeting, collect your thoughts and write them down in order of importance. If you’re a shy person, you can even write down little conversation hooks so you can connect personally with whoever you are talking to. The quirks of Zoom interactions allow you to converse while consulting your notes. You have no excuse to be anything less than totally prepared.
2. Think about your posture and your voice.
Make sure you are sitting up straight and looking directly into the camera. In terms of framing, let us see your neck, shoulders and about six inches under your chin. You want to look as intimate and connected as possible.
Speak confidently and consider doing some deep breathing or vocal exercises (these aren’t just for singers!) beforehand to really open up your lungs. The more resonant your voice is, the richer and better it will sound.
When you aren’t talking, you still need to stay engaged and attentive to others. Don’t fidget or try to get other work done on the side during a videoconference. Stay involved in the conversation and assume everyone can see you (because they can!).
3. Your background and lighting matters.
Keep it simple so you don’t distract from your message. If you live in a small apartment, consider pointing your camera toward a corner so you have more depth. Bookshelves, plants and pictures are awesome backdrops, but make sure nothing is sticking out of your head. And this probably goes without saying, but make sure other people aren’t visible or the TV isn’t on in the background.
You also need great lighting. If you can be near a window to have natural light, do it. If not, consider buying a ring light. They are relatively inexpensive (you can get one for around $20), and they work wonders!
4. Don’t distract with your wardrobe and makeup
You don’t need to go shopping and buy all new clothes. Just pick a simple top that covers you up and has clean lines. Avoid loud patterns or bright, distracting colors. Wear makeup, but no need to go overboard – you just want to look put together and not washed out. You want the person you’re talking to to focus on what you’re saying, not what you’re wearing.
5. Practice, practice, practice
Before the pandemic, I would frequently urge the Know Your Value community to get comfortable speaking in front of others by getting on a chair and delivering a speech at a party. Those days are gone! But you still need to practice, especially if you’re delivering a big presentation or having an important conversation with your boss. Zoom with your friends and ask them to tell you what you look and sound like. Ask them to be honest, and welcome their constructive criticism.
This will help you demystify what it’s like to be on camera and help you look and sound confident. Because you are.