Social distancing and self-isolation have both had a major impact on how TV news is gathered and transmitted.
Nowadays it is rare to see an interviewee in the studio. Rather they are sitting in their living room or spare room, staring straight down the webcam of their laptops, a clutter of book cases, pot plants, kitchen worktops and, at times, family members, in the background.
Welcome to the world of online interviews.
While the principles of question and answer in interviews remain the same as ever, there are some “dos and don’ts” on how to come across well in online interviews.
- Switch off your phone, so it can’t go off during the interview. In your laptop, switch off your email browser and other notifications, so they don’t beep or distract you.
- Close the door to the room and lock it if needs be, to avoid embarrassing interruptions. Avoid having other devices nearby, as this might interfere with the sound.
- Working from home has become the new normal, so no-one expects people to be in a professional setting. Even so, do make sure you have a tidy background which reflects your position (not in front of your drinks cabinet, as one BBC interviewee was the other day), with no distractions. Look at your background to ensure you have no window frames sticking out of the back of your head, or a lampshade on top of your head. If necessary, take pictures off the wall and move plants and other ornaments. You don’t want viewers to be distracted by your background and not listening to what you say. With Skype, you can blur your background, which works well. On Zoom, you can create a virtual background.
- Don’t have a window as a background because of the glare, and equally ensure your face isn’t in shadow. Try having a table lamp out of shot to shed light on your face.
- Raise your screen to eye height, so you’re not looking down – if necessary, prop the laptop on books or a box if it is too low. Look at the camera rather than the people’s images on the computer, as this makes the eyeline strange.
- Working from home, “smart casual” dress is most appropriate, but you still need to look professional – so sweatshirts and T shirts probably won’t work. Before your online interview, make sure your hair is neat and tidy, and use make up if you feel that the camera washes out your face.
- Sit slightly forward, remembering BBC (Bum at the Back of the Chair). Look straight at your camera. Try to suppress any nervous ticks such as touching your face or hair, and don’t shout or wave your arms around.
- Test the system you are using in advance to make sure the technology, and particularly the sound, works well and there’s no echo or “howl”. It may be advisable to use an external microphone. If you need to use headphones, make sure they’re working and comfortable in advance.
- Don’t have notes because you’ll be tempted to look down which will create the impression that you’re not on top of everything.
- Don’t get up immediately the online interview has finished: this can make you look disrespectful – wait in silence until you’re given the all clear.
In response to these changing circumstances, Rough House Media is now offering many of our training courses online, using platforms like Zoom and Gotomeeting. We can provide tailored guidance and practice to help your spokespeople come across well in online interviews. Contact us for more information: 020 8332 6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.