Key tips for going live on Zoom
This year has definitely had its challenges, but along the way, we’ve adapted. Across industries and households, many of us are adhering to a new and different way of doing things. One of the biggest adaptations has been the influx of virtual meetings as a way to catch up with friends and even conduct business meetings.
In the world of public relations and broadcast media however, this means the majority of on-air appearances are now taking place via Zoom. Segments featuring guest interviews and expert insight have now gone virtual; shifting away from the in-studio appearance. Just like everything else this year, we simply adapt and roll with it! Now that you’ve landed an on-air appearance featuring your brand or business, you’re going to want to maximize your moment in the spotlight. Standing out from the crowd during a broadcast interview is a great way to keep your name top of mind, while leaving a lasting impression that creates credibility. Further establish yourself as a reliable expert in your industry by following the tips below, and making the most out of your virtual on-air appearance!
This one is super simple, and should be a no-brainer for anyone building their professional profile, but just as a friendly reminder - the way you show up matters, folks. There’s something to be said for the old adage about “looking good and feeling good”. It may sound old-fashioned, but it’s true; if you look good, you feel good - and ultimately - you do good.
Get dressed for a virtual on-air appearance just as you would if you were heading into the studio. This is sure to put you in a totally different mindset than if you simply show up in your favorite loungewear. Brush your hair, put on pants, do your makeup and prepare yourself for an awesome on-air interview. You’ll be glad you did!
Everyone’s situation at home is going to be different, and some can be more challenging than others, especially if you have little ones who may be barging in every two minutes. But unless you’re trying to go viral for all the wrong reasons, make sure you’ve set yourself up with a background that is free from distractions. This means, finding a simple, clean backdrop, making sure you can chat un-interrupted and placing a “do not disturb” sign on the door.
Some folks like to hop on Zoom with a bookcase or some other type of “interesting/scholarly” furniture piece in the background, but in reality, less is more. A bookcase offers too many titles and trinkets, which can be distracting when others find themselves paying more attention to what’s going on behind you. Don’t let your message get lost in the muck. Now that you’ve landed an on-air appearance, you’ll want to make sure viewers are paying attention to you and what you have to say.
When in doubt, invest in a clean & simple photography backdrop or drop cloth. Amazon has a ton to choose from, but just a plain white muslin cloth like this one is perfect, and it’ll cost you less than $20. With aesthetic appeal in mind, try to wear something with a contrasting color, preferably a solid color top, free of any loud patterns. Example: clean, simple, white background + solid color teal turtleneck.
This is a big one - so big in fact, it may actually be the most important. When chatting by way of a webcam, your image is likely to be much darker than what you’d expect. That’s why it’s so important to test your lighting set up well in advance when preparing for a video interview or on-air appearance via Zoom. This means hopping on a call with a friend or colleague ahead of time to see how your lighting setup performs.
If you’re banking on natural light, remember to take into consideration the time of day you're scheduled to appear. This is especially important for morning news segments as they typically film a segment much earlier than when it actually goes “live” during the morning news hour. Oftentimes, depending on where you live, the sun may even still be sleeping! While natural light is great, it’s best to think of it as being a supplemental, rather than relying on it to be your main source of lighting. However, if the conditions are prime for natural light, be sure to face your light source head-on to avoid any unsightly lines or shadows.
Your best bet of course, is to invest in a little lighting hack you’re likely already familiar with, known as the Ring Light. The good news is, a ton of different versions have hit the market since the OG debuted. It’s now easier than ever to find the perfect light at the perfect price. Many of them are even built specifically for latching onto your laptop, while others may come with a small tripod. Choose the option that works best for your setup and you’ll be well on your way to nailing this on-air appearance!
When prepping for a Zoom appearance, you’ll want to make sure you’ve ruled out any audio mishaps before going “live”. Another great reason to do a trial run ahead of time, it allows you to check your system’s audio. Example: are you coming through clearly? Is the other person coming through clearly? How’s the volume? How close do you need to be to the computer to pick up great audio?
The last thing you want is to be that guest during an on-air interview; the one whose audio is cutting in and out, or the one who talks over others. By testing this out in advance, you’re able to familiarize yourself with all the little details that go into a great virtual appearance. Keep in mind, tech has come a long way, but unfortunately, a slight time delay is still fairly common during these virtual meetings. That said, when you finish speaking your point, take a pause and trust that the other person has received it - do not start speaking again until you’ve been addressed.
Over the last few months, we’ve likely all seen at least a handful of cringe-worthy on-air interviews where the guest & host are talking/stumbling all over each other. It’s the same feeling of holding the door open for someone, then you both go at the same time and run right into each * Insert dad joke: wanna dance? * - By familiarizing yourself with this in advance, you should be able to avoid any awkward mishaps!
Use a cheat sheet!
Whether conducting your on-air appearance in-person like the good ol’ days, or appearing virtually via Zoom, cheat sheets are always a good idea. The great thing about going virtual, is that you can literally have your notes right in front of you, and no one has to know!
Jot down a few of your key talking points, maybe three to five, starting with the ones you really want to get in, just in case your call gets cut for time. A super simple way to do this, is to create a notecard with bullet points, and tape that to the back of your computer monitor, preferably right behind your computer’s camera. A huge plus here is that this will help you to maintain eye contact with the camera when speaking - just like a news anchor reading off of a teleprompter!
In the beginning, most people instinctively speak to the host directly, which leads to you chasing their floating image all over the screen. During an on-air appearance, we are really speaking to the audience, which means looking into the camera when speaking. With your bulleted talking points handy, and your gaze fixed on the camera, you won’t even miss a beat!
Before logging on for your virtual on-air appearance via Zoom, be sure to close all other tabs on your browser. You never know if you may have to share your screen at some point, and the last thing we want is for the whole world to see what we’ve been googling - yikes.
Also, once the call has started, position your mouse over the mute button. Once you’re in conversation with the host, you’ll easily be able to mute your end of the audio if anything should come up while the other person is speaking. You never know when a dog may bark, or a doorbell may ring, so it’s best to have that queued up and ready to go on the fly!