The Press Interview Via Skype: How to Look Good

By on Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Poor lighting makes this Skype interview in the lower right
corner look dowdy compared to the in studio and live shot
from Capitol Hill on CNN.

Increasingly, journalists are conducting interviews via Skype – while that’s opened wide a realm of media possibilities for nonprofit organizations, talking heads, and others – it’s also meant that now the interviewee needs to think ahead about appearance and setting.

In the old days, guests went to studios where they were powdered, puffed and smoothed to look good (which became even more important when HD cameras came into use). While that still happens – increasingly, interviews are happening online through Skype connections.

How can you look good via Skype? Here’s a few things to think about:

  • Check the shot yourself. Using your webcam, take a snapshot of yourself sitting in your chair for the interview. Now look at it – seriously. First, look at you. Is your head in the shot completely or cut off? Is there a glare off your glasses? Now look at the area around you. Is that tattered happy birthday sign given to you by your children still hanging on the cork board in your office? Is a door open behind you? Eliminate clutter and tidy up things.
  • Familiarize yourself with the software and make sure your technical equipment is shipshape. Skype is not hard to use – make sure you know how to use it and how your computer works. Ensure the microphone works well on your computer. Make sure the webcam lense is clean.
  • Turn on the lights. One of the biggest issues with Skype interviews is lighting (the other is sound – and really the third is poor posture/slouching). The easiest thing to do is to turn on every available light.
  • Do a practice Skype call with someone you know (not your mother) who will be honest about how you look and sound. Talk with your friend for 5-10 minutes. Ask them to critique the setting and background, as well as the lighting. Experiment some with the lighting while your friend is on the other end. Ask for their advice and help. Wear for the call what you plan to wear for the interview. Ask the other person to take a webcam shot of how you look and to email it to you. Ask the other person to record the conversation on their computer and send you the recording, so you can see how you look from their perspective.
  • Warn your family or coworkers about the interview time. Make sure your family (if you are doing the interview from home) and/or co-workers (if you are doing the interview from your office) know about the interview time. This is not the time for them to come rummaging in your office for a report, cash for a trip to the movies, or anything else.
  • Sit up straight. One of the biggest issues with Skype interviews is poor posture. Sit up straight. And make sure the webcam does not do a nose shot.

More Advice
Making a Good Impression – Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2011 (tips from the executive producer for ABC Good Morning America which is doing more Skype interviews)

How to Look Good for a Video Interview – Georgia Institute of Technology (job interview tips but good stuff!)

Ace Your Skype Job Interview: 14 Tips – CBS News

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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