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How to do a TV interview from your computer

Posted by Ron Nehring in Noteworthy on December 29, 2013 with No Comments


by Ron Nehring

News organizations are increasingly using Skype to conduct live, on-air interviews with guests. It’s a result of reduced newsroom budgets on the one hand, and the spread of high speed internet and more powerful computers to just about everyone.

Unfortunately, it looks like some guests being interviewed via Skype on their laptop have not bothered to watch themselves afterward.  Too often, bad logistics makes the interview look cheesy and second rate.

It’s critical for guests to ensure the viewer is focused on what he or she is saying and not be distracted by the image on the screen.  Here are eight tips to help you keep viewers focused on what you’re saying.

Ditch the headphones, this isn’t the subway.  Those white Apple headphones with built in microphone might make you look cool, but on television they look ridiculous.  Buy yourself a black Radio Shack clip on microphone for $32.99 and keep it in your laptop bag.  Before your interview, connect it to your laptop’s microphone jack and run the wire so it can’t be seen, such as under your shirt or jacket.  Clip it to a dark article of clothing (such as your jacket) so it’s less visible to viewers.  No, don’t put this off.  Here’s a link to the microphone.  Shipping is free.

No one wants you looking down to them, so set your camera at eye level.  Setting your laptop on your desk and tilting the screen up so it’s looking up your nose is about as helpful as wearing a sign that reads “amateur.”  Set the laptop on a few books to raise it to your eye level.  The screen (assuming the camera is mounted to it) should be at exactly 90 degrees to the desk.

Look behind you. Do you want that on TV?  Take the time to orient your webcam so your background looks professional, or is at least free of distractions.  I flip my laptop around and have my bookcases in the background when I do Skype interviews (after making sure they’re neat and organized).  Take the time to get this right.

Stop screaming.  THEY CAN HEAR YOU FINE.  We naturally raise our voice when on the phone.  When you carry this over to your interview, the TV station is going to turn the volume back down to a human level, but the added strain in your voice will prove a distraction.  Just talk.

Use the fastest possible Internet connection.  Find an Ethernet cable and connect it to your computer.  You can go back on wifi later, but for your interview you need speed.  A slow connection will force Skype to use a lower resolution and you’ll look pixelated or the audio/video will skip.  If you’re doing the interview from your home office, don’t be a cheapskate: pay the cable monopoly for a faster connection speed.

Lights!  Here’s a tip from photography: don’t shoot into the light.  Here’s a tip from television: don’t shoot into the light.  Having a light behind you will make you look darker.  Having a light directly above you will create shadows under your eyes and nose. Have the room well lit, but put a light in front of you (behind the camera) and adjust it so your face is slightly illuminated (but not too much).  Test it out in advance.

People want to hear you once, not twice — reduce echo effects.  The room you’re using for your interview is probably smaller than a big television studio.  If you don’t pay attention to reducing the echoes, you’ll sound like you’re doing the interview from your bathroom with the door closed.  The desk and your laptop screen will exacerbate echoing.  Setting up your computer in a room with carpet will help.  If it’s quiet, keep doors open to further reduce echoing.

Put some clothes on.  Maybe you work from home in your PJ’s.  Fine.  But for that interview you need to look like a pro.  Ditch the casual shirt and put on business attire.  Men, wear a jacket. It’s a sign of respect to your viewers.

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