Many people are commenting on the background in the many glimpses we now get into the homes of politicians, experts and journalists as TV news depends on Skype, Facetime and Zoom for interviews during lockdown.
For me it’s the horror of the interviewees that overrides everything else. Of course, these are exceptional times so no one has had the chance to think about how they may appear on screen to hundreds of thousands of viewers when the camera is on their laptop instead of in the hands of an experienced camera operator.
This is how you find out why it was that in the olden days of Hollywood the leading ladies of the silver screen married their …. Not camera operator – their lighting expert! For as good as the person behind the camera is, it is getting the light right that makes all the difference to a presentable appearance on screen.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those fold out silver reflectors that camera operators use? They’re really difficult to present to because they are so bright, they can make your eyes water – but they’re so good, I almost didn’t recognise myself on a TV screen from a report outside a hospital years ago.
So, if you are asked to take part in a TV programme or debate, here are my top tips for the actions you can take to put your best face to the world.
1 – Tame the shine
For women, and many men too, it is advisable to put on some make up – a shiny nose and forehead are just distracting. You want viewers to focus on what you are saying so help them.
2 – Dress conservatively
No bold prints, neon colours, scarves or chunky jewellery. Simple and clean lines – as all the die-hard home workers who have been conference calling in vision for years know, of course it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing from the waist down – just don’t forget and stand up or walk away if you’re in ripped jeans, shorts or worse.
3 – Check your hair (including beards!)
Even if you haven’t been outside for the duration of lockdown and your hair and/or beard shows it – tidy them all up beforehand.
4 – Brighten up
For the location of the interview, choose a seat in front of a bright window.
5 – Take a seat and adjust your view
Make sure the seat is lower than the position of the laptop or PC – unless you want to treat the world to an unhindered view of multiple chins. It’s not you – everyone has them when looking down at any mobile device, but everyone will still comment on this. You’ve probably done it yourself. Use whatever means necessary to lower your seated position (for example, sit on a cushion on the floor instead of a chair) and raise the camera angle (place it on a stack of books).
6 – Lock Down
While Professor Robert Kelly will never be forgotten for his live BBC TV interview when his children crashed into his office, and since lockdown, others too have had children and pets charmingly come into vision during interviews, it is probably best for your concentration levels and nerves to lock your door to ensure no interruptions.
And coming to you in 5, 4, 3, 2….