Broadcasts by journalists, spokespeople and celebrities from their living room and virtual meetings are the ‘new’ normal. This way of communicating requires adjustment for many. So, whether speaking to press or colleagues remotely, here are some tips to make the virtual format work for remote interviews and meetings.
Research pays off to better understand who you are speaking to, their needs and motivations. As Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, explained to Viv Groskop about prepping for a debate with Boris Johnson. ‘I spent a week preparing… I looked at all his previous speeches…and studied the kind of things he had said and noted down the errors… he used the same examples and I had prepared my own rebuttals.’ That was preparation… the old-fashioned way. Groskop’s podcasts are filled with helpful anecdotes on public speaking and presenting.
Write what you know, personalise what you’re saying and tell a story so the audience feels they are getting an insight into you. These should be well prepared and remember anecdotes for a staff briefing may not suit a press interview, so have a selection to hand for different forums.
Watch and listen back to your rehearsals. Record audio or both audio and pictures as it will help to refine your language, physical presence and sound. If you are social distancing with others at home, ask them to watch and give you some feedback.
Rehearsal for the virtual room is reiterated by author and executive coach Sue Belton. She recommends practicing with tech in advance, ‘dressing’ the background if you are on camera and lighting to maintain eye contact so people can see and connect with you.
Leave time for some physical prep with breathing exercises to expel adrenalin and nervous energy, before ‘going live’ for an interview or presentation. Helen Tupper, author and CEO Amazing If, has helpful advice about posture and stance, so the energy of a face-to-face encounter is not lost during a virtual equivalent.
You are always on in virtual presentations and interviews, even when you are not speaking. Be mindful of your resting face, imagine the speaker is opposite you, so look into the camera when speaking and listening.
And a final word from a TV News cameraman. Set a professional scene for yourself at home – raise the camera up so it is at eye level or fractionally higher. Always point the camera away from the window, so you are in natural light. If it is later in the day, avoid downlights from the ceiling, instead opt for a standard lamp pointing towards you, lighting your face.