Too often, people get caught by looking at themselves on their screens, which can really have a negative effect on what they're saying.
Look at the Birdie
Over the past couple of years, I’ve written about ways people could look better in online media interviews, or Zoom meetings.
In February 2021, I wrote 5 Tips to Look Awesome on Video, and the following month I wrote 3 More Things to Worry About on Video. Take a moment to check them out. Last year, I also wrote about the problem sports teams were having with virtual news conferences in the blog Zooming Out.
This week, I want to focus on what appears to be a growing problem, despite widespread video use since the pandemic started. People need to find where the camera is on the device they’re using and look at it as they’re replying to a reporter’s question in a media interview, or even when they’re talking to others in a virtual meeting.
It’s pretty simple. If you’re not looking at the person or people you’re speaking to, there’s a communication disconnect. You look far better and your words have more impact if you’re looking at the person you’re talking to and the only way to do that is to look at the camera as you speak.
Imagine being in a meeting at work (remember those?) and instead of looking at the others in the room as you speak, you stare at the table in front of you. Or, picture yourself speaking at a conference and you’re on stage, but instead of looking at the audience when you talk, you stare off to the same spot on the wall to the right of the stage.
It would be awkward wouldn’t it? Really though, you’re doing the same thing when you look at yourself on the monitor of the computer, because you’re not looking at the camera and you’re not looking at your audience.
Although looking at the camera as you speak is a simple fix, simple isn’t always easy. For some reason, we feel the need to look at ourselves as we speak, so we see what we look like on our screens. When I do virtual media training I always talk about how important this is, but until people actually see what it looks like when they don’t look at their cameras, they don’t fully understand the problem it creates.
Here’s how to fix that problem.
1. Find the Camera
Sounds simple right? Not so fast. Yes, you should be able to locate your camera quickly on a laptop or a desktop, because it lights up when it’s on, but it’s not easy when you use a phone or tablet. A tiny camera is buried inside those devices and if there’s no light to look at, it takes some trial and error to find it. If you do see a light, that's generally where you look, but if you're really close to the device, even if you're a tiny bit away, you won't be looking right into the camera.
Try hitting “Record” in Video mode on your phone or tablet and then look at places on your device where you think the camera is located. As you record, tell yourself verbally where you’re looking, so when you play it back you’ll discover where the camera is.
Remember being farther back makes this easier.
2. Mark the Spot
Once you have found the camera, don’t lose that spot. I suggest people use a stickie note, draw an arrow on it and point it to the spot where the camera is as a reminder. Be careful not to cover the camera lens as you do it.
3. Move the Squares
Here’s a great Zoom trick. Some people say it makes things easier for them to look into the camera if they can also see themselves at the same time, rather than having their square elsewhere on the screen. When you use Zoom on a laptop or desktop, you can click on any square you see in Gallery Mode, hold it down and drag it anywhere on the screen, just like you would do with any drag and drop. This way you can place your square right under the camera, so you can indirectly see yourself, as you look at the camera.
4. Go Dark
At a media training workshop I did last week, somebody said they like to turn the monitor off when they do a media interview, so they can’t get distracted by looking at the screen. If that works for you great, but I think the better way of doing this is by turning down the brightness on the monitor as much as possible. You can accomplish the same thing, without actually turning off the monitor. Having your monitor off would concern me if a problem occurs. If you use a Mac, using the F1 key decreases brightness and F2 increases it.
Whatever method you use. It’s important to check your look before the interview or meeting and make any adjustments necessary. Log in early to give yourself time to make the moves necessary, so you can be happy with the way you look and sound and then have the confidence that you don’t need to look at yourself much after that, allowing you to focus on the camera.
If you’re doing a media interview, there’s nothing wrong with checking your look as the reporter is asking a question, but lock in on that camera and don’t let go as you speak.
You’ll be amazed at how much better you look doing it.
Want to Learn More?
I offer media training virtually, allowing organizations the chance to get their people trained without the need for them to travel to a central location and they can even do it from their homes. For those groups wanting media training done in-person, that's a great option too.