Get Ready for Your Close Up – How To Make the Best Impression On Video Calls and Interviews

By Vicky Maxwell Davies

I’m ready for my close up!

So, the world has clearly changed overnight and one of the results is that all our interactions with our colleagues and clients, as well as interviews, are now happening over the internet. In the past, we may only have used Skype infrequently, and therefore were not really masters at presenting ourselves well. Our inexperience in using this new medium could now be showing us up. We all know first impressions matter; now we have to learn to present ourselves almost in the manner of a Hollywood star. Here are our tips to put yourself across in the very best way.

First the technology – make sure it’s working. If your screen freezes or you can’t even get on the call, you’re going to look like an amateur. So:

  • Use a speed test to determine the best wifi location in the house: It should be above 20Mbps consistently. This is where you are going to set up your studio.
  • If possible use a cable connection.
  • Get a better webcam – look on amazon and find one with higher megapixels/ HD enabled.
  • A headset will give better audio, but in my view, can make you look like you are trying to land a 747. Do remember to mute when you are not talking (saves noise quality on the line for others)
  • Ensure your setup can easily access teams, Skype, Zoom – or whatever else you are using. Test your tech is fully functional before important calls.
  • Learn the controls of whatever video app you’re using. Start a video call on your own and click through the different menu options to work out how to switch your audio feed if you do decide to plug in a headset, how to change your camera if your device has two cameras, how to mute yourself and open the chat pane.

Think about your personal brand: what kind of persona are you trying to portray?

  • Think about your studio and your back drop. Are you an intellectual, clever thinker? Perhaps a back drop of books will reinforce that image. Or maybe you want a sharp, modern look which a shelf with some interesting items of artwork might convey. Make it look professional and focused, you don’t want to give the impression you have just stepped away from cooking the lunch or that you’re just about to start on the ironing.
  • Get the lighting right. Make sure your face and torso are well lit and that your expressions can be seen. You will probably have to experiment with this if you are not a professional “Sparks” or photographer.
  • Set your screen at the right height. You need to make sure you have caught yourself at your most attractive angle. If you’re using a laptop, consider raising it by two to four inches by putting it on a box or similar. This helps mitigate against the dreaded up-nose shot which your fellow call participants will be grateful for. You don’t want to maximise the look of that double chin and a higher angle will help and also relieve neck and back pain from long calls sat staring down at your laptop.
  • Make sure you are the right distance from the screen. Too close and it’s pretty off-putting. Too far away and your Skype friend can’t see your expression properly.

And on that note, how do you express yourself?

  • Remember you are being watched very intently, but it is still hard to feel that close connection which you do in real life – and that will come across. Sticking a picture of someone above your screen to remind you that you are being watched might help. And remember to keep eye contact, concentrate on the conversation and don’t be distracted by looking at your mobile. Bring a bit more energy than you would to a phone call; some hand gestures and animation will keep your audience’s attention. I don’t need to tell you, I’m sure, not to eat or drink whilst you are on a video call. That’s really going to put your Skype contact off.
  • Be aware that on camera, other people have fewer signals to understand you. They can’t see your body language as much or get to know you socially/less formally so they’re going to make stronger judgement calls from what they can see on camera. As always, if speaking to a client or an interviewer mirror their tone in terms of dress and approach. These things are more important now, even if you feel more relaxed in your home environment than in their offices.
  • What are you wearing? From the waist up, it should be whatever you would normally wear in the office. You need to give confidence that it’s business as usual, even though you are working from home.
  • People, we’re on camera, now. We might not have makeup artists on hand to help us, but as Hollywood actors will attest, a little makeup always helps someone look better on screen. As will ensuring your hair looks as you want it to. Just because you’ve got your PJs on your bottom half, doesn’t mean your top half shouldn’t look flawless, particularly if you’ve got the lighting right.
  • And finally, make sure you know how to exit from your call. Nothing looks and sounds worse than hearing “how do I turn this thing off”.

Now – you’re ready for your close up! Break a leg!

About the Author

Co-head, Global Technology, Digital & Innovation Practice
Vicky Maxwell Davies co-heads Savannah’s global Technology, Digital & Innovation Practice. After taking a degree in French from Sussex University and the Sorbonne, she worked for IBM and Oracle before moving into executive search. She specialises in placing senior technology leaders across all sectors and geographies. Her particular focus is on supporting organisations navigate digital transformation. She also co-created the National Digital Benchmark with Professor Venkatraman of Boston University Business School and PA Consulting. Read here
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