Monthly Archives: March 2020

By Lisa Oake, CEO, Oake Media                       

As the COVID-19 crisis envelops the planet and encroaches on our daily lives, I have started taking comfort in things I once took for granted. I am especially grateful for the technology that is keeping us connected, informed, educated and entertained during this frightening time.

Because of social distancing, many of my clients have started giving interviews to television news channels from their home computers. Instead of letting far from ideal circumstances intimidate them, they are showing up from their living rooms, studies and bedrooms to bring their expertise to a world hungry for accurate information.

But innocent mistakes made from a home computer – even during a time of crisis – can make or break your credibility. You may feel more relaxed sitting in a familiar environment, but the professional stakes are just as high as during an in-studio interview. In fact, reputational risk can be elevated because you do not have a technical team framing your shots, adjusting your lighting and protecting you from the many, many things that can go wrong during a live interview.

Here are a few guidelines to help you avoid the most common technical mistakes of television and deliver a professional-looking interview from home.

  • Frame the Shot: Camera people in the news business follow the “Law of Thirds” to determine the correct eye level for an interviewee. Imagine you are dividing your screen into three equal  parts by drawing two horizontal lines across the screen. Your eyes should be on the line that divides the upper one third of the screen from the middle one third. By following this rule, your shot will be the same as the news anchor conducting the interview and there won’t be an empty gap over your head.


  • Look Directly into the Camera:  I know it is tempting to look at the monitor so you can see yourself and the person asking the questions during an interview. This may feel like a more comfortable human-to-human interaction for you but to viewers it looks like you are avoiding eye contact and should not be trusted. Television distorts reality and every little shift of your eyes is magnified to the viewer. Maintaining eye contact with the camera will trigger your audience to intuitively have faith in what you are saying.
  • Lean In:  A neat little trick for appearing more authoritative during an interview is to lean slightly into a shot. Tilting your upper body about 15 degrees towards the camera sends a subliminal message that you are confident about being able to answer any question that comes your way. Leaning back creates the opposite effect. Place your fist between the small of your back the chair to achieve just the right angle.
  • Don’t Smile During a Crisis:  Smiling during a normal interview makes you look confident and approachable. Smiling during a crisis comes across as unconcerned or nervous. If you are doing an interview related to Covid-19 or some other crisis, eliminate all smiling and nervous laughter. Think about the appropriate tone for each interview and stay on track throughout.
  • Get to the Point:  When a television host introduces you on-air, don’t say: “Thank you for having me.” This is a polite gesture but a waste of valuable airtime that slows an interview down. Just jump right in with your most important message. This may feel abrupt but it works on television where viewers have often been watching all day and heard the “thanks for having me line” multiple times. They want to hear your advice and perspective as quickly as possible. Get to the point right away.
  • Dress Professionally:  No hoodies. No pyjama bottoms. Not even a shirt, jacket and tie on top with comfy sweat pants on the bottom. When you are appearing in front of an audience, it is important to act and feel in alignment with your professional values. This permeates your answers and affects your internal dialogue on-air. You have been invited to speak on television because you are a respected member of your profession and people want to hear your perspective on this crisis. Dress the part, even at home. Don’t forget to use a mattifying gel or powder to reduce the chances of looking shiny on camera.
  • Buy an LED Ring Light:  Any news anchor will tell you that the right lighting can make you look 15 years younger. Fortunately, studio lighting can be recreated at home by using an LED ring light. For about $30, you can buy a ten-inch ring light that provides luminescent, diffused light and wipes out unflattering shadows on your face. Some of them even have smart phone holders. Don’t rely on overhead lighting for interviews. The shadows and distortions will be a distraction for viewers and you need to put your best professional image forward at all times.
  • Keep it Short:  The average television interview is about four minutes long so limit the length of your answers. About 30 to 40 seconds per answer is just enough to create a conversational effect with an anchor. This also protects your interviewer from having to interrupt because your answers are too long.
  • Turn Off Your Phone:  We are all now dealing with tenuous situations that require vigilance-family members who are fighting the virus, children who are frustrated with home schooling and  collapsing retirement portfolios. But if you have committed to a live interview, please have the courtesy to turn your phone off for the few minutes you are on air. It is distracting for an interviewer and viewers at home to hear your message notifications going off in the middle of a discussion. Even though we are all connecting digitally now instead of in person, manners still matter.

I applaud anyone who is brave enough to step outside of their comfort zone and add their voice to the global discussion on how we can protect our families, communities and investments during this unprecedented period of uncertainty.

Keep up the good work and stay safe.