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Remote On-Camera Interviews During a Pandemic- Part 1 

Hello.  I hope this finds you and all whom you care about maintaining your health and resilience.

The current pandemic as well as our breathtakingly powerful news cycle has created an unprecedented demand for a new media skill.  With a nod to Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame- video journalism has been making stars out of many previously unknown experts.  It’s also been plunging many professionals into new, uneasy territory: remotes during a pandemic.. or I could call them remote remotes!

 A producer calls:  xxx news would like to schedule you for a remote interview on [the topic of your expertise]- as it dovetails with or clarifies the news of the moment.  You’d like to- or should- say yes. It’s complimentary of your perceived status in your field.. it could be beneficial to you personally.. and it highlights or legitimizes your company or organization.   

Over the next few weeks I’ll be adding to my Remote Interviews from your ‘Home Office’.  For those of you new to me- thanks for joining the group.  Please know that I consider this assistance to be in tandem with the work of my journalism clients.  They are petitioning your best knowledge and wisdom in an extremely tight window of time.  You want to be ready and communicatively nimble during your brief visit to a planet that you don’t call home.  But you can learn to enjoy the visit.  

For the basics- or if you feel the need for a refresher: I’ll advise you to please turn to my prior blogs  Your Media Training Re-Boot Part 1 of 2 ; Your Media Training Re-Boot: Part 2 of 2

But bear in mind that currently the vast majority of remote video interviews are now being conducted from a room within your home.  Whether it’s your living room, bedroom or kitchen- you now have more details to attend to.  

I’ll be collecting advice from experts on camera positioning, lighting and sound.. but in effort to get you rolling- let’s start with a few new, common interview elements:

When you are not the only interviewee in the segment

You may be one of 2, 3 or occasionally 4 (!) guests ‘In a box’.  Therefore- wait until you hear your name from the anchor/interviewer.   “…Maria- ……?”  

When your answer is completed- you can let your host know by ‘lobbing it back to them’ with their name.   Eg. “…….. each time that happens.  Joanne.” It makes for a smoother flow and your savviness is contributing to the production by letting your interviewer know that you have finished..

 Depending on your topic and the question posed- you can hammer home a powerful point with a litany of pointed questions.  Eg. “my only questions are: “how do they intend to… “  “how did they sidestep the requirement to …?  Did all of the xx understand that by failing to comply they would ….?” Etc.  The example that impressed me had 5 questions.

Your Media Points

(For those of you who haven’t worked with me: please refer to my prior blogs for details on crafting your Media Points- aka your comments and answers during video/audio interviews.

   When reporters or seasoned interviewers  are ‘going live’ with fresh information- they’ll often serve as good examples of simple syntax and brevity of points being made. I’ve become a timing freak.  Here are 2 tallies:

Journalist reporting live  1 minute 7 seconds:  4 points
Physician  38 seconds: packed a walloped with TWO strong points- and stopped

Media Points tend to work best when consolidated into 3-5 sentences

Remember the Absolute Power of a Lede Line !  Eg.

We are innovating and not transitioning or replacing.                
(Line #2: “That makes us quicker to react”.)

The biggest mis-step that new companies tend to make in their marketing is xxx 

When an anti-mask protestor equates  ‘I can’t breathe’ with her discomfort wearing mask- you know we have a long way to go

A shorter Media Point interspersed among others comes across punchier  

Another suggestion: if you may have an incredibly important point to make as part of your interview:  an answer of one, solid hammered home point is attention getting!  The power of your point- and the drama of your willingness to stop (thus sacrificing some of your time) sails out to us, as we’re thinking ‘whoa..!’.   This catches our attention because the power of the brevity of this particular Media Point- followed by the punctuation of silence- packs an unexpected wallop.  

If your Dog, Cat or Child Shows Up

You may feel mortified, but it’s part of life and just about all of us will appreciate the moment.  Your reputation remains intact as long as you deal with the intrusion naturally!  When you’re back looking into your camera, if you forget ‘where you were’ in the dialogue, it’s ok to ask.  Remember, we’ve chosen to get our news from a human- vs. sitting and reading a print medium. 

Your Backdrop

Bookcases loaded with books distract me if I can read any titles- or try to. I momentarily stop listening to you.  I understand if you want to prop up those you’ve authored into a place of prominence.  

Framed photos: oh! she has young kids.  Hmm is that his wife or daughter?   A dog lover- looks like a rescue mutt.  Hmmm looks like maybe they went to Turkey?  Whoops- I missed what you were saying.  

Recently I saw a fireplace mantle with wicked oil lamps.. I wanted to reach out to the interviewee to warn him of their danger.  

Ok- we’re getting used to kitchens if it’s your favorite room or if you think that’s where you have the best lighting; and yes- a vase with flowers or something simple and a bit decorative on the counter can dress it up.  

Remote background distraction

Sitting close to your camera with your living room - or any other room - in the distant background often distracts me. Hmm interesting, nice home or apartment.  I tend to keep peeking every once in a while  

My Point:  The above examples are not ‘wrong’.  However, a simple backdrop with a wall and picture (you might have one in another place you’d like to move temporarily), or maybe a plant or flowers on a  side table, is great and simple.    

And lastly- a caution. 

Beware Crutches- They can Create Miscommunication

I was watching a riveting expert and learning a lot.  Then the anchor asked him “Are you concerned about xxx?”.  The expert responded “Sure..” and then continued. Trouble was- his answer was not a ‘yes’ !  Rather, “sure” was  manifestation of ‘inner brain glee’.  Ie. ‘hey, I was expecting to hear a question like this and I’m ready to discuss it!’ .  He proceeded to explain why he was not concerned.  This isn’t a broadly common foible- but it pops up often enough to make it worthy of mention.  If you are one of these smart, affable experts who may slip into this habit before sharing your wisdom: please be aware of it.

This concludes Part 1.  Thank you for watching for Part 2- in which I cover l Remote On-Camera Interviews During a Pandemic: Lighting and Audio Advice .  And I know I won’t be able to resist a few new tips.