Ever notice how some people look great on a Zoom call? What’s their secret? In today’s era of COVID-19, media interviews that were once conducted in a TV studio are now performed on Zoom, Skype, or Facetime. This presents more opportunities for interviews because you don’t have to go to a studio but there are challenges as well. Are you ready for your up-close TV interview on ZOOM?
My personal Zoom experiences and discussions with several experts in this visual field have allowed me to come up with a quick list of tips to help you crush your next Zoom call. Without further ado, here they are:
You don’t have to dress up as much as you usually do. However, your attire should not be down more than one level from what you typically wear in the office. If you normally wear a suit and tie, for example, opt for a nice blouse or button-up shirt.
Jess Todtfeld, former producer and media trainer also recommends you avoid white, black, and red, ensure your clothing is wrinkle-free, remove distracting jewelry, and dress as simply as possible. “TV viewers should focus on your face and what you say, not your clothes,” he says.
You are the face of your company, your school, your brand. If you normally wear makeup to work then you’ll need to wear it on a TV interview too.
Chances are you’ve seen someone freeze on the screen during a Zoom session. To reduce the risk of this happening to you, a reliable internet connection is a must. If you’re in the middle of an interview and your connection freezes, a TV station will stop the interview and go to someone else. A hardline wired connection to your computer vs. WIFI can prevent this issue. In the event you must use WIFI, request that others in your home or office stay off it during your interview.
Be Mindful of Your Background
Your background during a Zoom call is important. Do your best to make it visually appealing. Add fresh flowers, a potted plant, a painting, or your book cover enlarged on an easel. Remember that people will be able to read book titles so there’s a good chance they’ll notice dust, dirty clothes, and other imperfections in the background. Don’t sit in front of horizontal blinds as this confuses the camera and may cause pixelation of the image. (vertical blinds are ok) Refrain from virtual backgrounds that come with ZOOM as they create distortion around your head and body. If you must use one due to a home office in a bedroom or hallway then buy a portable green screen so you can choose a beautiful virtual background that’s free from distortions. You’ll look professional and feel good too.
Do you have a ZOOM Room?
TV and radio studios have acoustically padded walls, ceilings and are carpeted. The sound is absorbed and is not ricocheting around giving that ‘hollow’ effect. If your ZOOM Room is like a racquetball court then you need a new location or to figure out how to deaden the sound bounce with carpet, acoustic tiles, etc. Wearing a lapel microphone helps too. This should be needless say but, keep dogs, kids, and the neighbor’s lawnmower out of sound range.
Pay Attention to the Lighting
It’s essential that your face is well lit throughout the entire interview. If you’re in a dark room, use a circle light or lamp with a warm glow. Ideally, you’d be in a bright room with minimal windows. Excessive light may cause the camera lens to adjust when you don’t want it to. The cost is $50-100. I love mine and it’s really helpful on dark dreary days, late night or early morning interviews or when your spouse may need the living room light for reading!
Ensure the Camera is at ‘just a smidge below’ Eye Level
The camera should always be ‘just a smidge below’ eye level with you. Try your best to look at the camera instead of the screen at all times. Don’t let your eyes wander as this may cause others to believe you’re disinterested or disengaged in the interview. Put a little post-it note near the camera lens on your camera to remind you to ‘look at the camera’ not the screen.
If you are using the camera on an iPhone or other smartphone, place it on a tripod and be sure to turn off the notifications and the ringer or everyone on the call will hear them.
Use the Skype App
For best results when using SKYPE use the SKYPE App and not your browser. The reality is that the browser accessed version won’t run at optimal speeds and there’s a good chance your screen may freeze. Download the app on your phone or tablet and test it out in advance to make sure it works well.
Opt for Wireless or Wired Earbuds
Speakers on your computer are ok. But, if you want best results, get wireless or wired earbuds. They can enhance your sound quality and help you sound great on camera. If you use wireless earbuds, don’t forget to charge them completely before the interview.
Have a Glass of Water Handy
You can enjoy a number of benefits if you keep a glass of water by your side during your interview. Since talking a lot and being nervous can lead to dry mouth and throat, water can help you keep your vocal cords moist. It can also serve as a prop so if you’re asked a tricky question, you can take a sip of the water and give yourself some extra time to think of a good answer.
Don’t Forget Pen and Paper
With a pen and paper nearby, you’ll be able to jot down the reporter’s name, questions you may have, and anything that you’d like to remember after the interview. If you take notes on your computer, you’ll distract the interviewer so doing so the old-fashioned way is ideal.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Make sure you know how to work ZOOM, SKYPE, and Facetime and are comfortable with all of the options. Practice using all of these with friends and family. Don’t let your big interview on national TV be a flop because of some technical issue you could have avoided.
The Bottom Line: By following these tips, you can nail your virtual Zoom interview and meet your goals from the comfort of your own home or office.
Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers, and Adventurers. His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few.
PR Stunts get a bad rap because many are either ill-conceived or poorly executed. But I like them and have been involved in many successful ones.
One recent PR Stunt of note paid huge dividends when Elon Musk sent a TESLA into outer space. The car had an astronaut behind the wheel and the radio played David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” about Major Tom. Who didn’t talk about this fantastic just-for-fun extravagant stunt? It was the best one I’ve seen in years. Funny thing, nobody is really calling it a ‘PR Stunt’ but that’s exactly what it was… a beautifully executed PR Stunt. When you have a perfectly performed stunt that catches people by surprise and makes them smile, you got ‘em. The value of TESLA went up and the photos did the talking.
One very creative author I know personally pulled off a PR Stunt that even I was impressed to read about. He rode his horse into “publishing history” by becoming the first author to conduct a book signing and an e-book signing on horseback.
Author Carew Papritz, a working cowboy, rode his horse in front of a Barnes and Noble in Tucson, Arizona and digitally signed his book The Legacy Letters on his iPad in front of a cheering crowd. He made some press and history at the same time. Check out this video at: http://youtu.be/aKEsxqmzs9g
One of the keys to the success of a good PR Stunt is the mashup of two disassociated things: cars in outer space, horses in book stores and in one I did last year, hot air balloons and violins.
How can authors benefit by using this technique? Think about the bigger picture. Don’t just focus on selling books. Think about how you can connect with readers on a personal level. Let your audience know you’re both a person and a writer. By that, I mean let your audience glimpse into your personal life. Share things that are important or interesting to you. You can share details on your website, blog, and social media outlets. Utilize your mentions on Twitter and generate conversations with your followers on a personal level. Respond to comments on your blog or on review pages of your work. By sharing more details about yourself, you’ll provoke commonalities between your fans, ultimately appealing to more people.
If you are a romance writer, share with the audience your love of cooking. If you’re a mystery writer, illustrate your travels abroad and how a visit to a particular city was woven into your book. Connect with your following on whatever level you can. Your goal should be to reach as many new audience members as possible. To do so, dig deep into your being and ‘open up the kimono’ and show the audience who you really are, pen aside.
The Bottom Line: PR Stunts Work!! Take a page out of Carew Papritz and TESLA’s book and appeal to your audience on an emotional level; it’ll get them to connect with you on another level and it may get them talking about you too!
Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers. His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few.
Media trainer and esteemed “media guru” Jess Todtfeld recently launched his new book, Media Secrets: A Media Training Crash Course. The book shows readers how to earn press coverage, ace interviews and personally gain the most from media interviews.
Media Secrets taps into Jess Todtfeld’s former career as a producer for CBS, NBC and FOX to reveal how you can make the most of your time in the media spotlight. Jess was a former producer on FOX & Friends where we met a few years ago. Utilizing his unique grasp on the industry, Jess Todtfeld exposes how the media industry operates and how you can use that to your advantage.
Use Sound Bites. Todtfeld says the best interviews include succinct quotes or “sound bites” that the media can extract and then publish from entire dialogue. Here are some ways to frame your most important points during an interview to increase media pick up:
Speak in Absolutes
Use Action Words
Include Facts and Examples
Ask Rhetorical Questions
“The media especially likes predictions,” says Todtfeld, “It takes the heat off them and it’s interesting to hear what you think could play out. In the future, if they figure out whether or not your prediction came true, they may choose to bring you back on.”
“Give some of your best answers early in the interview,” says Todtfeld, “Especially if it’s taped or recorded, because they may only use your answers from that first part of the interview.”
Media Secrets: A Media Training Crash Course is available in both eBook and hard copy. Visit http://bit.ly/MediaSecrets and watch the video and bonus links with tips to “Get on Good Morning America.”
Bottom Line: If you are serious about maximizing your media exposure and every media opportunity, then buy this book. You owe it to yourself to learn from a top media pro how to optimize each interview so it converts to sales, web traffic or other opportunities.
Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications Book Marketing, a public relations and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers. His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few.
With hard work, perseverance and a little luck, your book could be “Cruisin” with Smokey Robinson to the bestseller list and you will be “Dancin’ in the Streets” with Martha and the Vandellas.
Who doesn’t love the music of Motown? Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, The Temptations, Lionel Richie and The Four Tops – their classic songs have entertained people from all walks of life for over 50 years.
I recently noticed that the titles of some of the biggest Motown hits also suggest some important themes that can help guide authors to improve their careers. Let’s have a look:
“What’s Goin’ On”(Marvin Gaye) advises you to educate yourself on what is going on in the publishing industry. It’s a moving target; what worked last year might not work today. It’s imperative that authors keep abreast of the changing publishing industry by reading books and magazine articles, going to book fairs and festivals and attending writer’s conferences.
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Marvin Gaye) tells you to use today’s version of the grapevine, social media such as Twitter and Facebook, to promote your literary work. Authors should be sure to stay up to date about what others are saying about them, their work, and what their competitors are publishing as well. Be sure to keep your page updated and have frequent interaction with your followers to retain their interest.
“Respect” (Aretha Franklin) reminds you to treat others the way you want to be treated. Share resources and knowledge with fellow authors. Respond to comments and questions on social media. Take on a mentee. Be kind. Network. Respect the time and effort you’ve put into your craft and help others to do the same.
“Shop Around” (The Miracles) advises you to “shop” for the best book publisher, publicist, and others who can help make your book a success. This is not similar to shopping for commodities at the mall or grocery store; you should go with the person who provides the best quality for your needs, rather than the one with the lowest price. An investment in good editing, good book cover design and good marketing will help create a solid foundation in the long run.
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” (Stevie Wonder) When signing a publishing deal make sure to look over the fine print, and ask questions about the contract. You, as the author, do not want to be obligated to terms that you were not aware of. Remember, “Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing”(Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell) so make sure you ask a lawyer to look over the contract before you sign.
“It Takes Two” (Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston), and “Rescue Me” (Aretha Franklin). Don’t be afraid to ask for help because publishing and marketing a book can be a nerve-wracking and overwhelming task for a first-time author. Do not wait until you need a rescue before calling in the professionals. As a book marketing expert, I’ve seen many authors make costly decisions that have to be rectified, which include bad titles, bad covers, bad editing, or lack thereof. “Stop in the Name of Love”(The Supremes) for your book.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell) inspires you to be steadfast and resilient in order to be successful. For example, 100+ publishers rejected Mark Victor Hanson, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, but he had the tenacity to keep searching for someone who would publish him.
The Bottom Line: “You Can’t Hurry Love,”(The Supremes). Success will not happen overnight and it’s not always easy as “ABC”(Jackson 5). But it doesn’t have to be a “Ball of Confusion”(Temptations.) With hard work, perseverance and a little luck, your book could be “Cruisin” with Smokey Robinson to the bestseller list and you will be “Dancin’ in the Streets” with Martha and the Vandellas. J
Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm based in a Motown suburb that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers. His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few.
Authors of cook books have an advantage over traditional authors because they can employ a TV appearance to increase book sales. One of the best ways for cookbook authors to get this extra exposure is to demonstrate their capabilities by showcasing recipes and talent on an in-studio cooking segment on television.
A lot of things can go wrong on a live in-studio cooking demo. Here are some tips to insure that your cooking segment is great.
Most importantly find out how much time you have to work with. There’s a big difference between a 2 ½ minute segment and 3 ½ minutes. My advice is to plan on a 2 ½ minute segment. Ask yourself what can you do in that time period and plan accordingly. Anticipate and have strategies to deal with interruptions. Practice by setting up a camera in your kitchen so you can film and time your process.
Don’t do a lot of talking during the segment. You are there to demonstrate how to prepare a certain dish and that’s what your audience and host expects of you. So keep the words down.
Remember that there are three groups that you need to satisfy – the producer, the audience, and yourself. The producers are looking for interesting/compelling television; your job is to make them look great. The audience wants to learn something. What’s their takeaway? What will you do to make their lives better? Among your goals is to point people to your website. A great way is to offer a free item like a recipe or appetizer in your restaurant. Once they sign up for the free item, use their email address for future marketing.
It’s very important to find out in advance about the capabilities of the studio kitchen. Some studio kitchens look good on TV but the stove may not even be hooked up! Come with a prepared cooked version of your dish that can be displayed ahead of time and have another ready for the demonstration. It’s always a good idea to bring some extra samples for the crew. I’ve never see them turn down food! Outdoor segments, such as barbequing, really go well in the summer because that’s what audience members do in the summer. For the fall, a Tailgate segment is great.
Here are some practical tips for that great cooking segment:
The camera loves food that sizzles, bubbles, and flames. Keep that in mind when selecting the dish you will prepare. Can your dish be prepared and plated in the allotted time? Pre-cook the dish halfway if necessary to meet the time limit.
If there are promotional screen graphics provide the producer with the information several days before the shoot.
Make a packing list of all the gear you need to cook off premise. Double-check your list and pack efficiently. Arrive at the studio 45 minutes before air time. Bring a cart to transport your gear and ingredients from the car to the studio quickly and efficiently.
Digital TV cameras can be unforgiving so bring some make-up to apply in the studio.
The camera loves color so bring some colorful ingredients as well as a seasonal table decoration.
Upon first arriving at the cooking set, check all burners to make sure they work.
Be set up 15 minutes before air time. Walk in front of the cooking table and scan what the camera will record. Is the tablecloth on straight? Are all ingredient labels faced outward? Are the ingredients balanced in uniform fashion?
Provide the host with a list of suggested questions. This will help the host stay focused and on track and will help prevent any ringers from being thrown your way.
Always refer to the host by name. Make direct eye contact and smile.
Go with the flow. Some hosts will ask distracting, non-relevant questions so have a plan to deal with that possibility.
For many of my clients, I suggest they use a professional media trainer to better prepare them for the television or radio appearance. One trainer I frequently recommend is Jess Todtfeld, former FOX News producer and President of Success in Media (www.SuccessInMedia.com) Among the suggestions Todtfeld gives to help deliver a great cooking segment are:
Don’t expect the studio to have a stylist for you. You must take the necessary steps beforehand so you look as beautiful as you are and so your segment is great from beginning to end.
Bring all the ingredients, tools for preparing, and a finished version of your dish. Don’t expect to really cook it during the segment.
Bring extra finished food for the crew. The quickest way to their hearts is through their stomachs. It will be worth every penny in materials when they decide to book you again.
Have your entire segment planned out from A to Z to make the producer’s life easy. That, in turn, will make him love you and book you again.
It’s not all about the food. Be fun. Show your personality.
Give a copy of the recipe and let them know they can place it on the station’s website.
Days before the segment ask if they can prepare a “for more information” graphic for the lower third of the screen that will display your website address so people can find you after the show. It’s a pretty standard practice but if you don’t ask they might forget.
Have something free on your website to plug, such as five of your most requested low-cal recipes or a chapter of your book. Be able to monetize the value of your free gift.
Make sure all the vegetables and cuts of meat are fresh and will appear appetizing. Place them in clear glass dishes along with pre-measured spices. There’s only so much you can prep ahead of time; some things need to be done in the studio.
With HD cameras viewers can see everything from water spots on your glass ware to fingernails in need of a manicure and a five o’clock shadow. What may be acceptable in your kitchen may not play well on TV so be keenly aware of your appearance.
A great cooking segment will produce hundreds if not thousands of new diners, book sales and recipe downloads. It’s all possible with planning, preparation and effort. Your success will be assured if you engage the services of a professional media trainer and marketing professional and practice your demo again and again.
Just for fun, if you’d like to see how a lack of preparation can lead to disaster then you’ll want to see these videos I’ve uncovered. The first disaster occurs because the chef did not anticipate that the two co-hosts, Kathie Lee and Hoda, would do a lot of distractive talking while he was trying to prepare food and he had no strategy to deal with the distraction. Take a look at:
In the second video things go totally awry because Paula Dean does not take charge and gives a free hand to Al Roker and creates a massive time crunch for herself. Get ready to laugh at:
One great example of a cooking segment was when Randy Lorenz, my own brother was asked to appear on FOX-TV. Their Michigan wedding venue, The Meeting House Grand Ballroom had won The Knot’s wedding reception banquet facility of the year award. They have one of the most beautiful non-denominational ceremony locations in Michigan for a wedding reception. As you’ll see by this clip on YouTube they did a terrific job of demonstrating their cooking expertise… after following my advice of course!