Our columnist, Dave Elbert, is friends (and Facebook friends) with former KCCI News Anchor Kevin Cooney. Dave spotted a helpful bunch of tips that Cooney shared on Facebook for folks that are doing more and more video conferencing from their homes. Cooney got his first job in TV when he was in high school in 1969, and he anchored the news on KCCI for 33 years before retiring in 2015. So if anybody can give advice on how to spruce up those dreary Zoom calls, it’s Cooney. Dave asked him if we could share his tips, and he graciously obliged.
Here’s eight tips direct from Cooney to help you shine on your next video conference call:
1- Hold your phone/ camera horizontally. This is the way our eyes are arranged. Don’t hold it vertically unless your eyes are arranged that way on your face. Seriously, how many TV screens or movie screens are vertical? I rest my case, your honor.
2- Put the camera/phone/computer at eye level. If you hold/ place the camera on your lap or on a desk looking up at you, everyone is looking up your nostrils. Dentists have to do this. You don’t. Consider putting your phone or computer on top of a stack of books to get the camera at eye level.
3 -My good friend Stacey always says, “it’s all about the lighting.” She is smart. Chances are you don’t have TV studio lights in your home or office. But, you have a lamp on a desk. If you have two, turn the both on. Have a lamp or light off to the side? Turn that on too.
4 – Have a simple background behind you. TV studios spend tens of thousands of dollars on set design. You don’t have to. If you have a nice blank wall, that makes a great background. The fewer things on the wall, in the background, the better. DON’T have a window in the background. During the day, the brightness will make you a silhouette. Don’t have lights turned on in the background. One more thing. Put some distance between you and the background. Don’t plaster yourself to the wall.
5- Sound! It’s just as important as the picture. If you’re close enough to reach your camera/phone/tablet you’re likely close enough to be heard clearly by a built-in microphone. No need for something fancy. You can invest in a better microphone. Consider a lavalier mic. Those are the little ones you can clip to a shirt/coat/tie/blouse. AND YOU DON’T NEED TO SHOUT!
6- Turn off anything that makes noise! TV, radio, music, dishwasher, ceiling fan, etc. ALSO tell anyone else in the room to be quiet or take their conversations somewhere else. Put the kids’ dance, piano, trombone practice on hold!
7- Appearance. This is your decision. How do you want to look? Think of a video chat as a visit to someone else’s home or office. A quick chat with mom or the kids is one thing. A group chat or meeting with coworkers or close friends is another. Again, your decision. But c’mon, you know that whoever is on the other end of the call is looking at how you look. Just like you are checking them out!
8- Finally … Smile. You’re on TV!