The perils of Skype media interviews

Skype interviews are everywhere. Suddenly so popular that media training manuals and courses are being re-written to include segments on how to get them right (ours included). Here’s the Wordsmith guide to getting it right.

Although Skype interviews don’t offer the quality of a traditional studio or location interview, with media budgets tight and deadlines ever-close Skype offers a low-cost and fast-to-air option to secure a comment for an important story and that’s what makes them popular.

However, for the interviewee, Skype comes with a whole new set of things to think about.

Ahead of a traditional broadcast media interview the crew will set up the shot, light it professionally, check the background and generally take charge of the situation, leaving the interviewee to concentrate on their messages. However, with Skype you are the camera person, makeup artist and lighting director too! And given that Skype interviews may well be conducted in less formal environments such as from home, in the office, or whilst travelling, there are a whole host of potential pitfalls attached to rapidly growing interview medium that interviewees should make themselves aware of.

Here are my Top Five Tips for succeeding on Skype:

  1. Check your background. Aim for a simple, neutral backdrop to ensure you look professional and avoid the background looking cluttered. Check what might be behind you in the shot. A cheeky photo? Washing hanging on the back of the chair? Yesterday’s wine glass? Also think about the lighting to avoid distracting shadows.
  2. Make sure your connection is strong and secure. Test the line ahead of the interview and make sure your battery is fully charged if you’re not on mains power!
  3. Choose a quiet location. Take it from someone who recently had an important Skype call interrupted by the unscheduled arrival in shot of a four year-old Darth Vader: ensure there are no interruptions during the interview and no background noise either. Check with the news outlet if they would like you to use discreet earphones to improve sound quality.
  4. Look into the Webcam. Maintain eye contact with the webcam as though you are speaking to a person. It can be confusing if you look at the screen as your eyes will appear to be looking away. Disable any auto-focus options which may zoom the shot in and out unexpectedly and locate any crib notes out of shot but in your eye line.
  5. Have a Plan B. If the connection fails make sure you can call the journalist straight back, even continuing the interview by phone if you need to. Send the reporter a good, clear, high resolution photograph of yourself that they can use on screen instead of the video, if necessary.

It’s a lot to think about. However the ease with which a Skype interview can be conducted can help make sure you get your story on TV more often. It’s well worth running through these few checks before each interview to make sure you get them right and become a master the art of the Skype interview.