How to Make the Camera Work for You in a Virtual Appearance

Answer questions, Reporter Q&AWhen we’re coaching clients for a TV appearance, we always remind them that they are not the star of the show and should not expect “star” treatment.

Over the years we’ve had clients complain they didn’t get the best camera angle or lighting so we tell them the “best” is reserved for the host. But when you are in a virtual meeting you can control the camera angle, lighting, background and much more.

You’re On Your Own

It’s important to keep in mind in commercial broadcast the focus is on the host – how he looks, his best camera angles, and how he will grab the attention of his audience. No one is going to greet you at the door and treat you like a celebrity – you’re on your own. In a virtual broadcast/meeting you can make sure that you come across as the person that you are and a little bit of who you might want to be.

Appearing on a national show may be exciting and a big deal if you’ve never done it before. The reality is that you’ll be just one of the constant churn of guests who are in and out of the studio. So you’ve got to learn how to make the camera work for you, because the production team is just too busy to give you any help.

We coach celebrities, too, and even they understand the meticulous preparation required to appear your best on camera. Whether you’re a spokesperson representing a company, or an author promoting your latest book, it’s essential to be prepared with your key messages and to look your best.

Joe Scarborough, host of the popular NBC talk show Morning Joe, and his co-host Mika Brzezinski, discuss why they interrupt guests to keep the show moving along in this short video:

Take their advice, stay on point, don’t ramble, and always remember they can cut you off at any time!


When you are doing a virtual meeting or media interview you can control how the camera portrays you. The ideal camera is an external one that can be placed on top of your computer monitor or laptop screen. Such a camera gives you a better quality image and is more flexible in the adjustments it allows versus one built into your tablet, monitor or smartphone. For roughly $50, an external camera is a relatively small investment to assure that you get the “look” you want.

In fact, Logitech’s free Capture software even allows you to zoom in or out to level of the screen that you want to fill with your face. A feature not found in most webcams. We’ve found their C920 Pro HD Webcam offers terrific value for professional results.

Hair Matters

Whether you part your hair on the left or right can matter. We often coached the editor-in-chief of a magazine who has beautiful long red hair which always fell in her face. For TV, she learned to pull her hair back so that her face was visible.

But on the day of one of her monthly appearances on a national morning show, she had parted her hair on the right side with her hair cascading down the other cheek. She forgot that this particular show always had her left side to the camera. All the audience saw of her was a wall of red hair. She was sharing the segment with a child psychologist who got most of the time on air.

The cameraman really struggled to find a good camera angle but just gave up and focused on the psychologist. Her messages were great but without face time, they didn’t resonate with the audience. She learned from this experience and went on to become a TV pro in subsequent interviews.

Preview, Practice and Review

It’s surprising that so many spokespersons don’t take the time to preview the show where they will be a guest. If you’re going to be interviewed, watch the show more than once. How much time do they give most guests? What kinds of questions do they ask? What can you do to make the best possible impression? Will you be seated on a chair or a couch?  Does the chair swivel or will you disappear in the sofa pillows? What color is the set? You wouldn’t want to clash with it or fade into the background.

Pay attention to what the host and guests wear. Take note if a woman guest is wearing a short skirt that reveals more than she bargained for and don’t make that mistake. Learn from a male guest who crossed his leg and his hairy leg showed because he didn’t wear over the calf socks.

Did you find guests that touched you with their message? What was it that grabbed you?

The most successful guests are warm and friendly. They are approachable. They look directly at the host and engage in a meaningful conversation. They don’t talk to the camera. But in a virtual broadcast, it’s best that you look directly into the camera so the viewer thinks you are talking directly to them.

Most shows won’t do your makeup, so learn how to apply yours professionally. Make an appointment at Sephora for a custom makeover. Or, visit the makeup counter at a department store and have an expert do your makeup. Even the mass market drug stores have makeup experts on hand.

Most good makeup artists will give you a face map to show you how and where to apply the products you bought. Practice applying your makeup at home. When you get to the studio you’ll only need to powder your face to eliminate any shine.

Follow the tips in one of our previous posts about building a wardrobe to enhance your professional image.

Being Interviewed by Satellite

If you’re appearing on a satellite media tour, you will be speaking directly to a camera with a host who may be hundreds of miles away. It’s not easy and requires practice. To get comfortable doing it, cut out a 6-inch round piece of cardboard and pin it to a wall. Practice having a conversation looking at that one spot. Use gestures while you’re simultaneously keeping steady eye contact with that piece of cardboard as if it were a real camera.

Imagine the circle is a good friend or a partner and pretend you’re talking to that person.  This technique will help you when you find yourself in the studio and it’s just you and the camera.

No matter the type of interview you’re doing  – live, taped, remote – you’ll need to stay focused on your messages and ignore the many distractions in a studio – roving cameras, production managers giving cues, and guests waiting to go on.

Be sure to set your DVR so you can watch your interview afterward. There’s no better way to learn how to be a great guest than to watch and critique yourself. One basic tip: be kind to yourself and look for what you did well before you list all the things you feel need improvement.


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The Newman Group is a recognized leader in guiding business professionals, celebrities and authors to improve their communications skills in presentations and media interviews.

Our highly skilled and experienced professionals have the expertise in media and presentation training to meet any business situation — from helping an executive to prepare for the challenge of talking to a reporter during a business crisis to presenting a group of investors during an IPO or keeping a celebrity spokesperson on point.