Presenting online feature

Presenting online: lipstick and heels

‘I’ve got 5 minutes to air and I’ve still got two calls to make when the usual morning refrain rings out around the office. ‘Barclay, get your lipstick on’. If I’ve told her once I’ve told her a thousand times – this is radio, no one sees me, I never wear makeup and I DON’T HAVE ANY LIPSTICK.’ The words of my colleague Liz Barclay remembering our days working together at the BBC.

Presenting online

Just reading that story makes me nostalgic! It was me that used to say ‘Barclay put your lipstick on’. At that stage, Liz was a presenter and I was her producer on Radio 5 Live. It was always very busy and there really could have been two quick calls to make before we went into the studio. I wanted her to clear her head and get into performance mode … I knew she would never in a million years put any lipstick on – but it was our ritual. [Liz Barclay, of course, is now a very popular media and presentation trainer via The Media Coach. You can read her profile here.]

I was reminded of our lipstick ritual last week when I had to ‘pitch’ for work, but do the pitch via Skype. I decided not to just do the obvious ‘business wear’ for the top half, but to put my heels on as well. As I did the meeting sitting down you could be forgiven for thinking ‘why heels?’ well, it was all about getting into performance mode. Walking around for ten minutes beforehand, I could feel my head clear and my persona switch from dog walker to consultant.

We all know – if you look good, you feel good – and if you feel good, you perform better. And in these times of lockdown, switching from home-mode to work-mode is harder without all the contextual cues. But you can help yourself, hack your brain if you like, with lipstick or heels. For men it may be a shave or a shirt and tie.

I discussed all this, via Zoom, with former colleague Laura Shields: she now runs the Red Thread Consultancy in Brussels. Red Thread, like The Media Coach, is now doing a lot more training online.  But Laura is ahead of me in this world of online presenting:  she not only works as a consultant; she was also a spokesperson for the campaign group ‘British in Europe’. She has done several TV interviews via Skype and Zoom. Laura (with help from her husband) set up a camera separately from her screen, to give more professionalism.  She has some proper lighting and has trained herself to look properly at the camera in true television style. Here is the relevant part of our chat.

For Laura, the next step is to find a way to move a plug-in camera so she can present online – standing-up. Meanwhile, even Laura’s 7-year-old son is embracing the technology. Here he is talking to classmates during a virtual birthday party.

Presenting on-line

We are all being forced to learn a new way to work. If we can help you prepare an online presentation or put together a video just give us a call +44 (0)20 7099 2212.


2 replies
  1. David Nelson
    David Nelson says:

    And, just to follow up on Laura and indeed Gutto’s piece as well: some broadcasters will “crop” the image they receive from Skype etc so that each of a number of interviews are all framed similarly. (look at the still that Gutto posted of his Newsnight interview – the 3 people on remote/Skype feeds are all framed and cropped the same way). This kind of wizardry is what broadcasters do well, but they need the co-operation of the interviewee in the line-up time to set this up. So, the take-away point is this: if the broadcaster’s producer asks you to set up the Skype call ten or 15 minutes before the go-live time, do it. The producer will use that time to set you up in the best possible way, (including both sound and vision) and once they are happy, DON’T CHANGE IT! That’s the shot they want, and that’s the shot that will make you look the best, or at least equal to any other interviewee – especially if the broadcaster is going to mix more than one interviewee’s Skype feed together with another (“split screen”).
    One more general point – in these socially isolating times, the producer (or assistant/associate producer) who sets up the remote interviews really earns their keep. Please don’t be snobbish or standoffish to these unsung and often poorly paid heroes of broadcasting. If you’re nice to them, they can and will help you in many ways. If you treat them poorly, they’ll let you make as many mistakes as you are able to within the 2 minutes, and you’ll look like a fool, a liar, or both. Explain your end of the broadcast link, ask them if it looks and sounds good, respect their advice, and you’ll get on fine and they’ll be happy to receive plaudits from their bosses for a well set-up interview. React in the opposite way and they’ll cross you off the list of good interviewees for future use. Brutal but simple. The technical term for that in many broadcast newsrooms is: “Biffed”.
    Written by someone who spent 35 years in broadcast TV, lived through the years as assistant, associate producer, editor, managing producer, Director of Production, head of training of producers and APs. And yes, I “biffed” a Peer of the Realm because he was so rude to me when I was a humble Associate Producer. He never got on to our channel again.


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