Skype it Right

By May 12, 2015 No Comments

In a fast-paced media world with far more deadlines than journalists, Skype interviews are becoming increasingly common. They are a quick and convenient way for journos to get interviews done, without having to leave the office.

Problem is, sometimes the results aren’t that pretty.  Bad lighting, messy backgrounds and distracting earphones can ruin a good Skype interview.

So, if your office or home is Skype-enabled, and you’re willing to be interviewed at almost a moment’s notice, here’s what you need to know.

How NOT to do a Skype interview

How NOT to do a Skype interview

Setting Up

Treat a Skype interview as you would a TV interview, so dress professionally.

  • Turn off your computer’s notifications, mute your phone and shut the door.
  • Tidy up behind you, and create a backdrop that suits the tone of the interview.
  • As Tripepi Smith & Associates advises, have a light shining onto your face, from behind your computer.  This can be from either a window or a lamp.  Don’t have light behind you, as you’ll be in the dark, and light beside or above you will cast strange shadows.
  • Set your computer’s camera at eye level – you don’t want to be looking up or down during the interview, but straight ahead.
  • Ensure your computer is close enough so that your head and shoulders almost fill the screen.  Yet, leave enough space below your chin for a ‘super’ (a strip of writing that gives your name).
  • Avoid swivel chairs – moving during an interview is too distracting.  Be grounded.

In what could be the worst Skype interview ever, this man is in almost complete darkness, the background is boring and he’s treating the experience as a phone interview, with no attempt at eye contact. Watch it here

Skype example 1


This one is better, but the window behind her is putting her face into half-shadow; the messy background is distracting and, once you listen to the interview you’ll see that a poor quality microphone has her sounding too distant. Watch it here

SKype example 2

During the Interview

  • Look at the camera at all times, not at the computer screen.  It will be tempting to make eye contact with the journalist’s image on screen, but you’ll end up looking shifty.
  • Speak at a normal volume.
  • Don’t use notes – it’s too tempting to look at them and if you lose eye contact with the camera, you’ll look shifty again.
  • As The Hodges Partnership recommends, don’t use headphones to hear the journalist.  Turn up your computer volume instead.  If you have to use phones, have a discreet white or black set on hand.
  • And an excellent tip from CareerBuilder.com is this: add extra enthusiasm.  Cameras have a way of flattening people, making them seem dull.  So up your energy levels, be more animated than usual and you’ll come across perfectly normal on the screen.

In this example the lighting still isn’t great – the glare from the window is too distracting.  So too are the earphones – if you have to use them, hide them.  He’s a little too close to the screen, and isn’t maintaining good eye contact with the camera. Watch it here

Skype example 3


More Useful Tips

  • Create a professional Skype username.  Your star sign or nickname doesn’t really cut it professionally.
  • Have some working knowledge of how to fix basic issues with Skype technology.
  • Always do a test run before an interview.
  • Be early to Skype interviews because you never know what might go wrong at the journalist’s end.
  • As Kerry Shearer suggests, invest in a clip-on, broadcast quality microphone.  You’ll sound so much more professional.
  • And, practice in front of a mirror if you’re prone to stage fright.

This interview is not too bad, except the camera angle, looking up towards the ceiling, is weird.  If your computer’s camera is too low for you to look it straight in the eye, put books underneath to raise it to a better level. Watch it here

Skype example 4

Now here’s what you should be aiming for.  It’s lit well, and there’s a neat, clean, appropriate background. The interviewee is wearing headphones or an earpiece, but it’s tucked behind out of the way.  He’s dressed professionally, and there’s enough room at the bottom of the screen for his ‘super’.  However, when you watch the interview you’ll notice his eyes do wander a bit.  Watch it here

Skype example 5

Remember, Skype interviews never look as good as professional ones.  But if you follow these steps viewers will be more inclined to stick around rather than change the channel.

– Christine Heard