Watch the recorded webinar “To Win Business Via Video Conference, Learn from Television News

If you’re interviewing for new business these days, you’re doing it via video conference. As with all interviews, the goal is still to connect and make the client think “I really like those people. I want to work with them.”

But how do you do that via Zoom, WebEx or BlueJeans?

We can learn a lot from the television news anchors.

Communicate Like a News Anchor

The first step to connecting with clients and building relationships is strong eye contact. But eye contact is tricky on a video call. The speaker often appears to look down or away.

News anchors solve this problem by talking directly into the camera lens. One of our coaches, Marilyn Ringo, a former CNN news anchor, says that when delivering the news, she would “talk to the camera lens like I’m talking to a good friend.”

Here’s an experiment to help you see the value of looking directly at the computer’s camera lens. Ask someone to talk while looking at their image on the screen. Then have her talk while looking directly into the lens of the computer’s camera. When she’s looking at the image of herself, she’ll appear to be looking down. When she’s looking at the camera lens, she’ll appear to be making strong eye contact.

And, like news anchors, mind your lighting. You want to look good. If the light is behind you, your face will be shadowed. Position yourself so that strong natural light hits your face. Sit so that you’re facing a big open window.

Finally, watch how anchors frame themselves on the screen. You don’t want to be a big floating head. Frame yourself so that we can see some of your shoulders and chest.

Keep it Short and Interactive

Television news anchors keep stories short to avoid losing their audience. The same idea applies on video calls.

Typical video call presentations involve speakers narrating dozens of slides. That’s painful. It’s far better to keep it short and involve the audience with lots of interaction.

Maximize interaction with lots of Q&A. One way to do that is to ask for questions early and often. You can start by saying “Our experience on these calls is that they’re far better with lots of Q&A. So please jump in and ask us questions.”

Another thing to do is to simply reserve more time for Q&A. One of our clients told us that the owner asked for 20 minutes for the presentation and 10 for Q&A. Instead, she began the video call by saying that they would limit the presentation to 10 minutes with 20 minutes for Q&A.

Transition Like a News Anchor

On team presentations, it’s easy for presenters to seem like disjointed talking heads. Practice your transitions by remembering how news anchors talk with one another. They say things like, “Now let’s go to Fred who is standing in front of the courthouse with the latest on the trial of the century.”

Use the same approach in a new business interview. Try, “So that’s how we’re going to meet your budget. Now I’d like to turn it over to our project manager Janet who is going to talk about how we’re going to meet your schedule.”

Prepare for Technical Problems

When news programs have technical issues, the anchor always has a Plan B that sounds something like, “So, it looks like we’ve lost our feed to Fred at the courthouse. Let’s head over to Alice who is at the police station with the latest.”

We can do the same thing in a team interview. Plan for what you’ll do if someone unexpectedly drops off the call. Whoever is the leader of the call should be ready to say, “It looks like we’ve lost our superintendent. Instead, let me turn it over to our project manager who can talk about our plan to build this project without disruption to your operations.”

Remember that the goal of any new business interview is connection. To do that during a video call, remember the lessons of the news anchors.

Joey Asher

Joey AsherJoey Asher has worked with thousands of business people helping them learn how to communicate in a way that connects with clients. His new book 15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations” is available now. He is also the author three previous books including “How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition”, “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.”